In 2006, I had the good fortune to take ‘the trip of a lifetime’ with 16 friends and family to Italy. We rented a 500-year-old villa on Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy. There are some wonderful chefs in my family; the best of the lot were on this trip. We explored the region by day, and gathered together in the evenings to enjoy the luscious food prepared by the family al fresco by the pool or in the massive formal dining room by candle light. There was my first experience with locally grown squash blossoms, thanks to my cousin Joe, an amazing chef. Lightly battered and fried to a delicate golden brown, they were sweet, floral, delicious.
Years late, and much to my delight, I was introduced to a tiny Mexican restaurant near my new home – La Mexicana – a dive with authentic fare, that serves up squash blossom tacos when they are in season (which sadly is not year ’round).
Last Saturday, seeking yellow beets with friend Holly and my adorable fur boy Boz at Findlay Market, we stumbled upon a stand selling locally grown produce including squash blossoms. Yes.
Here’s how my first preparation went down. First, made a light batter of flour and an almost equal amount of seltzer. The batter was relatively loose and runny. Seasoned with sea salt and crushed black pepper. Whisked together then chilled in the fridge for 10 minutes or so.
Then removed the stamens from the blossoms. I first tried it with a small paring knife, but found it easier to pluck out with my fingers. The blossom split a bit during this process, but it didn’t cause the filling to leak out while frying. Assembled the filling – goat cheese (room temp), lemon zest, chili flakes and fresh basil.
Mashed together with a fork, then rolled about one teaspoon into a short log and stuffed into the blossoms. Heated vegetable oil in a pan over medium high heat. While the oil heated, dipped the stuffed blossoms into the batter. They look so beautiful already!
Fried until golden brown and crisp – maybe a minute on each side.
I made a salad of locally grown arugula (much more flavorful than store bought!) tossed with a simple lemon vinaigrette (I like 50% fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 50% good extra virgin olive oil seasoned with sea salt and coarse ground pepper), shaved Parmesan, lemon zest and more cracked pepper, and topped with my beautiful zucchini blossoms with a garnish of nasturtium from my garden.
This summer supper was wonderfully reminiscent of Italy, and bloomin’ good!