Being that it’s summer and zucchini is in abundance, these little numbers have been popping up all over the place. I’ve been wanting to make these for quite some time now, but hadn’t quite settled on a recipe for the filling. I’ve seen any number of variations, from plain white or cotija cheese to corn-laced ricotta to bread crumbs and monterey jack, but none quite fit my bill. I wanted a mix of vegetables, cheese and non-cheese protein (but since I keep kosher, I couldn’t use meat). So ever since my Sunday trip to the farmers’ market at Dupont Circle, the blossoms have been sitting untouched in my fridge.
When I got home last night and opened the fridge, there they were, staring at me. That was it, I decided. These babies won’t last forever anyway — might as well make use of them before they wilt and I lose my chance. I had a nice hunk of sweet ricotta in my fridge, and I decided to pair it with with some good Vermont cheddar, which I grated into the ricotta.
The other obvious inclusion was chili. I had two baby jalapeños, which I roasted over an open flame, steamed in a paper bag, and julienned.
Through the vegetable drawer I saw a couple baby squash that I had completely forgotten about; typical me. In keeping with that very trendy “____ two ways” concept, I decided to include the squash in my filling. But what else?
Enter Morningstar Farms, my best friend. Actually, we’re going steady. I have at least four of their products a day — two of the fake-bacon strips in the morning, and two of the sausage links sometime during the rest of the day. I’ve been addicted to these as long as I can remember, and the Safeway near my house has this automated coupon dispenser that coaxes you to try new things by giving you big coupons, then cutting the savings in half on your next coupon for the same item until you’re addicted to buying it, regular price, from now on. That’s how I got onto the bacon strips.
But I digress.
I actually thought that a somewhat spicy, smoky sausage would make a nice accompaniment to the richness of the cheese and bitter chili, and boy was I onto something, if I dare say so myself!
While I was sautéing the squash, I tossed in three sausage links. Once they had thawed, I roughly chopped them and tossed them, along with the squash, into the big cheese-chili bowl. I guess, in retrospect, I was also going for texture here, and the sausage added a much needed toothsome quality to the mixture. Did I really just use that word? That’s such a restaurant critic word … eek, sorry sorry.
So now I had an appetizing mush (if that makes any sense) of ricotta, cheddar, jalapeño, sautéed baby squash and fake sausage. mmmmm.
(Okay that pic is before I added the squash and sausage. Too much coordination required!)
I guess it was about this point when D asked me what was for dinner. She’s got this skill of being totally not ready for dinner one second and being OH MY GOD FAMISHED the very next. By the time she’s asking what’s for dinner, she’s way beyond the point of hungry and just dying to put food in her mouth. This clearly doesn’t bode well for my cooking experiments, which take longer than, say, throwing together a deli sandwich.
…which is exactly what she did.
Now I was left with four squash blossoms, a bowl full of cheesy filling, half a pan of oil, and myself. Thank god I skipped the gym this morning. Wouldn’t want to compensate for the thousands of calories I was about to consume, not one little bit.
It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. I cleaned the little green bugs off the blossoms (yea, make sure you do that…), stuffed each one with a hefty amount of filling (do not be afraid to overstuff them), and twisted the ends together in a lame attempt to keep the filling inside.
Next, I dunked each one in a bowl of half-and-half, then rolled each in a mixture of flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper. A quick bath into the deep-fryer (also known as my cast-iron skillet with an inch and a half of oil in it) and they’d be ready to eat….
Which I dutifully did. What’s really nice about these is that if you like burnt things like I do, you can leave these in a little longer than a professional would, giving them a nice, crisp exterior and oozy, melty innards. Otherwise, leave them in the oil about 45 seconds per side, just until the flowers are warmed through.