Now that the Sunshine State has actually seen a couple of weeks of sunshine, all those fruits and veggies that were hiding out for our wretched winter are now, well... blossoming.
And with our weekend farmers' markets in full swing and such full-time produce markets as Harvest Time (4361 Hypoluxo Road, Lantana; 561-641-6199) and Bedner's (12033 State Road 7, Boynton Beach; 561-499-3994) coming on-scene, there's a wealth of good things from the earth to put on your table. One of them Charlie happened upon last week on a cruise through Bedner's -- a big basket full of brilliant-yellow squash blossoms. As perishable as they are delightful, they're far too fragile and "esoteric" for big chain grocers and rarely show up (in good condition) even in the toniest "gourmet" markets.
Luckily, the only ones fresher than Bedner's are those you pluck
from your own garden, so Charlie filled up a bag and went searching for
something to stuff them with, being that stuffed and fried squash
blossoms are simply some of the finest things you can ever put in your
mouth. A head of perfect escarole suggested some interesting
possibilities, which sent Charlie back to the kitchen to explore.
The results were downright summery.
Fried Escarole-Stuffed Squash Blossoms With Uncooked Tomato Sauce, Two Ways
6 large squash blossoms or 8 small ones
½ head escarole
½ cup grated fresh mozzarella
2 T. grated Parmesan
1 small anchovy fillet, mashed
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
A couple of pinches red pepper flakes
1 heaping T. golden raisins, covered with red wine vinegar and nuked for 20 seconds in micro
1 T. pine nuts, toasted in skillet until golden
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2-3 sprigs fresh basil, chopped plus more for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C. each, ice water and flour
Peanut oil for frying
For the squash blossoms: Using scissors, very carefully trim any wilting ends, and snip off the stamens inside.
sauce: Blend tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and a few dribbles of olive
oil until combined. Set aside at room temperature until ready to
For filling #1: Coarsely chop escarole with a bit of
olive oil in a skillet until wilted. Remove and quickly saute anchovy
and garlic. Add to escarole and chop finely, cool, then mix with
cheeses and ground pepper (you may or may not need to add salt).
For filling #2: Saute escarole as in filling #1. Drain raisins and add to escarole with pine nuts, cheeses, salt, and pepper.
spread blossoms and fill cavity with about one tablespoon of escarole
mixture, then close blossom around filling. Refrigerate until ready to
For tempura batter: Sift flour into ice water. Add egg
and whisk until smooth. (It's best to keep this in the freezer for a
few minutes while you're heating the peanut oil.)
Fill deep saucepan with two to three inches of oil. Heat to 350
degrees. When oil gets close to temp, give batter final whisk, then
dredge three blossoms in it and carefully slip into oil. Fry for a
couple of minutes, turning with strainer, until crisp and golden-brown.
Remove and drain on paper towels, and repeat with other blossoms.
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SHOW ME HOW
serve: Place spoonful of tomato sauce on plate. Top with fried blossoms
and garnish with basil sprig. Scarf like crazy, trying not to burn your