Zucchini flowers are perfect for stuffing. In the following recipe, the flowers are filled with cheese before frying. The result is a creamy, flavorful filling and a super-crisp crust.
For years, my go-to deep-frying batter has been made of roughly equal parts beer and flour. But I wanted the batter for this dish to be crisper, more like tempura, so I added seltzer and baking soda and swapped out half of the flour for cornstarch. Unlike flour, cornstarch has no gluten, which ensures a thinner, more delicate coating that nonetheless holds its shape.
You'll want to mix the batter just before using it to prevent the bubbles from evaporating. Combine the dry ingredients and park them on the counter while you prep the blossoms and begin to heat the oil. When the oil is almost up to temperature, add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix the batter quickly. Take care not to rip the petals while stuffing the flower with cheese, then close the open end of the flower by twisting the petals like a New Year's Eve party popper. The cheese should stay put and not leak into the oil.
Choose a pan with deep sides and fill it with no more than 1½ or 2 inches of oil. Make sure the oil has a high smoke point. Use a deep-fat thermometer to keep track of the temperature and try to maintain it at a constant 365 F. Depending on the size of your pan, fry no more than three or four stuffed blossoms at a time. This will ensure that the temperature of the oil neither drops nor bubbles over the top. If the temperature begins to creep up, pull the pan off the flame and/or add a little cool oil. Transfer each batch of fried blossoms to a paper towel-lined sheet pan, sprinkle lightly with salt and keep warm in the oven while you fry the rest.
Cheese stuffed zucchini blossoms
Start to finish: 30 minutes
12 squash blossoms
1/2 ounce coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 ounce mozzarella, cut into 12 cubes
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (2 3/8 ounces)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ice-cold beer
1/2 cup ice-cold seltzer
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1 cup marinara sauce (homemade or your favorite store brand), heated
Basil sprigs for garnish
Preheat oven to 200 F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with a double layer of paper towels.
Working with one blossom at a time, carefully separate the petals to expose the inside of the flower and the central stamen (on a male plant) or pistil (on a female plant). Using small sharp scissors cut out as much of the stamen or pistil as possible to make room for the cheese. Put about 1 teaspoon of the Parmigiano-Reggiano in the cavity; top with a chunk of mozzarella. Twist the petals gently to enclose the filling; set aside the stuffed blossoms.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, cornstarch, soda and salt. In a large, deep saucepan heat 1½ to 2 inches of oil over medium high heat to 365 F. When the oil is at around 325 F, combine the dry ingredients in the bowl with the beer and the seltzer; stir the mixture until it is combined well but with a few lumps remaining.
Working with three or four blossoms at a time, dip them in the batter, coating them well and letting the excess drip off. Add them gently to the 365 F oil; let cook for 30 seconds. Using tongs, gently turn them over. Cook until they are golden, about 1 to 1½ minutes, turning them once again. Transfer the blossoms to the rimmed sheet pan using a slotted spoon, sprinkle with kosher salt and keep warm in the oven while you batter and fry the remaining zucchini blossoms.
To serve: Spoon one-fourth of the marinara sauce into the bottom of each of four soup bowls, arrange three fried blossoms on top and garnish with a basil sprig.
Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "Home Cooking 101."