I could barely contain my excitement when I came across coveted squash blossoms while visiting the Ithaca Farmer’s Market last weekend.
These lovely, edible, light orange flowers of the zucchini plant are a delicacy, for sure, because as far as I know, they are only available for a short time in the summer. There is something special about eating a flower, especially when it has the potential for preparation as a feature in a meal, rather than a garnish.
I had to wait a day to cook them, so they did wilt a little bit. But I already had ricotta in my fridge, planning ahead for this very time when I would get to stuff the flowers.
Rather appropriately, I also had zucchini itself in my fridge. I added it to a Smitten Kitchen recipe I saw a few weeks ago, “One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes.” I had been dying to make this recipe, mostly because I stinkin’ LOVE farro. (So chewy and yummy…shaped kind of like orzo pasta but with a denser texture, as a grain. Barley is somewhat similar). But also because Deb gave a very useful guide for one-pan cooking, based on her reliable testing. You see, most people (including myself) expect that the grain gets cooked in its own pot, and then the vegetables sauteed separately in second pan. Not her!
Full disclosure: I did use a second pan to saute my zucchini, since I thought it might benefit from a little sear and pre-softening, in case it became soggy when dropped directly into the main pan. I had looked over one of Smitten Kitchen’s other recipes with zucchini first for inspiration. That recipe has the squash ending up in a tart, and it does call for using a saute pan. At least I used that same saute pan for frying the blossom, which made me fairly efficient at minimizing the dishes pile in my sink!
Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta
adapted from Gourmet on epicurus
Can be served with your favorite tomato sauce for dipping.
1 Cup ricotta, freshly made is best, and whole-milk is better, but part-skim (I used) is fine
1 large egg yolk
1/4 Cup fresh mint or basil or a combination, finely chopped
2/3 Cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
1/2 Cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 Cup chilled seltzer, club soda, or beer
Vegetable oil for frying
Equipment recommended: frying/candy thermometer.
For the filling, stir together ricotta, yolk, herbs, 1/3 cup parmesan, and 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
You may end up with extra filling, so feel free to scale it down to match the approximate number of blossoms you have. Yes, I realize that involves using part of an egg yolk–you could cook and eat the rest (why not?). Otherwise, I think that eggs are inexpensive and biodegradable enough that you aren’t being too wasteful if you discard a portion.
I used a combination of fresh spearmint and fresh basil from my garden.
Carefully open each blossom and fill with ricotta filling, gently twisting end of blossom to enclose filling. I wouldn’t recommend using a spoon. The process will be so much easier if you can get your hands on something with a tapered tip which you can insert into the flower. Some reviewers did use the Ziplock bag-with-a-corner-snipped-off method.
Whisk together flour, remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and carbonated liquid in a small bowl.
I didn’t want to open a new bottle of seltzer to use only a small portion! But opening and using up a beer? That could be arranged.
Heat 1/2 inch oil to 375°F in a heavy skillet sized to fit half your blossoms. Meanwhile, dip blossoms in batter to thinly coat.
Fry coated blossoms in batches, gently turning once, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes total.
Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain. (Check the temperature of the oil so it comes back up to 375°F between batches.) Season with salt. Serve alone or with tomato sauce.
Farro with Summer Garden Vegetables
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1.5 Cups water
3/4 Cup semi-pearled/whole farro
1/2 medium onion (I used about 3 ounces)
2 cloves garlic
4 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
4 ounces zucchini , diced
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
Up to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Basil leaves, cut in chiffonade, for serving
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving
Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak while you prepare the other ingredients.
Add a little olive oil to a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add diced zucchini and cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
Add to saucepan with farro.
Cut halved onion in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Add to pot with farro. Thinly slice garlic cloves and add to pot.
Halve tomatoes and add.
Fresh from my front-yard garden!
Add salt, pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan.
Turn on heat to medium-high and set a timer for 30 minutes. Bring UNcovered pan up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Check the farro’s texture after 30 minutes–it should be tender, but will be still chewy, and most of the water should be absorbed. If you let your heat get too high and the water boils off, you may have to add extra liquid.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with additional olive oil, basil and parmesan.
It’s a zucchini + pasta/grain craze! Melissa Clark of the New York Times also used zucchini and tomatoes this week in her recipe.
Having the plant and the flower together!