Get ‘Em While They’re Fresh
First and foremost, I must give credit where credit is due for this post. My dear friend Angie submitted this recipe to me. If she hadn’t, I don’t think I would have 1) looked for such a recipe and 2) felt as though I could even attempt it. But Angie has always been an excellent mentor, never steering me wrong, so I went ahead and dove into it. And now I suddenly feel so accomplished! I made something I thought only restaurants make. After all, how many times have any of us come to the call of “Dinner’s ready!” to find fried squash blossoms filled with herbed goat cheese? I certainly haven’t had the pleasure before.
Readers extraordinaire, you must give this recipe a try if you can get your hands on some fresh squash blossoms. It wasn’t nearly as hard as one might think to make these delicate and tasty beauties.
Indeed, the beauty and the flaw of this dish are the squash blossoms themselves. First, they are not a common supermarket find. Second, if you do find them but you don’t get them very very fresh and take good care to keep them cool and moist, they get rather difficult (read: rubbery) to handle (although you can still make it work). That being said, I know there are some of you out there dutifully growing squash plants in your tiny urban plots/pots or, for those luckier ducks, in your large kitchen gardens. You, my friends, have no excuse not to give this one a go. In fact, I think you owe it to those that don’t have easy squash blossom access to put your good fortune to use.
How, pray tell, does one harvest a squash blossom? Since squash develop from the blossoms, you don’t want to pick the “female” blossoms that are found low and in the center of the plant. Rather, pick the “male” blossoms that are on long slender stems higher up in the plant. You’ll easily be able to tell the difference once you’re actually looking at a squash plant.
So, thank you, Angie, for this great recipe suggestion! Let me know when you can stop over and try some for yourself! As for the rest of you, let me know how yours turn out. I’m already hankering for another batch myself…
FRIED SQUASH BLOSSOMS STUFFED WITH HERB CHEESE
Submitted by Angie Yingst and adapted from Chez Panisse menu
12 large squash blossoms
8 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 c. finely minced fresh herbs (thyme, basil, chives, sage, or others)
1 large shallot, finely minced
salt and pepper
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. corn meal mix (look for one that includes salt and baking powder) or masa harina (available in some larger stores)
Freshly ground pepper
1 c. vegetable oil
Place the goat cheese in a small bowl. Mix in the minced herbs, shallots and salt. Mixture will come together easier if the cheese is at room temperature. Once mixed, cover and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes or until firm again.
Prepare your “assembly line” by beating the eggs and milk together in a shallow bowl. Place corn meal mix or masa harina in another shallow bowl and mix in the freshly ground pepper. If blossoms have not already been prepped, gently remove all but a small tip of the stem and look closely for any dirt or insects. If you find anything, gently wipe clean with a damp towel.
When cheese mixture is firm, take teaspoon size amounts and roll into small balls with your hands the way you would chilled cookie dough.* Place a cheese ball into the center of each blossom and twist the ends of the petals together to fully enclose the cheese.
Dip each blossom into the egg mixture. Let excess drip off. Quickly and gently roll blossom in dry mixture, shaking excess off. Set blossoms in refrigerator until ready to fry.
Place vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to approximately 350 degrees or until a tiny pinch of corn meal dropped in produces a good sizzle. Carefully place half the blossoms into the hot oil. Turn them over to brown evenly on all sides. When golden brown, remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Bring oil back up to temperature and fry the remaining blossoms.
Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve immediately with any leftover cheese as a garnish in the center of the plate.
*I did not actually use this balling method myself, but will be sure to next time. I didn’t think of it until I was done with this batch. When I made my blossoms, I kept thinking how much easier it would be if I had a second pair of hands to hold open the blossom while I scooped up the cheese and put it in. By making little cheese balls beforehand, you can quickly insert the cheese with a lot less fuss.
(makes 12, serves 4)