Variation on a Theme
For those of you who have been reading along all summer, you know by now that I have a thing for squash blossoms and there are one, two, three, and four recipes already on the blog that feature them. Well, I’m about to add numero cinco. But this time I’m using PUMPKIN blossoms! That’s right – you can use the blossoms of pumpkin vines in much the same way as those of squash and zucchini. In fact, you can even use the blossoms off ornamental gourd vines too but I find those don’t hold up to as much manhandling when stuffing them.
Since I’ve used a lot of squash blossom photos for the previous entries and I’m already varying the theme a bit with pumpkin blossoms, I thought I’d also try my hand at illustrating for a change. Hopefully you’ll find these pastels charming instead of corny, but either way, it’s good to have a little fun once in awhile.
I also opted to try a tempura batter this time, instead of the bread-ier coating of eggs and flour. I’m honestly torn as to which I prefer. The tempura batter didn’t offer as much crunch but it did make for a prettier final dish since the colors of the blossoms peaked through the batter here and there. The tempura was faster though since it only required one quick “dip” instead of a dunk in egg and then a roll in flour. With future stuffed blossoms, I suppose I’ll just pick according to my mood.
As for my preference of blossoms, I ended up liking the pumpkin ones best for their crunch, smell and taste. Did you know pumpkin blossoms have the sweetest floral, almost honey-like, scent? It’s quite engaging. Squash blossoms do not have that same smell. I have to be honest here though…I was initially intimidated by the pumpkin blossoms due to the size of their stamen. These bad boys are very well endowed! I felt downright naughty handling them, and once they were fried, I wasn’t so sure I was going to enjoy the sensation of…ya know, I just can’t delve into this anymore. Suffice to say, don’t be put off by the stamen. In the end, these all-around large blossoms hold up really well to stuffing and are quite tasty.
Final comment…this is a great opportunity to use the oven-dried tomatoes if you made them already!
Tempura-Style Stuffed Pumpkin Blossoms
Adapted from Epicurious.com
6 pumpkin blossoms
1 small block of aged hard cheese (i.e., sharp cheddar)
3 oven/sun dried tomatoes
stem of fresh oregano
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. chilled sparkling water
generous pinch of salt
2 c. peanut or canola oil
toasted spicy pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)
Place the oven dried tomatoes in a small bowl filled with very hot tap water. Set aside.
Pinch stems off blossoms and inspect for any dirt or bugs (remove these with a slightly damp towel rubbed very gently along the petals).
Cut cheese into 1 inch long by 1/2 inch wide chunks. Remove whole oregano leaves from stem and set aside. Mix flour with salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Take tomatoes out of hot water and dab off with a paper towel. Cut in half lengthwise.
Begin stuffing the blossoms by placing one chunk of cheese, one whole oregano leaf, and one piece of tomato inside each blossom. Gently twist petals to “seal” stuffing inside. Set aside and repeat with each blossom. Once all blossoms are stuffed, place oil in a deep frying pan over high heat. Wait a minute or two for oil to heat up before combining the sparkling water with the flour. Working quickly to take advantage of the bubbles in the batter, dip each blossom into the batter, gently shake off excess and place in hot oil. Repeat quickly with each blossom. Turn them over in the hot oil (be careful as they might stick a bit to the bottom) until brown and crisp all over. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel to drain.
Sprinkle with a bit of salt if you’d like. When plating, scatter around a few pumpkin seeds (you’ll notice I forgot to do that for the picture below – d’oh!).