Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

If cooking is a some combination of pleasure, work, utility and delight, what could be more lovely than cooking flowers? Squashes are sprawling out of every garden right now (or crawling onto the sidewalks of Berkeley) and tucked behind the broad and furry green leaves are giant mellow-orange flowers that can be plucked and, after several steps, happily consumed.

Stuffed squash blossoms are an Italian dish that employs delicious things like fresh ricotta, feta, or other cheeses, and herbs as a filling. (However, there's also a Thai way to make them--see here.) The flower petals taste surprisingly squash-like (although, the most young and tender version of squash since it's basically pre-natal). The blossoms can be hard to find--they are extraordinarily perishable--but right now is the best time to find them.

First, wash and dry the blossoms and carefully pluck out the yellow pollen-dusted inner, uh, stamen, if that's what it's called. It's only on the male blossoms and you'll know when you see it. Then comes the filling.

We made a filling with ricotta, lemon thyme, and a bit of salt. Spoon the filling into the flower and then close the petals around it. Then dredge in a mixture of 1 egg and a 1/4 c. of milk, with salt and pepper. Quickly transfer to a shallow bowl of masa harina or corn meal. Fry in a good amount of olive oil until toasted and crisp on all sides.

While they end up looking like fried okra, the taste is miles away. The crispy outer layer and the soft cheese inside meld with the delicate zucchini taste for a very memorable dish. An excellent accompaniment to any late summer meal. And (shockingly!) it goes great with white wine. But what doesn't?