Stuffed Squash Blossoms
We’re at the height of the zucchini and summer squash season and every Farmer’s Market is bursting with varieties of these ubiquitous summer vegetables. Despite all you see at the market, back at the farm there might be a secret stash of a lesser-known delicacy – squash blossoms.
All squash plants, from the summer varieties of zucchini and yellow crookneck squash to winter’s acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash, have one thing in common. There are both male and female blossoms on the same plant. In a typical “birds and bees” scenario your mother told you about when you were young, the pollen from the male flowers stick to the bees and pollinates the female blossoms. At the base of the female blossoms, the baby vegetable begins to grow.
As for the male blossom, well, their work is done and now they can live life as a couch potato just withering away in the garden. Or better yet, be eaten! You rarely see squash blossoms sold at farmer’s markets because they are very perishable but you might be able to convince your friendly farmer to sell you a batch. You can keep them in the fridge wrapped loosely in paper towels tucked into a zip-lock bag for several days.
If you have your own garden, pick the blossoms in the morning. Look for blossoms on a long hairy stem that have a thin base where they attach to the stem rather than a thick bulge. If you’re not sure whether the bloom is a male or female, gently squeeze the back of the bloom and take a peek inside. The male blossom will have a large stamen in the middle.
One of the easiest way to enjoy the blossoms is fried in a light tempura batter. But I decided to be a bit more creative last week and I first stuffed the blossoms with a little cheese, dipped them in egg, panko, and then fried them in olive oil until golden. The coating gives a bit of a crunch before tasting the gooey cheese wrapped in the delicately flavored blossoms. Leave about a half-inch of stem on for the perfect handle! Quick and easy as an appetizer or a side-dish to a perfect summer meal. My husband and I can eat an entire platter of fried squash blossoms, but generally plan on offering 2 to 3 per serving.
STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS
8 squash blossoms
¼ cup each: fresh goat cheese, ricotta, and grated Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon minced fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley, chives or even mint
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko (more, if necessary)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil for frying, more if necessary
Salt and pepper
First, make sure that your squash blossoms are clean and bug-free. Rinse them by swishing them around slowly in a bowl of cool water. Make sure to check the inside of each blossom. Gently pat dry.
Remove the stamen from each male blossom by cutting it off with kitchen shears. It’s okay to open up the blossom by tearing down a petal a bit. Trim the stem to a half an inch. You will only eat the flower, not the stem, but keeping the stem on while you fry the blossom keeps it intact and gives you an easy way to hold the stuffed blossom.
In a small bowl, mix together the three cheeses and fresh herbs.
In two separate shallow bowls, put the beaten eggs and panko.
Using a small spoon put about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mix into the bottom of each blossom. Gently twist the top to help hold the cheese inside. If you stuff the blossoms ahead of time, keep them covered with a slightly damp paper towel until ready to cook.
Dip each blossom in the beaten eggs and then in the panko. Set aside while you coat the other blossoms.
In a medium frying pan put about ¼ cup of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Fry the blossoms turning once for about 4 minutes until lightly golden. Drain on paper towels and season with a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately.