I absolutely love squash blossoms. They are the bright yellow and orange flowers found growing on zucchini (and other squash) in the summer months when squash are in season. While they grow on both male and female plants, typically the male flowers are harvested to let the squash grow on the female plants. Once picked, these delicate beauties need to be used immediately as they are incredibly perishable (I’m told they can last a few days wrapped in a damp paper towel in the fridge, but this didn’t work for me: the leaves began to stick together).
So unless you’re lucky enough to have a garden in your backyard, you’ll have to head to your local farmers market to stock up. I went this week to snag a bunch, but unfortunately I missed them because of the high temperatures. Rather than risk losing out the following week, I opted to order from Good Eggs, which is basically an online farmers market that delivers fresh produce, cheese, meats, bread, and other local eats directly to your door. Currently available in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Chicago, and New Orleans, I highly recommend you check them out if you are in the area. Especially with a specialty item like squash blossoms, it was perfect for me to plan ahead so I knew I could make them on the day I needed to finish the recipe.
Delicate in both texture and in flavor, these gorgeous flowers can be tossed into summer salads, frittatas, quesadillas, or pastas for a beautiful pop of color and tender, slightly sweet and earthy flavor. However, I think the best showcase is stuffed with cheese and lightly fried. The classic combination is a mild ricotta cheese with some fresh herbs (mint is my favorite) and some lemon zest to brighten it all up. It’s the perfect mix of chewy and crispy, light yet decadent and completely addictive. Star of the show, they are a stunning summer dish that is worth the effort. Invite a few friends over to help with the frying (no it doesn’t count as a dinner party), pop open a bottle of wine, and enjoy!
Fried Squash Blossoms with Ricotta, Mint & Lemon
Helpful Tools: thermometer, piping bag, large piping tip
10-15 whole squash blossoms
1 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
2-3Tbl. finely shopped mint
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbl. Baking Powder
salt and pepper to season
1 1/2 cups sparkling water
Vegetable Oil for frying
Prep the squash blossoms by gently separating the petals to pluck out the stamen from the center. The blossoms are incredibly delicate so it can be challenging not to tear the petals, so do your best. Carefully rinse with cool water and place on a paper towel to dry.
In a shallow baking dish, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Pour in sparkling water and whisk until the batter is combined but not too thick. If necessary, add a few more drops of sparkling water to get a smooth consistency. Set the batter aside and begin prepping the filling.
In a small bowl, mix ricotta, mint, Parmesan cheese and lemon zest until combined. Spoon into a piping bag with a large piping tip, or with a ziploc bag with the corner cut. While carefully opening the blossoms, fill with the cheese mixture (approximately 1-2 Tbl.) being mindful not to overfill. Twist the end of the blossom to seal and set aside. Continue with the rest. Note: if you have any ricotta mixture left over, it’s a delicious spread for sandwiches or crudite.
In a large pot, heat about 2 inches of oil over medium high until it reaches 350°F. Take each stuffed blossom and gently dip in batter until completely covered, letting any excess drop off. Carefully drop into hot oil, frying a few at a time to avoid overcrowding. Turning once during cooking, remove when golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove and place on cooling rack, with paper towels underneath to catch any drips. Lightly sprinkle with coarse salt (I use Maldon) and fresh mint and serve immediately.
Note: I’ve also made the squash blossoms battered and quickly fried, which is also a great way to have a crispy snack for a crowd. They’ll be gone in minutes.