I’ve resisted these vibrant blossoms from Growing Things at the University Farmers Market until last weekend, knowing that once you buy them, you have to prepare them quickly — like that day. These beauties will fade quickly, especially if you put them in the fridge and forget about them. I had been resisting mostly because I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. I thought — if nothing else, they are worthy of a photograph with their wonderfully bulbous shape.
I came home with eight of these squash seductresses, each more organically beautiful than the next. After doing a little reading and watching (Jamie at Home), I decided to take the plunge and try to batter-fry them. I know I should be a fried food expert coming from the south but the truth is my parents were not true southerners but carpetbaggers instead. I know next to nothing about deep-frying so this was virgin territory I was about to enter.
First I learned that you must carefully open each blossom and remove the pistil from the inside.
Next step was to mix up a stuffing for the flowers. I used goat cheese from Port Madison but ricotta is also recommended. If you use goat cheese, you may want to soften it by adding a little milk until it becomes smooth like cream cheese.
Put your cheese in a bowl and add 1 finely chopped hot red pepper with seeds removed, lemon zest, juice of 1/2 lemon, a big handful of chopped parsley, freshly grated nutmeg, pepper and salt.
Mix it all together with a fork, carefully stuff each blossom, then cup it gently in your hand to close all the petals up. You can make a simple pastry tube by putting the cheese mixture in a heavy plastic sandwich bag and cutting off one of the corners. I found this method easy and faster than using a spoon.
Once they were stuffed, I went into the yard to cut some sage from my plant that has extra-large leaves. You can also use the large leaves from any squash plant. They are dramatic but not as flavorful as an herb like sage.
Now for the batter. I used 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1t baking powder. I stirred in ice water until it formed a batter like pancake batter (about 11/2 cups water). If you put your finger in, it should drip off. (I found this batter a little on the heavy side and may try panko next time).
Heat your vegetable oil in a heavy skillet to 350 degrees. Since I never fry, I don’t own a deep-fry thermometer. I learned that you can drop a cube of white bread in the oil when you think it is hot enough. It should brown nicely in 60 seconds if the temperature is right.
When you have gathered all the various herbs, leaves & squash for frying, dip each to cover with batter. Let the excess drip off, then drop into the hot oil letting it fall away from you to avoid splatters. Fry only as many as will fit in the pan without touching . It should take about 30-60 seconds for each side. Tongs are handy for flipping and lifting out to drain on paper towels. You can keep pieces that are finished in the oven at 175 degrees until they are all done.
Salt generously and serve with lemon wedges.