Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunny Squash Blossoms

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         For better or worse (often worse), I am one of those over-tolerant people. I am open-minded. I accept things. I make do. I forgive (except the unforgivable—yes, there is such a thing). I eat squash.
No, it’s not a favorite. But my Pollyanna tendencies, catholic as they are, are wide-ranging and expansive. As with a lot of things, and a lot of people, I look for the best in them. Surely the very best a squash has to offer is its flower.
To begin with, squash blossoms are as irresistibly sunny as Pollyana herself. They are pretty but fragile, so use them as soon after you buy (or if you are lucky, gather) them, before they wilt. Despite putting them in water (if on stems), they will fade fast, so stuff them right away even if you are going to cook them later. Naturally, I like to fry them. But you can poach or steam them, stuffed or not, if you insist.

Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, Mexican-style
They’re only Mexican-style because of the cheese and the beer. Treat zucchini flowers as their delicate nature demands: minimally. Serves 4 as an appetizer or a side to plain grilled chicken or fish.
One dozen fresh picked zucchini flowers, preferably with stemsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
½ cup queso fresco (or use farmers cheese, ricotta, or goat cheese)
1 ear corn
¼ tea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 large egg, beaten and divided
½ cup flour
3 oz, approx, Corona™ or other lager, enough to moistenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
olive oil for frying
lemon or lime (optional)
Gently separate the leaves of the flower and, using your finger nails, clip off the pistil of the flower at the base of the stem; you should be able to see the hollow of the stem. If your flowers are dirty, wipe them carefully with a paper towel so as not to tear them; do not wash.
In a small bowl, cut the corn from the cob with a sharp knife, then scrape the cob to extract any milk; as mentioned last week, the corn is a little dry this year, so not to worry if there isn’t much. Add the ½ cup of cheese, crumbled well, and the salt and pepper; stir/break up with a fork. Add ½ the beaten egg, reserving the rest for the batter, and stir.
Using a small spoon—an iced tea spoon works very well, but so does a plastic picnic spoon—open the flowers with your fingers and spoon some of the corn-cheese filling into the cavity: how much will depend on the size of your flowers, which may vary. Fill them to the top of the cavity, where the blossoms separate into the darker petals. Pull the petals together into a point or, on smaller flowers, fold them over a bit. Set aside on paper towels.
In another small bowl, mix the flour and a little salt, and stir in the egg and beer until you have a batter about the viscosity of thick heavy cream.
Choose a heavy frying pan and pour in about ¼” of olive oil. Heat to medium high; you can also use an electric frying pan heated to about 360F, and if you can fry outside, do: these spatter. Holding a flower by the stem, put it head-first into the batter and twist/twirl it to cover; place it in the pan. Repeat with additional flowers, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry the flowers until they are golden brown, turning once or twice; remove to paper towels to drain, and salt. Serve at once, as is or with a squeeze of lemon or lime, with a glass of white wine.
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racheld said...

I have always, always meant to cook these---even when we had six rows of squash, a-riot in bobbing yellow blooms, I never DID think to do it.

These look simply stunning, like a stylist-tweaked magazine layout, with perhaps three dozen "culls" laid to the side as not worthy, before the final perfect picture is snapped.

Between you and FRANCES MAYES this week---I have a definite YEN for these delicacies, and where to find blossoms after this droughty Summer---perhaps next year.

Jane said...

Try your farmers market--it's hard to keep the squash down!