Life’s been a bit crazy ’round here lately. We just got the quote for the countertops that I fell in love with in for the kitchen remodel and it was waaaaay more than what I was expecting. So now we’re kinda sorta maybe thinking about DIYing it, which I know sounds crazy at first BUT, the more I research wood plank countertops the more doable (sort of) it seems. But I also have a knack for underestimating the complexity of DIY tasks (like the time I thought we could build a dining table without any wood working experience whatsoever. This ended up becoming my rickety prop table.) Sooooo we’ll see what happens. But enough about countertops, and onto the food.
My older sister teaches kindergarten and one of the many projects she did with her students involved planting pumpkin seeds and watching them grow. Since most of the families didn’t have room for a giant pumpkin plant, she ended up with dozens of the little green vining sprouts. Luckily, that was around the time that I moved back home, and because I can never say no to free plants, I ended up taking home eight of them. Most vining squash tend to take over large portions of the yard, so the lack of veggies I sowed this summer (just squash and tomatoes) actually helped the pumpkins sprawl out. And sprawl they did. About 1/3 of my yard is now a mass of pumpkin vines, awash with golden squash blossoms coming out from every crevasse and turn of the vine. There are dozens of new ones every day and, while I can’t keep up with their current output, I’ve been doing my best to at least put a dent in them. They’re one of the largest edible flowers, and perfect for stuffing and pan-frying.
You can find them at local farmer’s markets or CSA’s during the late summer months. Its important to shop locally for these, as flower petals are very absorbent of any preservatives or pesticides that may be sprayed onto them if they’re being shipped lengthy distances. The same goes for using them outside of the summer season, if you can find them in the late fall to spring, they were grown in a greenhouse or in another country and it’s likely they’ve been coated in preservatives and pesticides to keep them alive outside of their normal growing period. The same pretty much goes for all other produce, which is why it is so important to try to eat seasonally and locally. And in my opinion, there’s nothing more local than your own backyard, so till up that dirt this coming spring and start planting! It’s great exercise, you know exactly where your food is coming from, and homegrown produce tastes so, so much better than the store bought stuff. (Also, if you’re interested in learning more about seasonal produce, etc, I highly recommend checking out Tomatoland;its focus is on tomatoes but it gives you an idea of the trickle down effect that eating out-of-season produce has.) And if you’re apartment-living, you can grow a surprising array of food out of containers on your balcony (tomatoes are especially well-adapted to container growing as long as you have a warm and sunny summer).
If gardening isn’t your thing, though, definitely check out your local farmers markets and CSA’s. When you’re scouting out which squash blossoms to buy or snip, pick the ones whose petals haven’t gotten all tangled and stuck together at the ends yet. These have already bloomed for a few days and the petals are fragile and limp, they tend to look like wet yellow tissue paper. You’re looking for blooms where the petals are firm and can easily be pulled a few inches apart from each other. They should also be free of pesticides and preservatives. After picking or purchasing, make sure to give them a good rinse in the sink to get any little bugs out of the flower.
I stuffed these little guys with zucchini, ricotta, garlic, oregano, and a dash of McCormick’s Hot Hungarian Paprika for a nice subtle kick. I then brushed them with a little egg wash, rolled them lightly in some seasoned flour, and gave them a quick pan-fry to make the outside crispy while the inside stayed nice and gooey. Yes, they are as wonderfully savory and delicious as they sound. And what’s more elegant than actually eating a flower? Absolutely nothing, that’s what.
Also! Just a reminder that registration is open for my Fall 2014 Food Styling & Photography workshop with Reclaiming Provincial in Upstate New York. It’s going to be ridiculously beautiful up there with all the fall foliage, and we’re going to have so much fun shooting and styling. Hope you can join us 🙂
Zucchini, Ricotta, & Paprika Stuffed Squash Blossoms
- 1 medium zucchini peeled and grated
- 1 and 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Hot Hungarian Paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup flour
- vegetable oil for frying
- 12 large squash blossoms
- Take a handful of the grated zucchini and squeeze it between your hands over a large bowl to rid it of as much excess water as possible. Set the drained zucchini in a separate bowl, and repeat until you've drained all the zucchini. Mix with the ricotta, 1 egg, garlic cloves, McCormick Gourmet Oregano, McCormick Gourmet Hot Hungarian Paprika, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper until combined. Use a tablespoon to get a heaping spoonful of the mixture and scoop it into the squash blossom until it is about two-thirds full. Fold the last third of the petals over the filling and press down gently to seal.
- Add the vegetable oil to a large frying pan so that it is about 1-inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a drop of water flicked into the pan hisses and sizzles. Lower heat to medium to maintain temperature.
- Mix together the flour and remaining salt and pepper in a medium-sized shallow dish. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and lightly brush the outside of each squash blossom with the whisked egg mixture. Roll the blossom in the flour mixture, shaking it gently afterwards to remove any excess flour. Repeat until the squash blossoms are all lightly floured.
- Use a slotted spoon to add them to the frying pan, one at a time, maintaining an inch of space around each one. Cook until lightly golden, about 3-5 minutes on each side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve immediately.