He’s the man with the scruffy red ponytail and baggy shorts. Croc markets the Bistro Mario Batali Edition of his signature footwear (in colors graphite and orange) to foodies everywhere. The co-proprietor of twenty-two restaurants world-wide from Hong Kong to Las Vegas, he’s a household name through TV and numerous—thirteen and counting–cookbooks.
Beginning April 6th of this year, visitors to the New York Botanic Garden in the Bronx can participate in the special exhibit, “Mario Batali’s Kitchen Gardens.” Located in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden area of NYBG, this interactive space –filled with beds of vegetables and herbs—was designed to inspire visitors to create seasonal family meals, armed with many of Mario’s favorite vegetable recipes.
Perhaps because more than half his restaurants are here in New York City, Mr. Batali is going all out in this fabulous public education effort. On a Monday afternoon in June, families can join him for a garden picnic, complete with activities like tree-climbing, face-painting and crafts, followed by cooking demonstrations and a book-signing. Mario-inspired cocktails and edibles will feature in the reception afterwards. On selected Sundays through the summer, chef’s from Mario’s restaurants will present three-course, family-style dinners and cooking demonstrations. Activities also include crafts and hands-on gardening. Cooking demonstrations take place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 4pm, and there are interactive gardening activities daily. Themes include Wake Up, Garden (April 6-19) Wild Wiggly Worms (April 20-May10) and Pickle Me! (July 20-August 16).
Here’s Mario’s recipe (adapted from the Food Network) for Fried Zucchini Flowers:
- 1 cup fresh buffalo ricotta
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg
- 8 leaves basil
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 8 leaves opal basil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- 12 zucchini flowers, stamens removed
- 1 pound yellow tomatoes, roughly chopped, or yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Combine first four ingredients, salt and pepper to taste. Stuff each blossom with 1 1/2 teaspoons using a small spoon.
Toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil in a 10-12” saute pan over high heat until smoking. Put four flowers into the pan at a time. Cook until golden on both sides.
Arrange three flowers on each plate, place tomatoes in the middle, tear opal basil leaves over, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.
If that doesn’t inspire you to plant tomato and herb seeds in the greenhouse soon, I don’t know what will!