Squash Blossom Recipes
The next time you grow squash in your garden, either zucchini or the yellow variety, you might want to consider harvesting the squash blossoms they produce as well. Fried squash blossoms, often containing a stuffing of ricotta cheese and herbs, are a popular appetizer that some restaurants serve for a limited time during the season. But there are other recipes for these delicate but subtly flavored blooms such as baked stuffed squash blossoms and red pepper pesto pizza with mozzarella and squash blossoms.
First, you need to know when to harvest them if you are growing squash. Blossoms from zucchini squash are usually preferred because the blooms are bigger and less fragile than yellow squash blossoms. The best time to pick them are in the early morning around 7 a.m. when the blossoms are open. But here’s the important thing. Squash blossoms can be either male or female. The female blossom will produce fruit so you shouldn’t pick these unless you have a large abundance of them. The male blossoms, on the other hand, are expendable and delicious. They usually bloom first and help pollinate the female blossoms so don’t harvest all of them.
You can recognize the female zucchini blossoms by a thick bulge on the stem, which is the ovary. In comparison, male blossoms grow on longer stalks, have a thin base where they attach to the stem and are fuzzier on the surface. If your squash plants don’t appear to be producing fruit, it may because the blossoms are not being cross-pollinated by bees. You can assist in this process by following the this suggestion from HGTV's Felder Rushing.
Once you have picked the squash blossoms, you need to use them the same day if possible. They may last a few days longer if you are able to store them in a flat position in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or container lined with a dry paper towel. If you don’t grow your own squash blossoms, you might be able to purchase them locally from an organic market or farm.
Baked Stuffed Squash Blossoms for Two
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon anchovy paste
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup breadcrumbs
- 12 squash blossoms
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Mix together the ricotta, 1 egg yolk, basil, garlic, anchovy paste and salt until smooth. Break the other two eggs in a bowl and beat lightly. Put the breadcrumbs in a separate flat pan. Spoon the filling into each squash blossom and close the blossom at the top with a gentle twist. Dip the stuffed squash into the egg wash, then roll in the breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they are crispy and browned. Serve them warm.
Red Pepper Pesto, Leek and Squash Blossom Pizza
- 1 large pizza crust
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- 2 cups sliced roasted red peppers
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 large leek
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- ¾ cup mozzarella cheese
- 12 sauteed squash blossoms
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
Prepare the pizza dough from your favorite recipe or substitute a store bought pizza crust (I prefer an organic cornmeal crust from a specialty market). Preheat the oven to 500 F. Toast the pine nuts in the oven until brown. Put them in a food processor with the red peppers, basil, Parmesan cheese, two tablespoons of olive oil and a few tablespoons of water. Process until smooth, adding additional water if needed to make a thick paste. Baste the pizza crust surface with the red pepper pesto. Cut the leek into thin rounds, working your way up from the white end to the tender green stalk (discard the thick green top). Decorate the pizza with the leek rounds and grated mozzarella cheese or small mozzarella balls. Sautee the squash blossoms in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic until tender and flat and distribute evenly across the pizza. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is brown. A variation on this, for those who want to retain the original color and shape of the squash blossoms, is to skip sautéing them and simply place them on the pizza during the final five minutes of baking.