Short-Season Treat: Squash Blossoms

Squash blossoms are an ephemeral treat you don’t want to miss! Savor them with our recipe for Squash Blossom Tempura.
By Tabitha Alterman
June/July 2011
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You can find squash blossoms at farmers markets and specialty grocers, but act fast! If you’re growing squash at home, you won’t compromise your harvest by plucking some of these beauties.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA


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Squash plants produce pretty yellow blossoms. Some of these will be pollinated, which means fat, little squash babies will soon emerge from the blossom’s base. These are female zucchini blossoms. But the other blossoms — those long, gorgeous male blooms — won’t produce a fruit, and may as well be enjoyed by you! You can find squash blossoms at farmers markets and specialty grocers, but act fast! If you’re growing squash at home, you won’t compromise your harvest by plucking some of these beauties. (Careful when picking — bees love them, too.)

Squash blossoms are absolutely scrumptious sautéed in butter or baked stuffed with breadcrumbs, herbs and cheese. You can also chop them up to add to fresh green salads. To use squash blossoms, first trim the stem to half an inch, remove the slender stamens within, rinse in cool water and pat dry.

Squash Blossom Tempura Recipe

Steering clear of fried foods is generally wise, but squash blossoms are such a rare delight that you should feel free to fry them to your heart’s content! This classic tempura batter is super-light and super-special, just like the pretty blossoms within. If you want a more decadent dish, fill the blossoms with herbed goat cheese before dipping them in the batter.

Ingredients: 

10 squash blossoms
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
2 twists freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 tsp (or more!) hot Sichuan or cayenne pepper, ground
Enough vegetable oil to fill frying pan to about 3 inches
 

For tempura batter:

1 large egg, chilled
3/4 cup ice water in a medium bowl
1 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted and chilled
 

For dipping sauce:

1 tsp kombu seaweed
2 cups water
1/2 ounce bonito flakes
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1 tbsp ginger, grated
 

Garnish:

Coarse sea salt
Leafy lettuce or shiso leaves
 

Instructions: 

1. Prep the Sauce. Add the kombu to the water, and heat to just before boiling. Remove kombu, stir in bonito flakes and remove pan from heat. Let stand until all the flakes sink, then strain them out. Add soy sauce, mirin and ginger, and set aside.

2. Prep the Blossoms. Trim stems to half an inch, remove any stamens, rinse the blossoms in cool water, then pat dry. Stir salt and peppers into flour in a flat dish. Dredge blossoms lightly in flour mixture and set aside.

3. Prep the Batter. Break the egg in the ice water. Gently whisk in the flour, a little at a time, until just combined. The batter will be lumpy. Refrigerate while you heat the frying oil.

4. Get Ready. Heat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dip blossoms in batter, coating thoroughly. Fry in oil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the coating is golden and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel to drain, then sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt while still wet.

5. Focus on Presentation. Line a serving platter with lettuce or shiso leaves. Heat the dipping sauce again to just before boiling, and transfer it to a bowl placed in the center of the platter. For an arrangement that resembles a flower, place the blossoms over the leaves, around the sauce bowl, with the blossoms facing out. Makes 10 appetizers. 

For more ideas for cooking with summer squash, see 20 Ways to Use Your Zukes.


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