Squash blossoms are the ultimate in edible flowers. Unlike nasturtiums, borage, violets and other pretty posies consigned largely to salad and ice cube duty, squash blossoms can be stir-fried, frittata-ed, casseroled, gratineed and, most notably, stuffed. If you have loads of blossom knock yourself out with a risotto or casserole, where they will add a pretty and uber-seasonal note to each dish. However, if you have but a few precious farmer’s market blooms, the vote always has to be for stuffed. Plated up in their crunchy panko summer coats these little morsels shine on their own with a chilled glass of white wine, whispering “it’s summer.”
Even if you have never encountered a stuffed squash blossom you can tell just by looking at one that it is meant to be filled with something a bit decadent. Like bright deflated balloons that just happened to float into the garden, these bulbous blooms are an incredible bonus to an already exceedingly useful plant, the Cucurbita pepo. Whether the typical green courgette/zucchini commonly grown here in the UK, or the slender saffron curves of the crookneck squash of my Florida youth, all varieties of summer squash produce these golden edible sacs.
The usual stuffing is ricotta, and I see no reason to deviate. The delicacy of this fragile flower invites smooth mild fillings and I can think of nothing more suitable than this creamy Italian soft cheese.
As for subtle but stand-out flavours, I was inspired by the citrus-sour buckler leaf sorrel/sheep’s sorrel growing happily after a sudden ‘haircut’ earlier in the month (for its own good), as well as the ever-present lemon mint and spearmint lining the path to the hen house (sadly defunct). Lemon zest provided the third citrus tang to lift the ricotta.
Where I deviate substantially from the traditional stuffed squash blossom is by baking rather than frying. Frying is of course superb. I tried it this way, delicately crunchy and oozing with cheese, at a small cafe in Lucca (link is to a 2012 holiday post, with a chard and prawn pizza recipe). And it was indeed delicious, as all things are in their country of origin, especially in the company of a tall flute of Prosecco. 🙂
Back home, with waistbands to consider, baking is the way to go. Believe me, it is no compromise to bake rather than fry as both ways with squash blossoms are more-ishly crispy and good. Especially with Prosecco.
That is three times I have mentioned booze in this post. Does someone need a holiday??
Well yes, don’t mind if I do. Actually, I am sending this post to you from Dubrovnik. As you read this, the Food To Glow family are currently eating our collective body weights in fish and various delicacies I have no hope of being able to pronounce. There may even be wine.
For information on how to pick, select, store and use squash blossoms, Gardening Know How has some tips for you. I should have read this earlier as I had left my kindly-given blossoms (thank you Kathy and Warwick) languishing too long before using. Don’t do this; I had to throw out quite a few. Pick and eat on the same day if possible.
Over to you! What healthy summer nibbles have you been cooking up?
Leave a comment and share your ideas and recipe links.
Panko-crusted Baked Squash Blossoms with Garden Herb Ricotta
Baked, not fried, is the key to getting healthy, crunchy squash blossom bites. The herby add-ins are up to you, but my sorrel and mint are great just now and work so well together – zesty and fresh.
Gluten-free? Try crushed almonds or other nuts.
Vegan? Try this tofu-ricotta recipe from Whole Foods Market
12 fresh courgette/squash/zucchini blossoms, brushed
1 cup fresh ricotta or vegan substitute
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sorrel OR parsley
zest ½ small unwaxed lemon
Freshly ground pepper and pinch of salt (depends on your ricotta)
1 egg, lightly beaten OR vegan egg replacer mixed up as one whole egg – pour in a shallow bowl
1 cup panko crumbs OR ¾ c dry breadcrumbs – place in a shallow bowl
Oil spray or a little oil for brushing
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking tray with foil or parchment and lightly coat with oil or use oil spray. Set aside.
3. To stuff the blossoms, take one flower and carefully make a vertical slit from the base – about 1 ½ inches long. Reach in and tweak off the stamen. Now take the bag of herbed ricotta and squish in some filling, twisting the flower at the end to hold it in.
5. Repeat with the remaining blossoms and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, watching after 10 minutes in case your oven is a little faster than mine. They should be lightly browned and crunchy.
Eat immediately. Lovely as a pre-dinner nibble with drinks and olives.
Other tasty nibbles here on Food To Glow:
Marinara-Stuffed Baked Arancini (another fun snack that is usually fried)
Crispy Fennel Seed Flatbread Crackers (with pretty Icelandic salt!)
Plus loads more in my Index.