The steamy summer is in full force. Beach days, hazy afternoons, and sweltering heat. If you have been to your farmer’s market you may have seen the abundance of gorgeous fruits and vegetables that is our reward for dealing with such insufferable temperatures. First and foremost, thank you to these individuals who have devoted their life to raising the food that nurtures us so. Farming is a lifelong devotion for which there are no days off. Your drive, patience, and work ethic is inspiring. Without you… honestly I don’t know what the world would be like. Nor do I want to think about it. So thank you.
I recently received the most exquisite bouquet of flowers; fiori di zucca, zucchini blossoms to be more precise. They were perfect. Important to know, there are male and female squash flowers. The female flowers actually produce the zucchini. The male flowers are simply eye candy. However it is the male that is the most desired. Not shocking is it? The female does the hard work and bears the zucchini while the males get to look all the looks. Okay, okay. The males are more than just eye candy. Bees take the pollen from the males and spread it to the females. This is how baby zucchini are conceived. Science. You can eat the female zucchini blossoms as well, but the struggle is real for them and many times they are tired, wilted, and torn. Thus they are inedible Life as a female squash. I feel ya.
There is so much flexibility with squash blossoms and although simplicity reigns, it is fun to explore with different batters and fillings. They do take some time to prep but if you love them, they will love you back. Unfortunately the shelf life of these loves is not long. They depress quickly and wilt which are not them at their finest. Listen, we all have those days. So the sooner you use these, the better. Have a plan for them before they reach your fridge. That way you can access all their deliciousness right away. So let’s prep.
First things first, you need to remove the stamen from the flowers. Gently open the petals to reveal the stamen at the base of the flower. Using kitchen shears; snip, snip. Revenge for female blossoms everywhere. Let’s continue. Although gorgeous, these blossoms are dirty! They need a thorough, yet delicate washing. Fill a bowl large enough to fit your blossoms with room temperature water. You are not looking to shock them with ice cold water or wilt them with hot water, but instead provide a lovely bathing atmosphere in which to clean them. Simply soak the zucchini blossoms for a few minutes to allow them to relax so they release their impurities. Dunk in and out of the water, and repeat with fresh water until your blossoms are clean. Dry completely. You do not want any moisture on your blossoms.
While the blossoms are enjoying the peace and quiet of the drying process, create the batter and filling. For both batter and filling, I prefer to keep it light so as not to lose the integrity of the subtle zucchini flavor, however I have seen recipes that use a heavier batters and fillings. Try out a few and see what tickles your blossom. Mix together 8 ounces of a light beer, 4 ounces of sparkling water (I find it adds an extra kick of carbonation), 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and ½ cup of flour. Mix well and let it be for about 30 minutes.
At this point you are ready to fry these guys and call it a day. On their own they are delicious! However, if you are looking to get a little funky, let’s talk filling! Use your curiosity to create the flavors you so desire. My recent obsession is ‘nduja which is a smokey, spicy, soft Calabrian salumi. The depth of flavor and versatility of this gem is unparalleled. However it smokes very quickly when sauteed, so do so gently. Burnt ‘nduja is a travesty. After sauteing 1 ounce of ‘nduja, I folded it into 8 ounces of fresh ricotta, a clove of roasted garlic, salt and pepper. Mix it up and let’s stuff.
These babies are delicate. Ever so carefully with kitchen shears, cut the petal open. Place one to two teaspoons of filling in each blossom, depending upon its size. You don’t want to overstuff or understuff for fear of exploding or imploding. Science. Seal the blossom by gently twisting its end. Now dip, baby, dip. Holding the stem, dredge blossom in the batter, using a slight twirl as you take it out of batter to help seal the tips of the flower. Fry time!
Frying is an art which requires patience and the use of all your senses. Add two inches of a neutral oil (I used canola) to your saute pan and turn on heat to med-high. Mind the temperature of your oil by using a thermometer… or your senses. Be one with the oil. Remember these are very thin and can burn quite quickly. You’ve gone through all this work, now is not the time to rush. Carefully place your blossom into the oil with the cut side down so to seal the incision with the heat. Flip after 2-3 minutes, adjusting the temperature as necessary. After another 2-3 minutes, remove the blossom from the pan and place on fry paper. Immediately salt. You want that oil to soak up the salt which provides for optimal flavor. Repeat. Of course you can fry multiple blossoms at once depending upon your pan size, however know that each blossom you add decreases the temperature of the oil which can offset your frying progression. Science.
Let’s eat! I like to squeeze a little lemon on my blossoms, whether stuffed or not. But that’s just me! There are many other ways to play with squash blossoms; toss in salads, toss with pasta, top a pizza with them. The possibilities go on and on. Explore as you may and allow your ideas to blossom!
Carolyn White was born into an Irish-English American family in Brewster, Massachusetts. After 18 years in education as a teacher and counselor, Carolyn made a life-altering decision to change careers and venture into the culinary world. During the summer of 2017 she staged at Coppa Enoteca in Boston where she focused on the art of pasta making. In December 2018, Carolyn was accepted to Alice Waters’ Rome Sustainable Food Project and moved to Rome in March 2018. There she studied Roman food and culture, sustainability practices, and cooked for the residents of the American Academy in Rome. Carolyn returned home to Boston in July of 2018 where she currently works as a private chef and caterer.