- Course: Antipasto/Mezze, Appetizer
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Moderate
- Favorited: 28 Times
Every August, zucchini seem to multiply on their vines like the vegetable equivalent of the animated brooms in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” an explosion of late-summer fecundity that exhausts the cravings of even the most ardent zucchini lover. I say, throttle them in their infancy—pick the zucchini flowers (“squash blossoms,” as they’re also known) before they can grow up.
This dish naturally evolved out of ingredients purchased one afternoon in an open-air market—beautiful fresh goat cheeses and several different tapenades. I’ve since lightened the goat cheese mixture with ricotta. The tapenade should be served as a small garnish on the side, a complementary taste rather than a big spoonful.
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 extra-large egg, separated (the white should be chilled)
- ½ cup very cold beer
- 6 tablespoons high-quality ricotta
- 6 tablespoons soft goat cheese
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh fiat-leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chervil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 20 large squash blossoms
- 4 cups vegetable oil for deep-frying
- ¼ cup Green Olive Tapenade (below; optional)
Green olive tapenade:
- 1 cup pitted green olives (about 1 to 1¼ pounds unpitted; see box)
- 3 anchovies, rinsed
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
- ½ garlic clove, minced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 loaf French bread, cut into ½-inch-thick slices and toasted
1. To make the batter, mix the flour and cornstarch in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg white and beer together. Stir this into the flour mixture. Do not overbeat, or the batter will be tough; there should still be some lumps. Cover and refrigerate (it can rest, chilled, up to 2 hours) while you make the stuffing.
2. Mix the cheeses in a bowl with the egg yolk, shallot, and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice.
3. Carefully pry apart the petals of each blossom. Remove the stamen. Place a small spoonful of the cheese mixture inside each blossom and gently twist the tips of the blossoms shut.
4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large deep pot over medium heat to 350°F. Use a deep-fry thermometer to check the temperature.
5. Remove the batter from the refrigerator and stir it once. Dip the blossoms into the batter, then carefully lower them into the hot oil. Fry them in batches until they are golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Divide the blossoms among four warm plates. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Garnish each plate with spoonful of tapenade, if using, and serve.
Green olive tapenade:
Combine the olives, anchovies, capers, and garlic in a food processor and pulse to a rough paste, adding the olive oil as necessary.
Squash blossoms rarely appear in specially produce stores; the most reliable place to find them is your own backyard or a farmers market. If you ask around, you will almost certainly find a zucchini vendor willing to bring you a bag of the flowers the following week. Of course, if you’re growing zucchini in your backyard garden, you have a ready source. When shopping for blossoms, look for crisp, fresh petals with no trace of wilting. As the flowers age, the petals, beginning at the tips, start to wilt, then turn slimy. Refrigerate them in a single layer in a lightly covered container and, if possible, use them within a day of purchase. If you refrigerate them in a plastic bag or wrapped in plastic, they’ll spoil faster.
© 2002 Jody Adams and Ken Rivard
Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving, and does not include optional Green Olive Tapanede.