Saturday, July 10, 2010

Squash Blossoms


I've never understood the hype about squash blossoms. I guess anything that has a small window of availability and limited supply just drives people nuts. I finally decided to experiment with them when I saw them on Fresh Direct. I had about 10 blossoms when they arrived. But what's the BEST way to prepare them? The internet findings collectively insist that deep frying them with cheese inside is the best. Duh - anything deep fried with cheese is good, everyone knows that! Apparently, the less complex the filling, the better, to preserve their "delicate squash flavor". Since this is my first time playing with blossoms, I decided to go with the masses and deep fry. 

When I opened the plastic carton of blossoms, I was disheartened to find them covered in aphids. I had a horrible infestation of aphids last summer during my first attempt at growing houseplants. They are impossible to get rid of. So I rinsed the flowers viciously in cool water and set them aside to dry, hoping that none of the aphids had a chance to migrate before going down the drain. The next step was removing the stamens from inside the flowers, which was harder than it sounds. Spreading the petals to get to the bottom of the stamen made tears between the petals. I decided to stop at four blossoms, in case my novice abilities ruined them. 

For the filling I took some goat cheese leftover from another project and mashed it up with some seasoning salt. I wrapped the four little balls of goat cheese in fresh basil leaves and stuffed them inside each flower - twisting the tops of the petals like a candy wrapper to close them. Then, I mixed together one egg white, some milk and a splash of lemon juice to make it buttermilk. I dredged each blossom pocket in the milk, and then in a mixture of cornmeal, salt and pepper. Finally, I dropped them in a small saucepan of hot canola oil until they were golden. 


The verdict? I have to say the "delicate squash flavor" was almost non-existent. I think the blossoms were really just a vessel for the fried coating and hot cheese. Really, you may as well just fry breaded cheese. Although, with the stem to hold, and crispy twisty leaves, they are kind of fun to eat. However, I think they would be more worthwhile with a more complex filling and some dipping sauce.


 For the last 6 blossoms, I took a simpler approach in hopes of discovering a more pure version of this elusive "delicate squash flavor".  I sauteed a little garlic and shallot in margarine and olive oil until they browned, and then doused the pan with a shot of white wine (hoping to create a bit of steam to cook the blossoms). I threw in the blossoms (which I sliced in half lengthwise), stirring until they wilted and seasoned with salt and pepper. The whole process only took about 5 minutes. 6 blossoms turned into a small portion cooked, but they actually tasted pretty good. Of course, they tasted like fried shallots and garlic, not a delicate squash. But with a higher flower to shallot ratio, these could make a fun side dish for a dinner party. I can't see anyone disliking it, and it's always fun to see people's reaction to a new food.


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