Seasonal Recipe: Squash Blossom Tempura

You’re undoubtedly familiar with zucchini, a popular summer squash. But did you know that on the end of every zucchini is another delicious treat? Squash blossoms are much more delicate than the squash itself, and therefore are seldom found in grocery stores. But they’re easy to grow at home* or, if you’re lucky, you’ll find them at your local farmers market. Squash blossom are often used as a pizza topping or they’re stuffed with cheese and fried. This recipe is a take on the latter. It appears in the SFDC August 2018 newsletter.

*Gardener’s note: while delicious, don’t go crazy harvesting all of the flowers on your home grown squash plants. Keep in mind that the flowers are necessary for zucchini plants (and other plants in the cucurbit family) to grow fruit. So your best bet is to pinch off the male flowers, and use the stamen to fertilize the female blossoms. Then feel free to cook the male blossoms. (Did you know that some plants have separate male and female flowers??) You can tell which one is the female blossom because it will look like there is a tiny squash attached to the bottom of it. If this female flower is not pollinated, the tiny squash will wilt; if pollinated, it will start to grow into a full-size zucchini.

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • Boiling water
  • ¼ cup ricotta
  • 3 tablespoons soft goat cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 1 lemon, finely grated to get 1 tablespoon zest, then cut into wedges
  • Flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • 8 zucchini blossoms
  • About 1 1/2 cups sunflower oil, for frying
  • Scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour)
  • ⅛ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon milliliters ice-cold sparkling or soda water

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, cover 3/4 tablespoon of the sumac with 1 tablespoon of boiling water and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Add both types of cheese, oregano, walnuts, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a generous grind of pepper. Mix well.

2.  Fill the flowers by carefully opening them and either spooning or piping about a tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into each, gently pushing the filling all the way to the bottom of each blossom but being careful not to fill them too much; if you can get someone to hold the flower open for you, it would make it much easier. Gently twist the tips of the petals to secure the filling inside and set aside until you’re ready to fry.

3. Pour enough oil into a medium (about 8-inch/20-centimeter) nonstick frying pan so that the oil rises about 1 inch/2 centimeters up the sides of the pan. Place on a high heat for 5 minutes and then turn the heat down a fraction.

4. Meanwhile, mix the flour and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Slowly pour in the sparkling water, whisking continuously to form a smooth batter.

5. When bubbles start to surface in the oil, test it by dropping some batter into the oil: if it sizzles, you are ready. (The oil should hover between 320 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit/160 and 180 degrees Celsius.)

6. Lower a zucchini blossom into the batter, turning to coat completely, before carefully placing in the hot oil. Repeat, cooking a few blossoms at a time, adjusting the temperature between batches so they take about 30 seconds on each side to turn a golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and then sprinkle with salt and the remaining 1/4 tablespoon sumac. Serve at once with the lemon wedges alongside.

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