By Barbara Beltrami
The first time I ever saw or heard of squash blossoms as an edible commodity was many years ago in Provence. It was market day in the little town where we were staying, and I wandered from stall to stall ogling the pyramids of perfect fruits and veggies. I kept encountering certain golden blossoms in front of hand-lettered signs saying, “Fleurs de courgette,” which I knew translated into squash blossoms.
I decided I would surprise my husband and show him what a good little French cook I was and make them for dinner. Young and foolish and not wanting to appear stupid, I was afraid to ask how one cooked them. Instead, I shored up my courage and my French and told the man in the stall that I’d like a kilo of them. He eyed me rather strangely but complied with a “Merci, Madame” and something that looked an awful lot like a smirk.
I took the squash blossoms back to the house, washed them under hot running water and proceeded to boil them. Mon dieu! What a soggy slimy yellow unrecognizable mess I had wrought. I fed it to the resident goat and never told my husband about my sortie into French produce.
The next day we decided to explore the town and have dinner at a little sidewalk café on the corner and there on the menu were “Fleurs de courgette!” Of course, I ordered them, and when they arrived, I had before me three beautiful gently fried squash blossoms stuffed with a creamy goat cheese and sprinkled with chervil. Since then I’ve encountered many a squash blossom from my own garden and in restaurants here in the States, but none of them have been as delicious as those very first ones I tasted.
Note: If you are harvesting squash blossoms from your garden, pick the male ones, which are on stems, rather than the female ones, which have a little bump on the end that will grow into squash.
Fried Squash Blossoms
YIELD: Makes 4 servings as an appetizer
2/3 cup flour
1 large egg
½ cup sparkling water
12 to 16 squash blossoms
Extra virgin olive oil to cover bottom of medium skillet
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a small-medium bowl, whisk together the flour and egg, then add sparkling water and continue whisking until smooth. Gently rinse blossoms in cold water and pat dry. Remove pistils. Heat oil in skillet. Meanwhile dip blossoms in batter. When oil is very hot but not smoking, carefully lower the batter-dipped blossoms into the oil. When they are golden brown on the bottom, gently turn and brown the other side. Remove them from the oil, drain them on paper towels and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Serve hot with prosecco and thin bread sticks.
Squash Blossom Frittata
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup minced shallot
16 squash blossoms, stems and pistils removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
7 large eggs, beaten
Handful fresh Italian parsley, washed and chopped
Preheat broiler. Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add minced shallot; reduce heat to medium and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add blossoms and gently sauté until just wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange blossoms in an attractive circular pattern around skillet; increase heat to medium-high. Add eggs and cook until beginning to set around edges, lifting frittata with heatproof rubber spatula and allowing eggs to flow underneath. Continue cooking until eggs are softly set, about 5 minutes.
Transfer skillet to broiler; broil until top of frittata is set, about 1 minute. Using a large plate and pot holders, invert skillet and slide frittata onto plate so bottom side is up and squash blossom pattern is visible. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a mixed green salad, baguette slices and extra virgin olive oil or melon, croissants and unsalted butter.