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squash blossoms

If you have recently eaten out at chef-driven independent restaurants, instead of chains, then you already know that it is squash blossom season. Every chef I know in this town has them on his/her menu, and luckily for me, Barbara Fenzl was at an event a couple of nights ago where Duncan Family Farms had a whole extra case of squash blossoms. He gave them to Barb and she in turn gave some of the bounties to me. Thank you, dear friend!

Summer squash is one thing I don’t plant in my small garden. It would just overtake the entire space and I’d be “one of those people”.  You know who I’m talking about, akin to the homeless person on the street, peddling my cart around and begging people. Not begging for your spare change, begging you to take some of this squash off my hands, “Please sir, please take some of this damned squash before it goes bad!”  So if nothing else, plucking the blossoms during their brief blooming window is a hugely effective form of squash birth control.

Squash blossoms are nature’s perfectly ingenious and most elegant wrapper. Prettier than parchment and tastier than phyllo or wonton, they fry up like a fine layer of perfectly golden pastry. Although I’m stuffing mine with ricotta, any soft cheese will do – mozzarella, Fontina, goat cheese, cream cheese, whatever strikes your fancy. When it hits the hot oil and that cheese begins to melt and soften, it enlivens the flavors of whatever herbs and spices you’ve added… a wonderful explosion of summer-time only delight!  But honestly, you don’t have to fry them if you are worried about the mess or the “fried food guilt”.  The stuffed blossoms are also wonderful steamed, baked, or poached.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cold extra-large egg white
1/2 cup very cold beer
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon each; minced fresh thyme leaves, oregano leaves, and basil leaves
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Grated zest of 1 lemon (reserve lemon for juice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 squash blossoms, with baby squash still attached if possible
Vegetable oil
Lemon juice
1/3 cup purchased olive tapenade

Batter: Mix the flour and cornstarch in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg white and beer together. Stir this into the flour mixture. Do not over-beat, or the batter will be tough; there should still be some lumps. Cover and refrigerate.  May be made up to 2 hours ahead.

Stuffing: Beat the ricotta in a bowl with the herbs, nutmeg, Parmesan, and lemon zest.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Blossoms: Open the blossoms gently with chopsticks or your fingers, keeping them attached to the squash, and pinch off the pointed stamen in the center, discard the stamen as it is bitter. Give the flowers a gentle rinse under cold water if needed.

Spoon the ricotta into the corner of a  Ziploc bag. Snip off a small corner and use this as a piping bag to gently squeeze the filling into each flower, until just full. Carefully press the flowers back together around the mixture and gently twist them closed to seal.

Pour oil into a medium saucepan to a depth of at least 3-inches and place over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. The oil is ready when you drop a little of the batter into it and the batter sizzles and immediately pops up to the surface.

Set up your frying station; filled blossoms on a plate, batter bowl next, then a plate with a double layer of paper towels atop for draining, and either tongs or a spider ready for removing the fried blossoms.

Dip one of the stuffed blossoms along with its mini-squash into the batter, making sure they’re completely covered, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl. Carefully place it into the hot oil. Quickly batter another one or two and get them into the pan. Don’t crowd the pan or they’ll stick together. Fry until golden and crisp all over, then lift them out of the oil and drain them on the paper towels. Continue with remaining blossoms and batter.

Place on serving plates and sprinkle with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Spoon a little tapenade over each and serve immediately.

Makes 12

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1 comment

1 Marissa { 05.19.11 at 11:59 AM }

These were so good!!!!

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