Between my dad’s garden and the three farmer’s markets in town, my kitchen has been filled with fresh, locally grown produce all summer long. On my last trip to my parents house, I stocked up on zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers and the most special of them all, squash blossoms (zucchini flowers), to bring down the shore. My friend’s and I have started a tradition Sunday nights called Family Dinner, where after a long day on the beach, we come together in the kitchen, sharing the cooking detail, and provide a bounty of food to all who are staying the night. We uncork some wine, gather around the table and ease our way into Sunday night, wringing every last drop out of our weekend relaxation before starting up a new work week.
For family dinner this weekend, I took those very special squash blossoms and stuffed them with our favorite Hoboken mozzarella before giving them a quick, shallow fry in olive oil. Consider them an advanced mozzarella stick, with a light, crisp coating outside, soft, gooey cheese on the inside and an earthy hint from the flower. Zucchini season is almost over, and the blossoms go even faster, so if you see them at your local farm market (or are even luckier to have them in your backyard), jump on them and give these a try. While I was frying, I also sliced up some eggplant and zucchini to round out the frito misto. And of course, everything fried needs to be dipped, so a little basil pesto made its way onto the plate as well.
Fried Zucchini Blossoms
2 cups gluten-free flour (I used a rice blend), plus more for dusting flowers*
1 1/2 cups club soda
Salt and pepper to taste*
12 squash blossoms, cleaned*
1/4 pound mozzarella, cut into 1 inch x 1/2 inch sticks
Using a large, shallow pan, pour enough olive oil in to come up 1/4 inch of the pan and set over medium heat. In a large bowl, combine the flour with club soda, salt and pepper to create a batter. Stuff each flower with a mozzarella stick and dust with flour so the batter will stick to it. Test to see if the oil is ready by dropping a touch of batter in the oil. If it starts to bubble up and float it’s ready. If it sinks, it needs to be hotter, if it starts to rapidly brown, it’s too hot. Dredge with flowers through the batter and gently lay them into the oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, until they start to brown and the cheese begins to melt. Once evenly golden, remove them to a brown paper bag or pile of paper towels to drain. Salt immediately and let them cool a bit before enjoying.
-I used Trader Joe’s gluten free flour blend. You can substitute other gluten free blends or use wheat flour, but your liquid ratio may be a bit different. Go slow on adding the club soda until the consistency is loose, but has body to it.
-This makes enough batter to fry a whole lotta stuff. I also sliced up a small white eggplant, a japanese eggplant and a large zucchini to dip and fry. If you are not making as much, reduce the ratios.
-You need more salt then you think. I’m not a salty person, but the oil eats a lot of it, so be generous, both in the batter and once out of the oil.
-To clean a blossom, take the bottom off, where the petals meet the base. Shake any stamen, pollen or bugs (yes, bugs) out of the flower and gently rinse under cool running water. Air dry and continue.