In the third quarter of July, I noticed a little empty space in the garden leading to the house. It was a stubborn piece of earth. In that spot, I had tried several times to germinate watermelon seeds and seeds from particularly delicious melons I had just consumed. Nothing grew. That tempting piece of earth did not seem fecund. I bought a packet of “Cocozelle Squash” described as, “a striped Italian beauty; the race car of the vegetable garden.” And fast it had better be, as it was late in the growing season. I was hoping not so much for squash, as for blossoms to stuff, batter and fry. I planted several seeds on the spot.
Today, I stepped out the front door and noticed that space, once barren, was filled with leaves, yellow squash blossoms and even a small yellow squash. It was time to celebrate the hot sunshine of this Summer, which had allowed this crop to grow in such a short time.
I gathered the squash blossoms, the tiny squash, variegated sage leaves, yellow nasturtiums and “Wapiscon Peach” tomatoes; named for their yellow fuzzy skins, from my garden.
First make the batter: Beat one egg, adding a grating of nutmeg and salt to taste. Mix in 1 tbs. flour and 1 tbs. of water. Mix until incorporated. This will make an eggy batter in keeping with the sunshine theme of this dish, but you could use any batter recipe. I have also used tempura batter mix to coat and fry all manner of herb leaves for an easy appetizer.
Prepare vegetables: Remove the piston from the blossoms and check to see that there are no pollinating insects within. Slice the squash into 1/8 inch rounds. Detach sage leaves from their branch. Slice half the tomatoes into 1/4 inch rounds and dice the others for a salad garnish.
Filling and battering the vegetables: In a small bowl, put enough ricotta cheese to stuff the blossoms, adding lots of freshly ground pepper. Open the squash blossoms gently and place enough ricotta to come up to where the petals begin to separate. Gently push into the ricotta-filled blossom one sage leaf . Repeat with the nasturtiums reserving several flowers and squash blossoms for garnish.
Battering and frying: Coat the cheese-filled flowers, squash rounds, sage leaves, and tomato rounds with the batter. The blossoms tops should be gently twisted while battering to seal in the cheese. The tomato rounds should be lightly dusted with flour before dipping in the batter.
Frying and preparing the garnish: Heat about 3/4 of an inch of oil in a frying pan. When hot place the battered ingredients in the oil. Fry, turning occassionally, until golden. I find using chopsticks, to place and turn, is best on such small items. As the pieces are ready, drain on a paper towel. Prepare garnish by chopping the reserved tomatoes and slicing the squash blossoms into shreds. Toss with a little olive oil and salt.
Assembly: In one corner of an individual serving plate heap some tomato salad. On top of the salad, place one fried nasturtium placed inside one raw one. Place the stuffed fried blossoms, both squash and nasturtium, fried tomato and squash rounds on the plate in a pleasing pattern. Drizzle golden honey over all the ingredients and serve.
arrange on plate