One of my favorite summer time foods is squash blossoms. They aren’t in season for very long and they can be very finicky, but damn are they delicious. When I start to see them pop up in the farmers market I tend to go overboard and put them in just about everything.
The first time I ate squash blossoms was at a restaurant in New York City. They were stuffed with a ricotta and herb mix then fried to a perfect golden brown. It was one of those bites of food that makes your eyes bulge open and your arms flail around while still having a mouth full of food as you attempt to make everyone understand just how good it is. Every bite thereafter was the more normal eyes closed, chew slowly, enjoy the incredible flavor as long as possible while shooing away every hand trying to get a piece. For awhile, before my food allergies got worse and multiplied, I would order them everywhere I saw them. Last year I had maybe the most insane version that was stuffed with ricotta, mint, lemon and drizzled with honey at a small tapas bar in London called Twist. We ordered 3 plates of it…for 4 people. This dish is such a rockstar that it is still on their menu over a year later.
More recently, I had an entirely allergy friendly version at Table 22 in Cannes, France, that reminded me how much I love these delicate flowers. I had given them up since they are best stuffed with cheese and other goodies I can’t eat (isn’t everything best that way?) and rarely appear otherwise on menus. But after eating this tower of lightly battered and fried squash blossoms at Table 22 I decided I would have to recreate the dish at home.
For me, cleaning squash blossoms is very annoying. The petals are so delicate you have to be extremely gentle which in turn means more time devoted to prep work. All blossoms, regardless of their gender, need their stamen removed (it’s not edible!). Since female flowers are connected directly to squash, the rest is edible, so you just have to check for bugs, rinse off dirt and remove the stamen. Male flowers, however, grow separately and their stems are not edible. You need to clean them just as a female flower but you also need to pop off the stem OR remember not to eat it after you’ve cooked it. I find it is much easier to cook them with stem on so I just eat down to where the stem begins and discard the inedible part. I do like to remove the little green leaf-like pieces around the base of the flower, though.
Since squash blossoms are flowers and, by the time you see them in the market, have been picked off their life source, they need to be used immediately. If you buy them, I suggest cooking them the same day. If you are growing them, obviously pick them right before you are going to prepare them. If life gets in the way, I’ve found you can wash and dry them then put them in a ziplock with a paper towel to absorb extra moisture for a day. They will wilt a little but they won’t be bad.
But back to cleaning the blossoms. Really check thoroughly for bugs, like two or three times. The petals are the perfect hiding place and they will cling to them. I like to soak the blossoms in a bowl of cold water then run a very gentle stream of water over each one to help release any remaining dirt and wash away the bugs that clung on for their life while soaking. I always end up finding at least one more bug. You also want to get the blossoms as dry as possible so lay them out on a paper towel and let them air dry for an hour or two. Once they are dry you can gently pull the petals apart to remove the stamen in the center.
Now we’re ready to cook! Be prepared: you will not want to share any of your fried squash blossoms so you may want to double this recipe if you are planning a meal for more than just yourself…. Anyway, all you need is some flour, salt, seltzer water and coconut oil. Yes, it’s that simple. The plain tempura batter really lets the flavor of the squash blossoms shine while the coconut oil gives a clean fry without any heavy oil aftertaste like olive oil. Plus, if you use coconut oil it means it’s healthy right? Healthy fried food? Ok, maybe not but let’s just pretend because I want to eat these every night of the week.
Combine the flour and salt into medium bowl then add in seltzer and gently stir together. Be careful not to over mix: you want the batter to look chunky, similar to pancake batter.
Next heat up your coconut oil in a deep cast iron pot or dutch oven over medium heat. You want the oil to be between 1/4in and 1/2in deep. The actual amount of oil needed will vary depending on your pot so don’t bother with measurements, just eyeball it. Once the oil is hot enough (when a drop of the batter sizzles), carefully dip a squash blossom in the batter to coat it. To avoid getting batter inside the petals, gently twist them together before dipping.
Place the battered squash blossom gently into the oil. Repeat with two or three more blossoms at a time, however many can comfortably fit without crowding. After 2-3 minutes, flip the blossoms using tongs and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until both sides are golden brown.
Remove the blossoms and place on a paper towel lined cooling rack. Repeat these steps until all of your squash blossoms are fried. Sprinkle the blossoms with some sea salt and fresh ground pepper (optional) and serve immediately or transfer to a baking sheet and place in a 200F oven to stay warm until it’s time to eat. (Or eat them as you cook, like I do!)
- 10-12 squash blossoms
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 10 oz seltzer (plain)
- coconut oil
- Clean and remove the stamen from each squash blossom.
- Mix together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Gently stir in seltzer until batter resembles pancake mix (a little bit chunky).
- Heat ¼in to ½in coconut oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, dip a squash blossom into the batter, let excess run off then gently place into the hot oil. Repeat with a few more blossoms until the dutch oven is comfortably full.
- Fry for 2-3 minutes then flip with tongs and fry the other side for another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.
- Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined wire rack to cool.
- Repeat until all squash blossoms are fried.
- Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.
Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Comment below or post a photo to instagram and tag me @champagneandfrites!