Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tempura Battered Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Mozzarella and Basil

Squash blossoms have intrigued me this season. For the first time ever hearing about them, I've seen them at all of the farmer's markets, Oyamel is having their 2nd annual squash blossom festival, and Michelle Obama is eating them (at Oyamel). Plus, they are beautiful, and just scream summer. If someone hadn't thought to eat them, I'd put them in a vase.

Once I got up the nerve to buy a container of the delicate yellow and orange blossoms at the Dupont Farmer's Market (I always try to buy one thing I've never cooked before at the markets each week), I set out on a researching expedition. Squash blossoms don't have a long shelf life, so I had to work fast. I ultimately decided on stuffing and deep frying, as that seemed to be the most popular preparation, but I soon learned that it was possible to use the blossoms in sauces, soups and even quesadillas.

I found a Wolfgang Puck recipe for tempura battered squash blossoms, but I decided to incorporate my own stuffing - some fresh mozzarella and basil (from my Aerogarden, of course). A little East meets West. Now I was faced not only with the prospect of cooking with squash blossoms but embarking on my first deep frying experience. Without a deep fry thermometer. True culinary challenges, indeed. I'm proud to say that I didn't burn the house down and that I thoroughly enjoyed the final product.

Tempura Battered Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Mozzarella and Basil

Tempura Batter

1/4 cup rice flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 TBS salt
1 tsp cayenne
3 cups soda water

Squash Blossoms

squash blossoms (cleaned with stamen removed)
vegetable oil for frying

To make the 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.

Once batter has rested, heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees. I placed about a half inch in a deep pot and heated until a small drop of batter browned nicely. In the meantime, stuff squash blossoms with one piece of mozzarella and one leaf of basil. Twist ends of blossom to seal and dip into batter. Fry in oil, turning once or twice, until golden brown on all sides.

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