As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I grew up in an Italian-American family, which meant that Sundays were characterized by a mid-afternoon dinner of pasta, meatballs (the kind actually made of red meat and fried, not baked), crusty bread and salad. But on some summer Sundays, when the bright orange flowers that grow atop squash plants populated the garden, we’d have fried squash blossoms with our meal. Only we didn’t call them blossoms. No, in our house they were known by an Italian slang word which I have no idea how to spell, but is pronounced like “shoe-deal.” Whatever you call them, for those of you who’ve had these battered buds, you know they are delicious. I’ve had fried squash blossoms since then, at various restaurants in the city, but none taste like the ones my mother, and my grandmother before her, used to make.
I was at the Union Square Greenmarket last week and squash blossoms were listed on the chalkboard announcing the market’s daily harvest. That got me to thinking that I’d like to try making them—and blogging about them of course—so when I went back today, I promptly bought myself a bunch.
Aren’t they pretty? Now I needed to figure out how to replicate the fritter-like flowers my mother used to make. I knew she coated the flowers in a thick batter made from Bisquick, and since I try to refrain from cooking with anything with the word “quick” in its title, I wanted to find another way to make the batter. A quick search of the Internet yielded this recipe from The Kitchn, which looked pretty good to me. (In the process, I also learned that I was in possession of male flowers. Female flowers still have a baby squash attached.) I gently removed the pistil from inside the flower, trimmed the stems, rinsed them and patted them dry.
Then it was time to make the batter. I substituted whole wheat flour and I didn’t stuff my flowers. While I have had stuffed squash blossoms—and while they were absolutely delightful—my mother never stuffed hers. Also, I’ve been eating enough cheese lately.
Once the batter had sufficiently chilled, I coated each flower (I think my mother may have cut up her flowers before tossing them into the batter, but I liked the idea of battering the blossoms whole) and then into the frying pan they went!
I could barely wait for them to be done. And once they were and I took my first bite, I was instantly transported back to my mother’s kitchen, where I stood by her at the stove, eagerly awaiting my first “shoe-deal” of the season. And this, my friends, is what I love most about food: its ability to call to mind memories in a way that nothing else can. It’s been more than seven years since I’ve eaten a meal my mother cooked for me, but it’s easy to forget this, if only for a moment, when just one bite so vividly reminds me of something she used to make. Few things are as comforting as this.
Though I was tempted to eat the entire batch of blossoms myself, I did share with Johnny, who had never eaten them “shoe-deal” style before. Needless to say, he too was a fan. In fact, within minutes of the squash blossoms’ leap from pan to plate, there were only two left. We happily split them between us:
I’ve posted The Kitchn’s recipe below, which also includes the stuffing. If you choose not to stuff, as I did, just omit that part of the instructions. I had eight blossoms and this was more than enough batter. Also, I fried mine in olive oil—and skipped the final sprinkle of salt and pepper—but I’m sure vegetable oil would be fine too.
Fried Squash Blossoms
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 egg, slightly beaten
10 to 15 squash blossoms
1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp bread crumbs
Salt & Pepper to taste
First, make the batter. Combine the first 5 ingredients, and then stir in the egg and water until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. While the batter is chilling, prepare the squash blossoms. Carefully separate the flower petals without breaking them and remove the pistil in the center. Combine the cheese, mayonnaise, oregano, and breadcrumbs until smooth. Carefully add about a tablespoon of this mixture to each blossom and twist the top of the flower tight.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan—about an inch deep—to accommodate the blossoms. Get the batter out of the fridge and dip each blossom in batter, coating it. Carefully place each batter-covered blossom in the hot oil and fry until golden crisp on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy! Serves 3 to 4.