Squash blossoms form a nest for cheese bites

Leah Eskin
Chicago Tribune

The flower — all beauty, promise and wile — makes for an unlikely meal. To pluck, stuff and fry it seems savage. Though, in truth, no more brutal than the rest of dinner prep.

The nasturtium spikes the salad with brilliant color and radish-hot bite. The rose petal, starched with sugar, gives pastry a sweet snap. Lavender warms shortbread sunny.

The squash blossom, soft and capacious, grows like a dumpling-on-the-vine — ready to fill and fold. Plumped with ricotta, batter-dipped and crisped, it makes for a crunchy, creamy bite. One best downed with neither sauce nor sentimentality. The abundant, prickly vine is busy unfurling more flowers.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 3 minutes per batch

Makes: 4 servings

12 squash blossoms or 4 small (1 pound total) yellow squash or zucchini

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup flour

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup beer or sparkling water

1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Canola oil, for frying

Flaky salt, such as Maldon

Provision: If you have squash growing in the garden, snip off 12 male blossoms (growing on a straight stem), as opposed to female (which sport a swollen mini-squash at the base). Peek inside — if there’s some six-legged fellow busy pollinating, shake him out. Or find blossoms at the grocery store or at the farmers market. Lacking blossoms, use 4 small summer squash sliced into 1/4-inch-thick circles and sprinkled with a little kosher salt.

Mix: Whisk together flour, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk in enough beer (or sparkling water) to form a thin batter. Set aside.

Stuff: Stir together ricotta, remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, the mint, zest, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Open each blossom. Spoon in about 2 teaspoons ricotta mixture and twist the blossom closed.

Fry: Choose a deep, heavy pot for frying blossoms. Pour in oil to a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil to 365 degrees. Dip one filled blossom in the batter and lower it into the oil. Repeat with a few more blossoms, without crowding. Fry until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes per side. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with flaky salt. Repeat, frying all blossoms. For squash circles, pat dry and fry as above, about 2 minutes per side.

Serve: Munch fried blossoms hot or warm. For circles, top each with a dollop of the ricotta mixture before serving.