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 go ahead and knock out successions of risottos, pizzas, frittatas and casseroles, where they will add a pretty and uber-seasonal note to each dish. However, if you have only a few precious farmer’s market blooms, my vote is always for stuffed. Plated up in their crunchy panko coats these little morsels shine on their own with a chilled glass of white wine, whispering “it’s summer.”
Like bright, deflated balloons that just happened to float into the garden, these generously-proportioned, saffron-coloured blooms are an incredible bonus to an already exceedingly useful plant, the Cucurbita pepo. Whether the typical green courgette commonly grown here in the UK, or the slender sun-bright curves of the crookneck squash of my Florida youth, all varieties of summer squash produce these golden edible sacs.
This year, for the first time, I am growing both courgettes and yellow summer squash – with unexpected success. Too much success. We were growing them in the reliable warmth of our conservatory but had to move them outdoors to fend for themselves, lest their triffid-like growth strangle us in our sleep. 🙂 Every day there seems to be blossoms ready to pick from the non-fruiting, long, slim male stems. I make sure and leave some of these male flowers to open as they need to be visited by bees in order for fertilization of the female flowers to take place.
No male flowers, no zucchini to pick.
Even if you have never eaten a squash blossom – slightly peppery with a hint of the zucchini they may become – you can tell just by looking at them that they are meant to be filled with something a bit decadent.
Last year I posted an easy recipe for slightly more traditional, Italian-accented, ricotta-stuffed stuffed blossoms. The delicacy of this fragile flower invites smooth mild fillings and this creamy Italian soft cheese is the obvious choice. I added citrus zest and homegrown British buckler sorrel and mint. Knockout delicious.
This year I am keeping it all-British with a simple stuffing of excellent Dorset Blue Vinney and soft cheese. Not too much of the blue, just enough to add some piquancy and stop it from being too “safe.” Any blue cheese will be good, but I really rate the balance and texture of vegetarian Dorset Blue Vinney.
The summer here in the UK – and especially in Scotland – has been fairly rubbish. Luckily my courgette plants don’t seem to mind. But, of course, they haven’t shaved their legs and slapped on the sunscreen for nothing…
No matter what your summer weather, the Waitrose #TasteOfSummer campaign has plenty of recipes to keep you feeling in a festive, summery mood. And, if you share your own summer creations on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you could be enjoying a super-special summer experience of your own. Hashtag your pictures with #TasteOfSummer and you have a chance to win one of these two great prizes:
- A ticket for you and a ‘plus one’ to their ‘Cocktails & Party Bites’ evening course at the Waitrose Finchley Road Cookery School in London on Thursday 13 August. With a glass of fizz in hand you will learn to make three stunning types of summer canapés and three very drinkable cocktails.
- A fabulous summer party menu as chosen by the Waitrose Entertaining and Waitrose Cellar specialists. All you need do is invite your friends, cut the grass and let Waitrose do the rest!
Now, for my own #TasteOfSummer recipe, commissioned by Waitrose. I do hope you like it.
Blue and Soft Cheese-Stuffed Baked Squash Blossoms
If you grow courgettes/zucchini you will perhaps be inundated with the lovely saffron-hued flowers. Pick the male flowers, saving a few to allow bees to fertilise the lower-down female flowers, and stuff with this two-ingredient filling for a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts summer treat. xx
1 dozen zucchini/courgette blossoms – closed or partially open
½ cup cream cheese/soft cheese (amount depends on the volume of the blossoms)
3 tbsp blue cheese (more to taste, but start with this)
1 egg, lightly beaten in a shallow bowl
1 cup panko crumbs or dried bread crumbs on a plate
1 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking tray with parchment/baking paper. Set aside.
2. Mash together the cheeses; spoon this into either a small piping bag, into a small plastic sandwich bag with a corner cut off, or have a small spoon on standby.
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 press in some of the cheese filling, twisting the flower at the end to hold it in. You could also use a small spoon and clean fingers to push a dollop of filling into the opening.
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 as a snack or appetizer. Delicious with a glass of English fizz, such as the top-rated and (relatively) affordable Nyetimber Classic Cuvee. Cheers!
PS Here’s a good Huffington Post article on the best things to do with squash blossoms.