Squash blossoms are a “get it while you can” June treat at local farmers’ markets.
The highly perishable flowers are nearly impossible to find in supermarkets, as they last for hours – if you’re lucky, a day or two – after being picked. If you’ve never eaten one before, don’t hold back. The simplest preparations require nothing more than tearing a few flowers to shreds and dropping them, raw, over a salad or soup.
Squash blossoms with long, thin stems – sometimes sold gathered into a bright yellow and green bouquet – represent the male flower of the zucchini plant. Female blossoms often have baby gourds attached to their ends, just beginning to grow. Their beautiful appearance and the novelty of getting to cook and eat a flower probably provide as much appeal as the soft vegetal flavor. One of the most traditional ways to cook a squash blossom – battering and frying – doesn’t leave much flower flavor to be found, but it is delicious.
Traditional Greek and Turkish variations on stuffed and cooked squash flowers often use a ricotta-like cheese to fill each blossom’s hollow center. One quick variation combines grated mozzarella, ricotta and chopped chives as a filling. After stuffing each flower with one to two tablespoons of cheese mixture, dip it in beaten egg, then panko bread crumbs and fry in a few tablespoons of olive oil for 4 minutes on each side.
For a raw variation on that theme, buy a meltingly rich burrata cheese to stuff into each blossom (use a pastry bag, or patiently work with a slender spoon). Fan the flowers out on a serving platter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
American cooks have added torn squash blossoms to quesadillas, sprinkled them on top of the cheese before sliding a pizza in the oven and stirred them into frittatas with eggs and potatoes. Cookbook author Rick Bayless suggests adding them to crepes in place of spinach, or floating shredded flecks of the flower on top of a creamy corn and poblano soup.
Regardless of the approach you choose, act fast – by the end of the month, your best hope of finding blossoms will have faded.