Every summer, I turn into a produce stalker, obsessively checking out the local farmers market stands in anticipation of the first hint of luminescent green and deep-orange blossoms, those delicate blooms of zucchini squash that are truly a seasonal delight. This past weekend at the South Anchorage Market, I finally spotted my first bunch of the delicate flowers at the Rempel Family Farms Stand. I arrived a little past 9:30 a.m. and although most of the bin was empty (note to self: arrive at 9 a.m. sharp next time) I was able to gather the last dozen or so flowers.
While picking through the blossoms to find the fattest blooms (easier to stuff), various people commented on how pretty they were, along with: Are those really edible? How do you eat them? I sighed like a schoolgirl with a crush before going into a long litany of how delicious these blossoms can be -- stuffed and lightly battered then quickly fried, baked in a rich tomato sauce and topped with cheese, fanned out on a grilled pizza. I've also had a sweet version where they are hot out of the fryer and dusted with powdered sugar. The possibilities are many, as the innocent passersby found out, but here I will share with you one of my all-time favorite ways to enjoy them. And read below for five more ways to cook the blossoms.
Fried squash blossoms stuffed with basil, mint and cheese
For the blossoms:
- 14 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces) fresh soft goat cheese or whole-milk ricotta
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone or creme fraiche
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint and basil, plus more for garnish
- Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
For the batter and frying:
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- About a 1/2 cup chilled seltzer or other unflavored sparkling water
- About 3/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
- Optional: fresh tomato sauce for serving
1. Carefully open each blossom and remove the stamen; set aside.
2. Combine goat cheese (or ricotta) with mascarpone (or creme fraiche) and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Stir in mint and basil and season with salt and pepper. Gently stuff blossoms with cheese-herb mixture, twisting end of blossom to close. (You might have some cheese mixture leftover; if so, stir into a pasta sauce or spread on toast and eat with tomatoes).
3. Make batter by combining flour, cornstarch and baking powder with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Whisk in beaten egg and sparkling water, adding a bit at a time, until batter is well-combined and is the consistency of heavy cream or a loose pancake batter.
4. Pour oil to about a half-inch into a large (10-inch) heavy skillet and heat to about 365 degrees (or until oil begins to shimmer but not smoke; add a bit of batter to test oil. The batter should bubble and float). Fry blossoms, in two batches if necessary, turning over once until golden, about 2 minutes total. Place on a paper-towel-lined cooling rack or plate. Sprinkle while hot with a bit of Parmesan or salt, such as Maldon or other finishing salt.
5. If serving with sauce, spoon some fresh tomato sauce on bottom of plate and top with squash blossoms. Eat at once.
Notes: To prepare blossoms, gently open them (they might tear, but that's OK) and pull out the stamens. Rinse gently and place in a paper-towel-lined colander. Pat dry.
5 more ways to enjoy squash blossoms:
Squash blossom pizza from Saveur
Squash blossom quesadillas from Food Network
Squash blossom frittata from Laurie Constantino
Stuffed and baked zucchini flowers from The New York Times Recipes for Health
Cinnamon- and sugar-dusted squash blossoms from Bell'alimento
Kim Sunée ate and lived in Europe for 10 years before working as a food editor for Southern Living magazine and Cottage Living magazine. Her writing has appeared in Food & Wine, The Oxford American and Asian American Poetry and Writing. Sunée has appeared several times as a guest judge on the Food Network's "Iron Chef America." She is currently based in Anchorage. Her cookbook, "A Mouthful of Stars," published by Andrews McMeel, was released in spring 2014. For more food and travel, visit kimsunee.com.