Exchanging Inspiration

A while back our friends Melissa and Derrick posted a photo and write-up of one of their dinners, mentioning that my writing about our day-to-day dining inspired them to do so. As you can imagine, I was flattered and delighted by this, but I also took away some inspiration of my own. You see, I have always been seduced by the lovely squash blossoms that show up in gardens and markets this time of year, but I have also felt very intimidated about cooking with them myself. I mentioned this to our friends, and with their encouragement I decided that I’d give it a shot. Am I ever I glad I did.

If you search the internet for fried squash blossom recipes, many of them look a little bit… futzy. Egg washes, breadcrumbs, milk, flour, batters with beer or without… I was worried that the flavor of the little blossoms would be overwhelmed by something so heavy. Derrick’s method was far simpler, and I think, superior: flour, buttermilk, flour then fry. This I could get behind.

lined up like little soldiers

I had a vacation day scheduled yesterday, so I decided to get a jump on the prep work. I trimmed the squash blossoms, opened them up and pulled out the little stamens, then set the cleaned blossoms aside. For the filling, I combined 2 oz. of crumbled soft goat cheese, 4 oz. of sheep’s milk ricotta, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh chervil. Our blossoms were a little on the small side, so getting the stuffing in without cracking them on one side was a little tricky, but I pressed forward, first using a spoon to stuff then and finally just using my fingers. I placed a little bit of the stuffing inside each blossom, then twisted the ends closed and press them together. They didn’t all stay closed, but I figured I could try to re-seal them before battering and cooking them. I placed the stuffed blossoms on a platter, covered it with plastic wrap and set them in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.

stuffed

The blossoms and filling firmed up nicely with those few hours of refrigeration, and when it was time to dip them in the flour and buttermilk, I was relieved to see that they held together well. I fried the blossoms in batches until they were golden, and then set them on a paper towel-lined platter to drain as they came out of the oil, sprinkling them with a little kosher salt while they were still hot.

While I heated the oil and worked on the frying, I had a second pan on the stove in which I put together a summer vegetable ragout. I chopped up six garlic scapes and sautéed them in a tablespoon of olive oil, and then added half a cup of white vermouth, a cup and a half of water, a teaspoon of kosher salt and a parmesan rind. After that simmered for 10-15 minutes, I removed the parmesan rind and added 1 1/2 cups of halved red and gold cherry tomatoes. I let them cook uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, and when the last of the squash blossoms was out of the oil, I added a mixture of blanched vegetables (peas, cranberry beans, green beans, favas) and herbs (flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, thyme, dill) to the tomato and parmesan broth. I let this cook for just a minute or so more, turned off the heat and ladled the vegetables and broth into bowls. I topped them with the crunchy squash blossoms, and our meal was ready to go.

The squash blossoms were delicious – perfectly crisp on the outside, the filling soft and delicate, and they provided a really nice counterpoint to the light, brothy vegetables. Mike had taken a cue from Derrick’s post as well and brought home a lovely Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc to go with our meal. As we sipped our wine and ate, I thought how wonderful it is that food and drink have this great power to inspire, to bring people together across the miles. I felt a great sense of appreciation for the good food and drink in front of me but more importantly, I felt a great sense of appreciation for the good friends who inspired it.

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14 thoughts on “Exchanging Inspiration

  1. This looks absolutely delicious, and your photos are stunning! I think your posts inspire more people than you know. Keep up the great work.

  2. Hooray! I’m so glad they worked out for you (hm, that refrigeration idea makes a lot of sense).

    I too find that the fragile flowers occasionally rip. I usually just put less stuffing in.

  3. Jennifer Hess says:

    Amy, thank you! I’m going to have Mike throw some garlic scapes on the grill tonight to go with our steak, and that’s a definite shout-out to you… so thanks to you for that bit of inspiration!

    Derrick – let me know if you try the refrigeration thing next time you do these. Never having done these before, I’m not sure if it makes any sort of difference as far as the taste or texture, but we were really pleased with the result. So thanks again!

  4. I was contemplating stuffing squash blossoms recently, but the I decided I would use them to stuff squashes instead! I was feeling lazy… I’m glad these were delicious however, maybe next time!

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    ann, definitely try them sometime – I’m a big fan now, and they were far less work than I anticipated!

  6. Joey says:

    Hey! I read this post last night, and then in Tomkins Square today I saw a bunch of squash blossoms, so I picked them up and tried your recipe with a friend.

    It was really fun to make the dish (one of us opening the flower, the other stuffing it), and it was also super-tasty! I just want to know how you manage to get such a thick-looking coating on them. Ours still looked sorta green at the end of the frying (and the breadcrumbs lit my pan on fire several times).

    Thanks so much for your blog, it’s a real treat every time!

  7. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks, Joey! As for the coating, I didn’t use breadcrumbs at all – I just coated the stuffed blossoms in flour, then dipped them in buttermilk, then dipped them in flour again and fried them. I loved how the coating came out – substantial but not too heavy, and with a great crunch.

  8. Tamiko says:

    Thank you for the wonderful inspiration…I made these tonight and was very pleased. I never fry things, so this was somewhat fun to do for a change. I topped them with a bit of smoked pimenton and took up your idea of the salad and served them with a bean, corn, tomato and basil salad and some fingerlings with butter and garlic chives. This was delightful on a blisteringly hot day.

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