Why buy Squash blossoms? To me, they are the perfect example of a vegetable which is only available during a narrow window of time during the year. “Seasonality” is a term thrown around a lot these days, but for certain special produce it still holds true; heirloom tomatoes, ramps, fresh figs, blueberries and yes squash blossoms.
Sure we can often find pale imitation of these treats year round in our gourmet shops here in New York City, but when you taste the real thing, you understand why buying direct from farmers is a wonderful luxury.
So to get back to the squash blossoms, we discovered another reason to snatch them up whenever you find them available. It will be the first recipe to come up when you do a google search and for good reason, fried squash blossoms are ridiculously easy to make and taste exquisite. A good friend of mine once made them in her small kitchen for a party of over 20 people while drinking a cocktail, which gave me the courage to try them out for a simple dinner. We borrowed from a recipe from the famous restaurant in Berkeley, Chez Panisse:
Fried Squash Blossoms with Chevre Goat Cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs, such as chives, tarragon, or chervil
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
12 fresh open squash blossoms
1 cup fresh chevre goat cheese (We used standard French goat cheese from a tube)
Large pinch salt
1/4 cup milk
1 cup masa harina (We used a good coarse ground corn meal instead)
Two large pinches salt
Pinch freshly ground white pepper
In a small bowl, mix together the herbs, shallot, chevre and salt.
Open up the individual blossoms wide enough to insert a teaspoonful of cheese mixture. Do not overfill or fried blossoms will be soggy. Twist the ends of the blossom together gently.
In a medium bowl, beat 2 eggs together with 1/4 cup milk. In a separate medium bowl, mix together masa harina, salt, and pepper. Dip each blossom into the egg mixture and then roll quickly and evenly in the masa harina mixture, gently shaking off excess. Refrigerate for a few minutes.
Pour 1 inch of oil into a small shallow saucepan or skillet. Heat oil to 350 degrees. Deep-fry the blossoms in batches until they begin to turn light golden brown. Drain on baking rack set over paper towels, and serve immediately.
And by all means, serve them with something else available only during this time of year, like a fresh heirloom tomato salad! There is really nothing that could replace the squash blossom in terms of an edible, thin delicate envelope to encase all that luscious goat cheese. Visually stunning and extremely tasty squash blossoms are a happy reminder to enjoy the present, eat your vegetables, and buy local whenever possible.