Stuffed Courgette Blossoms at Paradiso, Cork
Stuffed squash blossoms are a sublime treat familiar to Mexican food lovers as flores de calabazas rellenas. Flores de calabazas are the delicate flowers that bloom on the courgette (summer squash or zucchini to Americans, calabazas to Mexicans).
To make the classic Mexican dish, you stuff the blossoms with cheese (ricotta is a favorite), dip them in batter and fry them. At Paradiso, they serve the flowers still attached to the baby vegetables quick-cooked in a light tempura batter that doesn't mask the elegant flavors of the wispy flowers and baby vegetables.
The fried blossoms are served in a bright flavored smear of green pea puree. The stunning bouquet is completed with the accent of a few artfully arranged pea shoots.
Paradiso, which is located at 16 Lancaster Quay in the Cork city center, was known as Cafe Paradiso when it opened as a casual daytime vegetarian cafe 25 years ago. From the beginning, there was no brown rice, no lentils and none of the other veggie cafe cliches on the menu.
Founding chef Denis Cotter was a veteran of top restaurants and his mission was to run a vegetarian restaurant where the food could be taken seriously. A quarter century later, Paradiso has evolved into a famous dinner-only restaurant that serves the finest vegetarian food to a mostly non-vegetarian audience.
Denis Cotter has stepped back from the front lines in the last few years and become Paradiso's executive chef. He does menu development and works with a select group of suppliers to find the very best ingredients.
Denis does some prep work now and then, but confesses the talented young chefs who now run his kitchen are better at it than he is.