I had my eyes on these yellow-orangey beauties as soon as I got to the farmers market. They were easy to spot even from afar because of their bright sunny color. They were arranged in large bouquets and spread around the table and the ground in front of the table in baskets, pots and buckets. They were patiently waiting for someone to notice and appreciate their gentle beauty, and I thought that I am simply the one who they were waiting for. They were so adorable and happy that at first I thought I would use them as a bouquet of flowers and then I remembered how fragile they were (they don’t live for that long) and that I can cook them. I asked the Asian lady selling them for an advice on how to cook them and she said that they are good in soups or stuffed with minced pork or chicken and then steamed. I have had stuffed squash blossoms before and they were good, but not that memorable. Despite that, I knew that they are considered a delicacy in France and Italy, so I thought that if the French and Italian can do them right, I could too.
Back into my kitchen and loaded with fresh produce, I decided to cook them both in soup and stuffed. The soup was good, but I couldn’t really taste the blossoms. Then I started to experiment with stuffing the blossoms. I had several recipes where some ingredients seemed good, others not so much, so I decided to just go ahead and experiment with what made more sense to me. I used this recipe as a general guidance and modified it to match my taste.
There are not very many things I can classify as outrageously delicious, but those lemony ricotta and Parmesan stuffed flowers were exquisite. I could not believe how yummy they were. The flowers were almost cellophane-thin and served as thin packets that had a delicate squash/watermelon taste. I did not use eggs in this recipe as many would call for it. The batter was just perfect as it was and the stuffing became custardy and a bit grainy with an egg. Without the egg the filling was creamy and delicate and the stuffing didn’t ooze out because I pan fried the flowers flat in just a little bit of oil, which kept the packets perfectly sealed and reduced the amount of fat. I served the stuffed flowers along with cherry heirloom tomatoes, which kept the flavor fresh and summery.
So, grab your bag and head out to your local market or, if lucky enough, garden, and get those sunny babies. They will not be around for much longer this season and if you try them, they might become your new favorite.
Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta
Serves 4 (as appetizer) 2 (as main course)
• 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
• 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
• Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
• 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
• 12-16 large squash blossoms
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 3/4 cup chilled sparkling water
• 6 tablespoons of oil
• 1 cup cherry heirloom tomatoes
Mix together the ricotta, 1/3 parmesan, mint, lemon zest and a dash of salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Carefully open each flower and by using your pointer finger remove the pollen stem that is inside (the pollen stem is quite bitter and if not removed, it will leave an unpleasant taste).
Fill a piping or a plastic bag with the ricotta mixture and pipe the filling inside the flower cup until it is 2/3 full. Slightly press to flatten each flower, making sure the filling is not coming out.
Whisk together the flour, remaining parmesan, a dash of salt and the sparkling in a medium bowl.
Heat an empty 10-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat. Meanwhile, pour the batter into a large shallow plate. Coat both sides of 1/3 of the blossoms by dipping them into the batter. Add 2 tablespoons of oil into the hot skillet and carefully add the flowers. Fry each side until golden, about 2-3 minutes total. Repeat the process 2 more times with the remaining oil and 2/3 of flowers.
Serve with halved cherry heirloom tomatoes.
Note 1: For best results use the squash blossoms the day they were picked. They could be preserved up to 2 days in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag. If placed in water they will wilt after a few hours.
Note 2: When enjoying the stuffed blossoms, avoid eating the area around the stem. There might be small amounts of pollen, which might give it a slightly bitter taste.