Holy Mother of Squash Blossoms!

The last time I ate squash blossoms I was in Italy, they were stuffed with mozzarella di bufala and we enjoyed them while gazing out over Lago Maggiore. But the last time I spotted squash blossoms, prior to this past weekend’s greenmarket, was in my Great Uncle Joe’s garden. He was giving me a tour of his garden and greenhouse, and when I eyed some beautiful blossoms on the zucchini, I told him, “You know, you can eat those. You just stuff them with some cheese and fry them up.” He looked at me and cracked a smile like he knew I was playing a trick on him and said, “Well that doesn’t sound very good!” If he only knew…

When I visited the Evolutionary Organics stand on Saturday, I wasn’t expecting much to choose from (since the farm was flooded, Kira’s offerings are rapidly dwindling by the week). But there on the table was a pile of beautiful, golden squash blossoms practically calling my name.

I spiked some ricotta with a heaping spoonful of pesto and delicately stuffed the blossoms. Then I set to making a “sauce” of heirloom cherry tomatoes with a bit of garlic and a dried red chili.

I used this recipe from Gourmet for the batter; the flour and Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese whisked with chilled seltzer made for a wonderfully airy coating.

Served with the spicy tomato sauce, the crispy, yet pillowy pesto and ricotta-stuffed blossoms were out of this world. Uncle Joe, you really must try these!

Even compared to the romantic memory of my last experience, these fried squash blossoms were so incredibly delicious I claimed they were the best I’ve ever had. If you think my post title is dramatic, I beg you to make them before it’s too late (the season is fleeting, but I spied some more blossoms while strolling through the Wednesday market at Union Square). I guarantee you’ll take take your first bite and exclaim something of the like.

Pesto Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms

(serves 4 as a starter, or 2 as a main)

For tomato sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 dried hot pepper, crumbled
  • 1 quart of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For squash blossoms:

  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 heaping spoonful of pesto
  • 10-12 large zucchini squash blossoms

For the batter:

  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chilled seltzer or club soda
  • Salt and pepper
  • Neutral oil (canola or vegetable) for frying

Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the garlic and chili. Cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring a few times until they start to release their juices (about 5 minutes). Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. There should still be some pieces of tomato and the juices will thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, stir together ricotta, egg and pesto. Carefully open each blossom and fill with approximately 1.5 tablespoons ricotta filling, gently twisting end of blossom to enclose filling.

Mix together flour, cheese, some salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk in the seltzer.

Heat 1/2 inch oil to 375°F in a 10-inch heavy skillet (I didn’t actually check the temperature, I heated it over a high heat and tested the oil by dropping a bit of batter in, it should bubble and fry to a golden color in a minute or two). Dip the blossoms in batter to thinly coat and fry, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes total. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain. Fry them in batches that will fit in your pan, careful not to crowd them, and allow the oil to reheat between batches.

Serve with tomato sauce.

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