SippitySup

Market Matters- Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Basil

They are not around very long so if you want to have squash blossoms. Have them now.

But I can’t be expected to end my week of basil recipes just because a finicky bunch of squash blossoms won’t wait around for me to finish up with basil. And squash blossoms will not wait.

Which means I am going to have to combine them this week with the basil I am committed to. So my usual trip to the Hollywood Farmers Market for this week’s Market Matters will have to be a squash blossom recipe that highlights the big bold flavor of basil.

Which is no easy feat. I have had squash blossoms many ways. A light touch is usually best.

I have had them deep-fried in a beer batter with chili powder. Which was delicious of course, but It could have been fried anything and still tasted just as good. The batter was a bit too aggressive for something so etheral. I say you should save that batter for onions or at least something with more heft on the palate.

 

ingredients for stuffed squash blossomsI have also had squash blossoms ‘lasagna-style’ with tomato sauce and filled with thyme and bechamel. Again delicious, but the faintly floral taste did not really get to stand out as much as it should have.

The most common way is to deep-fry them in a light tempura batter. Often stuffed with ricotta. This is getting closer to a pure and simple squash blossom recipe in my opinion. It also helps if you are an expert at tempura. If you are an expert and are brave enough to skip the cheese, then you are really onto something.

That is the best way I have ever eaten them. But a tempura that light is well beyond my kitchen skills. I save that for dining out.

As good as all of these preparations are they do not take into account that Sippity Sup is on a mission. A one man basil extravagansa!  I need a recipe that features the exuberant mouthful of good summer basil.

So I must cook my squash blossoms with some of the flavors that will help highlight basil. Here is what I came up with, you can get the recipe for Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Basil here.

I have decided to do this with a very simple  filling of ricotta, mozzarella and, of course, basil. The tricky part is to introduce this bold trifecta of classic flavor partners while not completely losing the light-handed balance needed for the delicate squash flavor.

So rather than mix the cheeses together with a big pile of minced basil to form my stuffing, which is a pretty standard method for making a filling, I am going to keep my ingredients separate. I will still stuff all three inside the squash blossom, but I will create a sandwich that will allow the texture of my filling to vary somewhat.

remove the stamen from squash blossomThat way you can get a big bold hit of basil when you eat one of the basil leaves. But the quiet nuance of the squash blossom will be simply highlighted in another bite with just a bit of ricotta.

To keep with this theme, I am not going to use a heavy egg and flour batter. I am merely going to dip the stuffed blossoms in a bit of egg and roll it in a light dusting of cornmeal. I’ll still get a satisfying fried crust, but more of the blossom will be evident on the palate.

Let’s start with the blossoms.

If you expect to go blossom hunting at the farmers market, don’t arrive at noon hoping for the pick of the crop. They’re usually quite popular this time of year. Also, the farmers cannot harvest them by the bushel. Besides you will want to get them home and into a cool place before the day heats up. Most likely they were picked early that morning and you will be fighting their natural impulse to open up and bloom in the heat of the day.

Squash blossoms come in both male and female forms. You can eat both of them. Though the males are more common. That is because the female flowers produce the squash itself and the male flowers produce pollen that fertilizes the female flowers. In other words birds and bees (and squash blossoms) 101.

So many farmers and gardeners will only pick male blossoms. Because the squash itself is usually the primary crop. So providing they leave all the females and enough males per plant to pollinate the females they will not risk reducing the crop size.

stuffed zucchini squash blossomsStill you will see females from time to time with a dainty little squash just starting to develop. When you see these snap them up. The price will be dear, but the taste will be spectacular. I would not recommend frying these. Perhaps a saute with olive oil and butter,  then simply set over some fresh egg fettuccine with a hint of garlic and a tiny bit chervil. This is all they really need to shine.

You should know that it is standard to remove the stamen, when preparing the male blossoms like these shown here. Not because it’s poison, it is edible. So sometimes I do not even bother, but it can be bitter and probably worth the effort to take it out. The stem is delicious when it is young so please leave an inch or two attached to each blossom.

Next prepare the little stacks of cheese and basil. I do it sandwich style. Using the whole basil leaves as the vessel to carry the two-cheese filling into the blossom. Simply lay one leaf down on your work surface drop about a tablespoon of ricotta seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper. Add a 1/2‑inch cube of mozzarella and top it with another basil leaf. It is then quite easy to pick up this little sandwich and slide it into a blossom.

cormeal stuffed sqaush blossom deep friedThe crust could not be simpler. Dip the stuffed blossom into a bowl filled with a couple lightly beaten eggs. Then dredge it in a bit of very fine yellow corn meal.

They should be fried in 365-degree canola oil that is at least 3 inches deep. It won’t take more than 2 minutes to get a lovely golden color, so watch them carefully and turn them about in the oil to assure even cooking.

As with all fried foods, serve these hot, with a good sprinkle of nice salt.

You can get the full recipe by clicking here.

SERIOUS FUN FOOD

Greg Henry

SippitySup