July 8, 2011

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Stuffed squash blossoms... yum! Have you had these? They are delicious- their flavor is vegetable and peppery, and yet still quite subtle. We learned about stuffed squash blossoms from an Argentine friend before our first trip to Italy. We ate them often- they are usually stuffed with a soft cheese, then lightly breaded and fried, they are fried just until the outside is golden brown and the inside is deliciously melted- such a treat!

We went earlier this week to a farmer's market and when we saw a stand with squash blossoms- $4 for 12 (although it was late in the day so he gave us 24 for $4), we snapped them up! We asked how long we'd have to stuff them- he recommended within two days, otherwise, they'd get fairly wilted and hard to open. If that happened, he recommended using them as a pizza topping, which sounded great. Well, I didn't get around to it until today, so that's three days later, and the majority of them were ok to open, just a few more wilted flowers. I plan to put them on a pizza :)

Let's get started- you are going to love these. They can be made ahead of time (apart from the final breading and frying), and are so elegant and impressive. I will definitely be serving these at my next dinner party!

Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese
Squash blossoms (fresh and closed) (for an appetizer, 3 per person is probably a good estimate)

Filling:
11 oz. goat cheese
1 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
bunch of thyme
2 Tbsp. milk

Breading:
1 egg, beaten
flour, mixed with a dash of salt and pepper

canola oil

Let's start by making the filling- this is a lot of filling, so you'll probably have a fair amount left over. You can use it as a spread on crackers or bread, it's just a lovely herbed goat cheese. It will be easier if your goat cheese is a little soft, so let it sit on the counter for a few minutes. In a medium sized bowl, combine the goat cheese, salt and white pepper. The thyme amount is something you'll just need to eye ball- I'd recommend more that you think you'd want- the cheese has somewhat of a strong flavor and thyme is not overpowering, so enough that you know it's there. I try to take the small thyme leaves off the hard stems by going backwards up the stem with two fingers pressed together. That will work until the stem is soft and young, then it will just break off. The younger softer stems are fine to include, you'll just want to chop them up finely. It's the harder woodier stems you want omitted. Add the thyme and the milk to the goat cheese and using either a spatula or a spoon, mix until well combined. Taste it and decide if you want more thyme or more pepper.

Who knew the cake decorating class I was taking would come in so handy? Using a disposable frosting bag is a great way to fill these squash blossoms. Fill the bag about 1/3-1/2 full of the filling. Rinse your squash blossoms- be very gentle when opening the flowers, you don't want to tear the sides, otherwise your filling will fall out. Take your bag of filling and using your hands on the outside of the bag, move the filling down toward the tip of the bag. Across the top, where the filling stops, twist your bag tightly. Snip the end off the tip to allow the filling to come out. Place the tip inside the first blossom and with your hand squeezing the bag where the bag is twisted, fill the flower about 1/2 full. You want to fill the part that still has sides, the top area where the ends of the petals twist around each other is not filled. Slightly twist the end of the blossom and place aside, repeat until all your blossoms are filled.

On the stove, heat about 1" to 1 1/2" of canola oil over slightly higher than medium heat. This may be a little higher on your stove, it was a 6 out of 10 on my stove, but on a very large gas burner. While the oil is heating, beat the egg in a small bowl and place the flour in a separate small bowl, add a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Take the first squash blossom, dip it first in the egg, coating it well, but allow it to drain, either holding above the bowl or shaking off the excess. Roll in the flour until it has a light coat, also shake off the excess. Place in the hot oil, and using tongs, turn over once the color has become slightly golden brown. They don't cook for very long, it's really a visual indicator. Place on a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool for just a few minutes before serving.

Enjoy! These are a wonderful way to enjoy the freshness of farmer's markets- you could use squash blossoms and goat cheese from your local farmers!

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