Tag Archives: squash blossoms

STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS REDUX

It’s the time of year again when squash blossoms make their appearance at the local farmers market. When that happens, I always buy a dozen for stuffing. Of course, if you have your own zucchini patch, you can harvest your own squash blossoms. Choose the male flowers without the swelling at the bottom that will ultimately become the mature squash.

It is surprising how many things you can do with these delicate flowers. There is a lovely soup, sopa de flor de calabazas, and you can use them in quesadillas, pancakes, etc., etc., but I always wind up stuffing them.  Whatever you do with them, use them the day you buy or pick them because they fade very quickly. If the blossoms have stems, you can keep them fresh in ice water in the refrigerator with a plastic bag over them, just as you keep parsley and other herbs. Even then, you should try to use them the same day you buy or pick them.

Exactly three years ago, I posted a recipe for stuffed squash blossoms which I liked a lot (still do), but the batter was a little heavy. The mushrooms I used to stuff them were tasty, but there are so many other options, that I thought you might like this version which has a lighter tempura batter and a stuffing of local ingredients. You can even fry squash blossoms with no stuffing and no batter at all. In truth, whatever you do with the flowers, they almost always turn out delicious.

One step that is often overlooked is the removal of the stamen. You can stuff the blossoms with the stamen still in, but it may make things a little bitter, and besides you want there to be as much room for the stuffing as possible. To perform that little surgical task, you can use a pair of long tweezers. I use a surgical hemostat. Scissors might work, and if your fingers are not too fat, they might work, as well. An important caution with this step is not to tear the sides of the blossom cup or the leaves. If you do that you run the risk of having all the filling run out while frying, even with a patch job. Some images on the internet show part of the flower cut away. If you are just going to stuff the flowers, that will work, but if you plan to fry them, the stuffing needs to be hidden away.

Stuffed squash blossoms sound a bit complicated. They aren’t really, and they are certainly worth the effort.

RECIPE

Fried Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces chèvre-style goat cheese softened at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons shallot very finely chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 fresh, large squash blossoms
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1½ cups ice water
  • peanut oil for frying

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the softened goat cheese and lemon juice to form a smooth paste. Stir in the shallot and parsley.
  2. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, roast the pine nuts for a few minutes, stirring them frequently, so that they brown slightly and release their oils. Be very careful not to burn. Remove from the heat. Cool. Chop coarsely if you like, and stir them into the cheese mixture. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the blossoms by removing the stamens, being careful not to tear the petals of the flowers. If the flowers are dusty, you may rinse them, although they do best with as little handling as possible.
  4. With a spoon, pastry sleeve, or your fingers, fill each blossom with stuffing. I have found the greatest success using my fingers. Fill only to the base of the petals so that you can fold them over one another and seal them with a dab of the cheese mixture. Arrange on a plate and chill for the few minutes needed to prepare the batter and heat the cooking oil.
  5. Place one cup of flour in a pie plate.
  6. In a small bowl that is big enough to dip the blossoms individually, beat the egg yolk and ice water together and then stir in the remaining cup of flour. The batter should be smooth, but it is not essential to get out all of the lumps as long as they are not too big.
  7. Fill a deep heavy-bottomed pot with 2 inches of cooking oil and heat to 375°. It’s a good idea to use a thermometer if you have one. Temperature will plunge when you start to fry, so you will need to regulate the flame.
  8. Remove the filled squash blossoms from the refrigerator, and one at a time, dip them into the flour, shaking off any extra. Then dip them into the batter, drain for a minute, and transfer to the hot cooking oil. Working in batches of no more than three or four, fry the blossoms, turning them frequently until they are lightly browned and crisp on all sides.
  9. Drain on multiple layers of paper towel and transfer to a plate in the oven at 200° until they are all fried. Serve immediately.
  10. Three to six individual blossoms make a good appetizer-sized serving for one person. You can gild the lily, so to speak, with a dipping sauce or salsa, but the stuffed flowers can easily stand on their own.

 

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STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS

Summer squash season is at its peak in our local farmers market. The same is true for our neighbors who grow a zucchini plant or two. There are lots of delicious recipes for summer squash, but even the biggest fan tends to grow a little weary about now. Zucchini bread and cake can’t be far away. For all of that, now is the time to start cooking with squash blossoms – they are almost as versatile as the fruit itself – you can put them in scrambled eggs, omelets, soups, salads, and quesadillas. But my favorite way to prepare them is to stuff them, dip them in a light tempura batter, and deep fry them.

Squash blossoms at the farmers market

Several vendors at our local farmers market specialize in these beautiful offerings, so it is easy to find baskets filled with golden-yellow, delicate blossoms. The farmers usually sell the flowers by the dozen, and you can pick out your choice specimens. If you are a home gardener, you can harvest your own. Select the male flowers (those growing on long stems) so you can keep your harvest of squash (that develop on the female flowers) coming until the cold weather. Whether you buy them or grow your own, you should use the flowers as soon as possible after they are picked. For those from the farmers market, try to use them that same day. They will keep for another day if you keep them in a bag in the crisper of your refrigerator, being careful not to squash them – so to speak.

Some recipes call for removing the long stamen from the center of the flowers before you stuff them, but I prefer to just leave that in (it’s perfectly edible), and my experience is that trying to remove it often leaves you with a mangled flower.

Stuffed squash blossoms ready for batter

When it comes to a choice of stuffing, let your imagination go. Something light probably works best, and don’t use anything that takes a long time to cook, because the battered blossoms will brown in a flash. My favorite stuffing mixtures include cream cheese, good melting cheeses, mushrooms, and nuts.

Stuffed squash blossoms are a perfect accompaniment to cold drinks on the patio, but be sure to make plenty – at least three per person – because they will disappear more quickly than a frosty margarita.

Ingredients
2 Tablespoons butter
4 mushrooms, washed and chopped finely
2 green onions
1/4 Cup unsalted green pepitas, chopped coarsely
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
12 squash blossoms

1 Cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Cup beer, cold
peanut oil for frying

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and then add the finely chopped mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and it has evaporated.
2. Clean and chop the green onions, including much of the green stems. Then add to the mushrooms, along with the pepitas, continuing to stir frequently for 2 or 3 minutes until the mixture is well combined and evenly cooked. Add the seasonings and remove from the heat to cool.
3. When the mixture is completely cooled, stir in the cream cheese and grated Parmesan, correct the seasoning, and prepare the squash blossoms for stuffing. Do not wash the blossoms
4. One blossom at a time, open the flower gently, spreading the petals so that you can see the deep hollow of the blossom. With your fingers, place about a heaping teaspoonful of the stuffing mixture into the hollow and press it down carefully so that you do not split the petals. Then gently fold the petals over the stuffing, one at a time. You can use a tiny dab of the stuffing mixture to seal the last petal to the little package you have made. Place the stuffed blossom on a plate with the stem pointing straight up.
5. Repeat the process until all the blossoms have been stuffed and arranged on the plate. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator until you are ready to fry the squash blossoms
6. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, corn starch, baking powder, and salt. Then stir in the cold beer. If you prefer, you may substitute a cup of ice water for the beer. The beer will foam up. Don’t worry. The batter will be lumpy. Again, don’t worry – and don’t try to make it smooth.
7. While making the batter, heat enough peanut oil to be about 3 inches deep in a deep-sided pot. Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the oil is at 350°. You are then ready to fry the blossoms.
8. Remove the blossoms from the refrigerator, dip them in the batter one at a time and transfer them to the cooking oil. You may fry three or four at a time, but be careful not to crowd them. Turn them once while they are frying, and remove them when they are a pale golden brown. Be careful not to let them brown too deeply. Drain them on several thicknesses of paper towels, and serve them immediately while still hot. If necessary, you can hold them for a short time in a 200° oven, but the fresher they are, the better.

Squash blossoms ready to eat

Yield: Serves four with drinks

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