There’s altogether too much zucchini that grows over the summer! Don’t you agree? If you have a garden planted with it or other summer squashes, you can pare down the bounty by picking some of the blossoms, which can be used for a variety of dishes. (And if you aren’t gardening, look for squash blossoms at your local farmers market or Latin markets.)

Squash blossoms can be chopped up and incorporated into an omelet. In Mexico, they’re frequently used in making quesadillas with beautifully runny cheeses. But, they’re also a favorite in Italy, where you’ll find them stuffed and fried.

Our friend Caron Golden spent some time in the kitchen with San Diego chef Miguel Valdez and he taught her all the tricks you need to know to turn these magnificent but fragile yellow blossoms into a winning appetizer. We’ll let Caron take it from here.

fried blossoms

So, here are some tips Miguel gave me that have really helped me do a better job in making stuffed squash blossoms. The first, of course, is the purchase. They should look fresh and firm, not wilted or browned around the edges. But you also want them closed, not wide open. My friend Trish Watlington, who grows squash for her restaurant The Red Door, where Miguel used to be the chef, gave me an additional tip. Wait until late afternoon to pick them. In the course of the day, they’ll have opened. By late afternoon they’ll have closed again and are ready for the taking.

When you’re ready to prepare them, don’t rinse the blossoms. They’re too fragile for rinsing and will bruise. Instead, fill a bowl with cold water, and after opening the blossom just enough to check for bugs, dunk the blossoms in the water and then lay them down gently on paper towels.

Now you want to make your stuffing. Miguel showed me a very basic approach, using ricotta, marscapone, eight ball squash, a red onion, fresh thyme and mint, eggs, bread crumbs, and oil. You’ll want to do a small dice on the squash and onion so they’ll fit through the hole of the pastry bag. The squash, onion, and herbs are sauteed in olive oil until they’re soft. While the vegetables cool, whisk the eggs vigorously to incorporate lots of air. What you want are large bubbles and a liquid texture–no strings of egg whites. (And, don’t toss what you don’t use. The eggs will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.)

Once the vegetables are at room temperature, you’ll make the stuffing by stirring them together with the two cheeses and some salt and pepper to taste. Then fill a plate or flat container with bread crumbs. They don’t have to be store purchased. If you have stale bread or crackers (or crackers you enjoy), pulverize them in the food processor.

Now, what’s your stuffing technique? Here’s where things can go seriously wrong–I know because I’ve been a perpetrator of this. Don’t do what I used to do, which was to open the blossom and fill it from the top, keeping the petals open. It makes a mess and tears the petals. What you want to do instead is slice off about a quarter inch of the bottom of the blossom, where the stem is. Keep it though. You’ll fill the blossom from that clean opening and then insert the bottom/stem inside so that it will look whole. Brilliant.

Another tip Miguel offered also related to stuffing. If you’re doing this solo, filling the pastry bag can be a tricky mess. Instead, pull out a tall container–like your utensil holder on the sink. Place the empty pastry bag inside and fold the top of the bag over the container. Then your hands are free to fill it with your stuffing. Pull the top up and twist it gently to ease the stuffing solidly down toward the tip. At that point, gently place the tip into the bottom of one of the blossoms to measure how far you need to cut (assuming you are using a plastic pastry bag or a plastic storage bag and not a pastry bag with plastic tips). Then you can cut the tip of the bag and start squeezing, filling the blossom until the top of the petals begin to bulge a little. Pull out the pastry bag and insert the stem piece, wiggling it to work it just inside so it will stay put.

Now you’re going to put it all together. Using one hand (to keep the other clean), gently dip the stuffed blossom into the egg, shake off the excess, then dredge it lightly in the bread crumbs. When you’ve done all of them, put them in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour or, if need be, overnight.

Then you’re ready to fry them. Use a vegetable oil and heat in a tall pot to 400 degrees. Add the blossoms (don’t crowd them) and give them two minutes in the fryer. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Serve them on greens or over a favorite sauce.

And, here’s the final tip. Be creative. One night last summer, The Red Door served stuffed blossoms for dessert. The stuffing was Nutella and cream cheese, breaded in panko crumbs, fried, then dipped in dark chocolate and chopped walnuts. Who knew…?

Nutella and cream cheese

Stuffed Squash Blossoms
by Miguel Valdez
Yield: 10 appetizers
20 fresh, firm squash blossoms
1 8-ounce container of marscapone
1 15-ounce container of ricotta
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 eight-ball squash, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves stripped from stems and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup bread crumbs (purchased or made from crackers or dry bread)
Grapeseed, canola, or other vegetable oil for frying

Gently wash the squash blossoms by dipping them a few times into a bowl of cold water, then lay them carefully on paper towels. Heat olive oil in a pan and add diced vegetables and herbs, sauteing until soft. Spread on a sheet pan to cool so added cheese won’t melt.

Trim the bottom of the squash blossom and shake out the piston. Save the end/stem to place inside after stuffing the blossom.

In a bowl, mix the two cheeses and the cooled vegetables with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until they’re quite liquid and bubbly and there are no strands of egg whites. Fill a plate or flat container with the bread crumbs.

prepping the blossoms

Using a tall, empty container slip a pastry bag (or large plastic bag inside, handing the top of the bag over the side of the container. Fill the bag with the cheese and vegetable stuffing. Pull the sides up and, twisting the bag, push the mixture to the tip of the bag. Measure the cut of the tip by inserting the tip into the cut end of the blossom. Snip the tip so that it will just fit inside the squash blossom bottom hole.

Squeeze the mixture into the blossom until the petal begin to bulge. Pull the pastry bag tip out and carefully insert the step back into the hole. When all are stuffed, dip the blossoms into the egg, then with one hand, dredge the blossoms lightly in the bread crumbs. They should be covered with the crumbs but not so thick you can’t see the blossoms. Place on a plate or tray and refrigerate. You can let them sit for an hour to firm up or even overnight. If you have leftover cheese mixture or eggs, you can keep these for other uses.

stuffing the blossoms

Heat the grapeseed or canola oil in a fryer or tall pot until it reaches 400 degrees. Dip the blossoms in the oil for two minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel. You can plate them on a bed of greens or tomato sauce or salsa. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

———-

New York, New York! The Statue of Liberty. The Empire State Building. And, the Chelsea Market, where the Food Network is headquartered–and where the five remaining Food Network Star contestants, including our own Nicole Gaffney, headed to from Las Vegas for week nine of the competition. And what was the challenge? Making an appearance on The Rachael Ray Show!

Ronnybrook Milk Bar

But, we get ahead of ourselves. The five met up with all three mentor judges and learned that they would be going downstairs to the Chelsea Market to do a live feed story on a summer food staple. Each got an assigned vendor and Nicole was sent to Ronnybrook Milk Bar. As in… ICE CREAM! Nicole sailed through her stand up, even giving a tip about Philadelphia ice cream. Bobby Flay told her that she seemed a natural in her environment and she won the challenge. This gave her an advantage for the main competition. Each contestant was to appear on The Rachael Ray Show and in three and a half minutes cook a dish that resolved a dinner dilemma for a family. Nicole got to view each clip of each family and their dinner dilemmas and then strategically assign a contestant to that family.

Nicole chose the Flag family, who wanted healthier food ideas. Nicole gave them a shrimp and vegetable lettuce wrap. Her tips on her segment were terrific–keeping a well-stocked pantry among them. And she cooked up what looked like a terrific dish. Except that she included a sriracha sauce for the kids and the littlest one spit it out. Not good.

On Rachael Ray

Fortunately, Giada liked the dish, but did point out the obvious gaffe. Poor Sara and Loreal did worse. So, Nicole made it to the final four, while Loreal, the butcher babe, was cut. Next week should be interesting! Keep it up, Nicole!

Have you cooked with squash blossoms? What do you make with them?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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