Monday, August 17, 2009


There are some words I love to say, and look for opportunities to squeeze in whenever I can. One of which is...courgette [Koor-zhet]. Basically it is a zucchini, but how fun instead to say courgette adding a little French accent (even though I don't speak French, I pretend when I get the chance). But who cares, I love the way it sounds.

Technically, for sake of this post we are only using the blossoms of the zucchini (courgette) and not the courgette itself.

A few days ago I was part of a conversation in which courgette (zucchini) blossoms came up in the discussion (surprisingly I did not bring them up, but yes did participate). One person asked "What do they taste like?" Another chimed in "Why on earth would you want to eat those?" Still another, "Those are way too much work".

Well, to answer the question about what they taste like I guess you could say that they're mild and squashy, with a texture that's soft and delicate when raw or steamed, crisp and toothsome when fried. As good as a fried courgette blossom is, it's even better if you stuff it with some kind of soft white cheese - ricotta, goat or mozzarella. When the blossom, lovingly twisted shut, hits the hot oil, several magical things happen at once. The cheese begins to soften, picking up the flavors of whatever herbs you've added as it warms. The outside of the flower rapidly crisps, like a fine layer of pastry.

No question, courgette blossoms are an ingenious and elegant packaging material - tastier than a wonton wrapper, prettier than parchment, and way less work than phyllo. And they fry up into crumbly golden shells. Also, they're produced in crazy, profligate profusion. So if nothing else, plucking those blossoms during their brief summer window is a highly effective form of zucchini birth control.

As to the comment of too much work...well, I guess the only thing I can say is that anything worthwhile takes a little effort. And frankly these little beauties don't require that much work, just some basic prep.

The recipe below is in my opinion definitely worth trying. It has been adapted from a Wolfgang Puck recipe. The tempura batter is totally his, which I think is brilliant; very light and crispy. The filling I have modified a bit from his original recipe.

I hope you might try these. Even if you choose not to fill them, just fry them up using the tempura batter, and when they are just out of the fryer toss on a little sea salt, they are delicious.



Tempura Fried Squash Blossoms with Tomato Sauce

Tempura Batter:
1/4 cup rice flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne
3 cups soda water

4 oz. mild goat cheese, softened
4 oz. ricotta
5 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2 Tbsp. chopped chervil
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 Tbsp. chopped tarragon
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
16 squash blossoms
Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
Fried Basil Leaves, recipe follows


Tempura Batter:
Sift together all of the dry ingredients. Whisk in the soda water, a little at a time, until the right consistency is achieved. The batter should coat the back of a spoon, but some excess batter should run off the spoon. Allow to rest in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before use.

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Shape the mixture into 1 tablespoon balls. Or alternatively put mixture into a pastry bag with a large tip and pipe into blossoms that way. Make sure blossoms are well cleaned, I take out the stamens as well. Open the flowers and insert the cheese mixture in each flower. Gently press the filling into the base of the flower. Cover with the petals and pinch the top to seal. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat a fryer or a deep pot halfway filled with peanut oil to 375°.
Hold the squash blossoms by the stem. Dip each into the tempura batter, making sure to coat completely. Let any excess batter drip off. Place the blossom in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, turning often to brown evenly. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Place some of the Tomato Sauce on the bottom of a plate. Top with squash blossoms and garnish with fried basil leaves.

Tomato Sauce:
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 Tbsp.
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
Pinch chili flakes
2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp. sugar
4 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
4 basil leaves, chiffonade

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and heat. Add onion, garlic, and chili flakes and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Lower the heat and cook until the tomatoes start to disintegrate and mixture is of sauce consistency, about 15 minutes. Add the thyme, basil, and remaining olive oil and mix well. At this point I sometimes put the sauce in my food processor and give it a few good pulses to puree it for a smoother consistency. If you have any leftover sauce it's great on pasta!

Fried Basil Leaves:
Vegetable oil or peanut oil
8 basil leaves

Heat about 1/2-inch of the oil in a steep-sided saute pan to 350°. Or heat a deep fryer to 350°. Pat the basil leaves dry to remove any surface water. Carefully drop the basil leaves in the hot oil. The oil will spit and splatter as the moisture in the leaves fries. Fry for 10 seconds or just until the leaves start to become translucent. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.

1 comment:

  1. Yum, this is delicious!You are right about the flavor and texture of these beauties.Love your recipes. -Alisa@Foodista