Around the time that the shelling peas have given up the ghost but before the insanity of the cucumber harvest begins, squash blossoms begin to bloom in my garden and wave a sunny hello from beneath their canopy of leaves. I usually grow two kinds of summer squash: Costata Romanesco, which I think produce the best tasting squash (kind of nutty and compact, pretty fruits) and Zucchino da Fiore, which has literally been bred to produce small fruit and an explosion of gorgeous, stuffable flowers. (Somebody may want to tell this to the errant Zucchinogrowing out of my compost pile – the Zeppelin-esque fruit we plucked out of there last night inspired a whole bunch of big d*ck jokes on the way into the house.)
The easiest thing to do with a mess o’ squash blossoms is fry them in a light batter, but when I manage to snip a whole basketful of these beauties, each as massive and flawless as the last, then I ask my husband (beg him really) to whip up his world-famous duxelle and make one of my favorite treats on earth.
This is a time-consuming yet earth shattering dish not to be wasted on just anybody. Make this for your closest friends, your neighbor who just watered your trees when you were out of town, your lover-to-be, or just for yourself. Eating one of these yum-bombs is an exercise in throwing your head back, speechless at first bite and managing groans of delight in between chomping, nearly inhaling the earthy, juicy intensity of flavors.
The key to the duxelle here is to keep it as non-watery and as dense as possible. Depending on how fresh your mushrooms are, they may give off a lot of water as you sauté. Try and make sure it evaporates by paying close attention to the heat. For best results, drain the duxelle even further after it’s cooked.
DUXELLE STUFFED & FRIED SQUASH BLOSSOMS
For the duxelle:
1/2 lb.mushrooms (white or cremini)
2 Tbsp. sweet butter
3 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
1. Finely chop the mushrooms in a food processor.
2. Scrape mushrooms out into a clean, cotton towel. (A kitchen towel, not a paper towel.) Twist towel around mushrooms and wring out as much liquid as you can over the sink.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and swirl to melt and avoid burning.
4. Add mushrooms, shallots, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, and thyme.
5. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms appear dry and release their rich, mushroomy scent; about 5 minutes. This is where you should pay attention that the mixture is not too watery. You may need to turn up the heat a bit to evaporate the liquid.
6. Add the remaining butter then the vermouth or wine and cook until evaporated.
7. Remove from heat and let cool. My husband likes to put the mixture into a strainer over a bowl to get even more of the excess moisture out before stuffing.
For stuffing and frying the blossoms
You will need about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of good quality olive oil depending on how many blossoms you are going to make. I make as many as I’ve collected, which is usually between 5 and 10. 10 big blossoms will take closer to a cup. This recipe really uses the oil as one of its flavors so the better the oil, the better the end result.
My OMG!olive oil choice (which I break out for this dish) is Badia a Coltibuono. The Badia is the really only thing worth stealing in our house.
1. Clean the blossoms. Don’t wash with water. Instead use a paper towel and gently wipe them clean. I always listen and look for buzzing inside – there will be bugs, even bees stuck in the flowers. This is a good thing…it means your flowers are sexy! Wipe them away, or preferably, shake them outside so that they can flirt with some more of your flowers!
2. Stuff the blossoms. Take about a tablespoon of the duxelle mixture (if you haven’t already eaten all of it right from the pan) and carefully scoop into the blossom. Twist the end of the blossom a bit to keep the mixture inside. This is where you will appreciate having big, perfect flowers – small ones are difficult to fill with much.
3. Heat the olive oil on medium high heat in a pan until the oil is hot enough to spatter about when you toss a little crumb of your thyme in it. You should have a nice thick layer of oil – not so much that the blossoms will be floating in it, but enough that there is some ‘frying’ happening when the blossoms go in.
4. Gently glide the stuffed blossoms into the pan one by one. Very carefully push them around with a wood spoon or spatula until the turn from looking like something raw to something slightly browned and cooked. There won’t looked fried per se, but more like the juicy yum-boms that they are.
5. Once they’re done, lift the blossoms out of the pan. Drain them a bit on a paper towel if you must.
6. Line up the cooked blossoms on a pretty plate.
THESE DO NOT AND WILL NOT KEEP – so plan to pour a glass of crispy vino and eat them immediately.
Dinner, my darlings, can wait.