Crispy fried squash blossoms filled with creamy herb and lemon ricotta cheese. Served with a fresh sweet Heirloom tomato sauce. This simple and stunning appetizer will leave your guests asking for more!
The summer season yields not only delicious summer squash but mother nature produces wonderful bright orange edible blossoms. You can typically find these eye-catching blooms at your local farmers market. I purchased mine on a recent visit to Orange Home Grown Farmers & Artisans Market.
I have always been curious about how I should cook these beautiful flowers, so I asked the grower of Sweredoski Farms on some creative ways to serve these intriguing ingredients. The passionate farmer suggested eating these blossoms raw, sautéed, baked or fried. With all of the mouth-watering options to choose from, I decided to make fried squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta lemon herb filling.
Squash blossoms flowers are sold either attached to the squash or separated. I love squash, so seeing the mini sized vegetables with flowers still connected looked even more delicious, and I was able to get the best of both worlds!
The tender and delicate squash blossoms require a little TLC, be careful not to rip the petals off as you gently remove the pistol from the center of the flower. You can fill the blossom with any of your favorite ingredients such as fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, mushrooms, shrimp, fresh herbs, the combinations are endless!
To create the crispy coating
I decided to experiment with two different types of batter:
- A combination of all-purpose and cake flour: The protein content in the cake flour is lower, so this helps provide a lighter coating when combined with regular flour as less gluten formation occurs. This layer was still crunchy, yet thicker but not as crispy. This type of coating would work better with protein like fish or more hearty frying ingredients, however, if you like a thicker texture, it’s a great option.
- Gluten-free flour: I used Cup 4 Cup, a flour blend combination of cornstarch, white rice flour, brown rice flour, milk powder, tapioca flour, potato starch and xanthan gum. These ingredients do not contain gluten, so the protein bonding does not occur as intensely, resulting in a weaker batter. When using the gluten-free flour, the coating was delightfully much lighter and crispier than the regular flour alternative. The texture reminded me much more of a Japanese tempura coating which was perfect for the delicate squash blossoms.
Both coatings gave the crispiness and golden brown color I was hoping for. It’s just a matter of personal preference if you enjoy something lighter or a little denser. I have included both options in the recipe, so if you feel adventurous, try them both!
To make the savory fried squash blossoms even more irresistible, I made a sweet and delicate dipping sauce. To my delight, heirloom tomatoes are also in season, so I made a pure herb tomato sauce, the perfect compliment to the crispy blossoms.
Things to know about deep frying
Using a liquid like soda or beer to incorporate into the batter helps to lighten the coating. The bubbles (carbon dioxide) becomes integrated into the mixture, resulting in a light and crispy exterior! When deep frying food, you want to use a vegetable oil like soybean, peanut and canola oil that have high smoke points (when the oil begins to break down). To achieve the perfect golden brown color, temperatures between 325°F and 400°F are used for deep frying; 375°F is used for the fried squash blossom recipe. These high temperatures allow for quick cooking, surface browning, and yummy aromas to be developed.
- 16 squash blossoms , pistil, carefully removed from the center
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flour , not self-rising
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt , coarse
- 1 cup sparkling water , I used Pellegrino
- vegetable oil , for frying
- 1 cup ricotta , whole-milk
- 1 tablespoon basil , chopped
- 1 tablespoon Italian parsley , chopped
- 1 tablespoon mint , chopped
- 1 teaspoon chives , thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon thyme , chopped (5 sprigs thyme)
- 1 teaspoon lemon peel , freshly grated
- 1 tablespoon olive oil , extra-virgin
- 1 teaspoon salt , add more to taste
- Pepper , to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil , extra-virgin, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1/4 cup onion , finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic , chopped
- pinch chili flakes
- 2 cups heirloom tomatoes , seeded, and diced (any variety can be substituted)
- salt and pepper , to taste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4 sprigs thyme , removed and chopped
- 4 basil leaves , chiffonade
- In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients; whisk together both flours (or gluten-free flour), baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt.
- Gradually add the sparkling water, adding more as necessary so that batter is a thin consistency. The batter should coat the back of a spoon, but some excess batter should run off the spoon. Allow to rest in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before use.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and heat.
- Add the onion, garlic, and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Insert the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Lower the heat and cook until the tomatoes start to disintegrate, and the mixture is of a sauce consistency, about 15 minutes.
- Add the thyme, basil, and remaining olive oil (1-2 tablespoons) and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature, reserve.
- 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, basil, parsley, mint, chives, thyme, lemon peel, olive oil, salt, and pepper until smooth.
- Place mixture in a piping bag or small plastic bag and cut a small hole on the tip. Carefully add about 1-2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture to each blossom and twist the top of the flower tight.
- Fill a deep pot 2 inches high with vegetable oil. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 375 °F on a deep-fry thermometer.
- Hold the squash blossoms by the stem. Dip each into the batter, making sure to coat thoroughly. Let any excess batter drip off. Place the blossom in the oil and fry until golden brown and crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes, often turning to brown evenly. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve and enjoy the fried blossoms immediately and serve with Heirloom Tomato Sauce.