Stuffed, Batter Fried Zucchini Blossom (Kolokithanthi Gemisti, Tiganiti)

I tasted this simple but delicious meze in Mytilini, the capital of Lesbos, at the old ouzo bar Hermes, in the old market. This, as with all vegetable meze, is one of the first dishes brought to the table, according to the traditional ouzo ritual of Lesbos. The more important fish and seafood dishes follow.

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TO SERVE 4 PEOPLE

12 fresh zucchini blossoms, carefully washed and drained
2 ounces feta cheese, cut in 12 longish pieces
12 large, fresh mint leaves, washed and dried on paper towel plus1-2 sprigs of mint, to decorate

For the batter:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Aleppo, or a pinch red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup ouzo, grappa or vodka
1 cup club soda or more, as needed

Olive and safflower oil, for frying

Carefully open the zucchini blossom and insert one piece of cheese and 1 mint leaf. Keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.
Make the batter stiring together the flour, corn starch, salt and Aleppo. Add the oil, ouzo, and enough club soda to make a cream-like batter.
Warm about 1½ inch of oil in a skillet to 350°.
Dip carefully each stuffed blossom in the batter, to coat on all sides, hold for 2 seconds to drain and fry in batches, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve at once, decorated with the mint sprigs.

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