Gardener tires of zucchini, but never its blossoms

The Whole Dish podcast: Extend zucchini’s appeal by quick-pickling, pureeing for freezer

Alongside the garden’s last zucchini are the plant’s final push to propagate. Velvety squash blossoms are a delicacy I never seem to enjoy enough, unlike their fruits that have all but worn out their welcome.

Squash blossoms lend tender texture to dishes from pasta and pizza to salads and quesadillas (they’re a traditional filling in Mexico). But they also have more flavor than flower petals typically suggest. Lemon plays up squash blossoms’ subtle tang, and a bit of fat offsets their mild bitterness.

Blossoms stay vibrant amid cooler temperatures and also keep well in the refrigerator for a few days in a plastic bag. Pluck a few each day until you achieve the dozen called for in this recipe from the Chicago Tribune.

Likening squash blossoms to “dumplings on the vine,” food writer Leah Eskin offers the following method for filling and folding them in similar fashion. Stuffed with ricotta, dunked in batter and fried until crisp, they’re a perfectly crunchy, creamy bite that bids farewell to summer.

Tribune News Service photo

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

12 squash blossoms or 4 small (1 pound total) yellow squash or zucchini

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup flour

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 cup beer or sparkling water

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Canola oil, for frying

Flaky salt, such as Maldon, for garnish

If you have squash growing in the garden, snip off 12 male blossoms (growing on a straight stem), as opposed to female (which sport a swollen mini-squash at the base). Peek inside — if there’s some six-legged fellow busy pollinating, shake him out. Or find blossoms at grocery stores or farmers markets. Lacking blossoms, use 4 small summer squash sliced into 1/4-inch-thick circles and sprinkled with a little of the kosher salt.

Whisk together the flour, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of the pepper. Whisk in enough of the beer (or sparkling water) to form a thin batter. Set aside.

Stir together the ricotta, remaining Parmesan cheese, the mint, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of the pepper. Open each blossom. Spoon in about 2 teaspoons ricotta mixture and twist blossom closed.

Choose a deep, heavy pot for frying blossoms. Pour in the canola oil to a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 365 F. Dip 1 filled blossom in batter and lower it into oil. Repeat with a few more blossoms, without crowding. Fry until golden-brown, for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with the flaky salt. Repeat, frying all blossoms. For squash circles, pat dry and fry as directed above, for about 2 minutes per side.

Munch fried blossoms hot or warm. For circles, top each with a dollop of ricotta mixture before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

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