You Say Zucchini Flower, I Say Squash Blossom

After the excitement of the season’s first tomatoes, blueberries and strawberries, the big draw for me at the local farmers’ market is the arrival of squash blossoms. They begin showing up in late June but the crop is small so you may have to arrive early to snag some. Be bold and elbow people out of the way if you must. (My husband was elbowed out of some early tomatoes last month; it’s payback time.)

I’d never eaten squash blossoms (or zucchini flowers — they seem to be interchangeable terms) until I had them on a trip to Rome a couple of years ago. What a revelation! I waited impatiently for the summer markets (the flowers are much too delicate to ship to a grocery store), looked up some recipes and — voilà/eureka/holy swearword! — discovered that they are super easy to recreate, minus the cute Italian waiter.

A quick Internet search revealed that squash plants have both male and female flowers, which (natch) are pollinated by bees. There are many more male squash blossoms than female and they’re the first to bloom, so that’s probably what’s at your local produce stand.

I won’t lie, the preparation is a bit time-consuming, but they are absolutely worth it!

First, snip off the stem and twist off the stamen – that fuzzy little penis-like thing in the center. Ladies, think of that creep who done you wrong and this won’t seem nearly as tedious! Gents, stop squirming… didn’t you have a horrible boss you can fantasize about? See?… fun!

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Incidentally, the stamen (or pistil in female plants) is apparently edible, but that’s a whole new level of weird.

Moving on…

Gently rinse the blossoms and set them down on a paper towel to dry.

While you’re waiting, cut some fresh mozzarella and anchovies into small pieces.

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If you think you don’t like anchovies I implore you to try them just this once. They will melt into the cheese and add a briny saltiness that will bring tears to your eyes.

Stuff the inside of each blossom (very gently, so you don’t tear the petals – but don’t worry if you do) with one piece of each, and twist the petals together to keep the cheese and anchovy inside. If you’ve ripped any petals, the twisting action will cover everything up and keep them together.

Next, make your batter. The following proportions should coat about 10-20 blossoms, depending on their size and whether or not you thin the batter, as I do. Dump whatever you don’t use.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup cold sparkling water or seltzer
  • Grapeseed (or other vegetable) oil for frying

Directions

  • Stir flour and salt together in a small bowl. Add the egg, sparking water and olive oil and whisk until blended. Add more seltzer if the batter is too thick.
  • In a heavy pan, pour in grapeseed oil to about 1″ depth and heat until a drop of batter sizzles when it’s dropped into the pan.
  • Dip the flowers into the batter, let the excess drip off, and put into the pan of hot oil, a few at a time. Fry until golden on both sides, about 4 minutes.
  • Drain on a plate covered with a paper towel.
  • Sprinkle with coarse salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Serve with lemon wedges. Devour.

 

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