Pumpkin blossoms-the edible flowers of the zucchini plant-are the farmers' markets I most look forward to. They usually make their debut in late July, and the beautiful orange-yellow flowers (also called zucchini flowers or zucchini flowers) always call my name. Although there are many ways to prepare them, my favorite way to eat them is filling, mashing and deep-frying. This is the best summer appetizer I know.

Fried pumpkin flower or fiori di zucca fritti is a classic Italian cuisine. My colleague Amelia describes them as "cheesy little dumplings", and I personally can't think of a better way to eat them. This is my favorite production method.

Image credit: Joe Lingeman; food styling: Anna Stockwell

What is the smell of pumpkin flower?Although you might think that pumpkin flowers have a fragrant floral fragrance, they actually have a very mild flavor, which makes them very versatile. In fact, the only taste you can taste is that they taste a bit like pumpkin! The petals are soft and delicate, and almost melt in your mouth after frying.

After bringing pumpkin flowers home, it is important to use them immediately-preferably within two days. When they are placed in the refrigerator, they begin to wilt, which makes them easier to tear during filling, sizing and frying. Before cooking with them, you need to gently rinse them to remove any dirt or debris, and remove the stems and stamens, as these parts are not edible.

Image credit: Joe Lingeman; food styling: Anna Stockwell

What is the best filling for fried pumpkin flowers?
The best pumpkin flower filling is simple and customizable: ricotta cheese, garlic, fresh herbs, lemon juice, an egg and salt and pepper. Although high-quality ricotta cheese is not negotiable, any other cheese additions-such as grated parmesan, shredded fresh goat cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese-are up to you.

Herbs can also vary. Basil and mint are classic choices, but fresh dill or chives also work well. Try to use cheese and herbs to make the perfect filling for you.

Image credit: Joe Lingeman; food styling: Anna Stockwell

Filling, frying and serving pumpkin blossoms
After preparing the ricotta cheese mixture, use a cut-off piping bag or a zippered bag to fill the flowers. This will make your life much easier than using a spoon. Carefully pour about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling into each flower, and then gently twist the end of the flower to prevent the filling from falling off.

To make the batter, mix flour and salt with the soda of your choice: soda, soda, or light beer. The hissing will create bubbles in the batter, which will absorb moisture and produce a light and airy final product. Whichever method you use, make sure it is cold: cold liquid is essential to thicken the batter to the right consistency and prevent the batter from absorbing too much oil during frying.

Then, work in five or six batches and immerse each flower in the batter. If the petals begin to open, twist the open end again. Add oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried flowers to a dish lined with paper towels to drain the water, and then eat immediately.

For the filling:

  • 14 to 16 zucchini squash blossoms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, dill, or chives
  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cheese, such as grated Parmesan, crumbled fresh goat cheese, or shredded low-moisture mozzarella
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • For the batter:
  • 3/4 cup cold seltzer, club soda, or light-colored beer
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • Pastry piping bag or zip-top bag
  • Large heavy-bottomed high-sided skillet
  • Tongs
  • Candy or deep-fry thermometer
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting board and chef’s knife
  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Slotted spoon
  • Paper towels
  • Prepare the blossoms. Trim the stems from 14 to 16 squash blossoms. Remove the stamen inside the blossoms. Gently rinse to remove any potential dirt or debris. Place on paper towels or a kitchen towel to dry.
  • Chop the aromatics. Prepare the following, placing them in a medium bowl as you complete them: Mince 2 garlic cloves (about 1 tablespoon). Finely chop until you have 2 tablespoons fresh basil and 1 tablespoon fresh mint, dill, or chives.
  • Make the filling. Add 3/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup cheese of choice, 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk until combined.
  • Stuff the zucchini squash blossoms. Transfer the filling into a piping bag or a large zip-top bag with the tip cut off. Gently open each squash blossom and pipe the filling inside. Fill to just below where the petals begin to separate, 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons each. Twist the open end of each blossom to prevent the filling from falling out.
  • Heat the oil and make the batter. Fill a large heavy-bottomed, high-sided skillet with 1/2-inch oil (about 1 1/2 cups) and heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375°F. Place 3/4 cup seltzer, club soda, or light-colored beer; 1/2 cup all-purpose flour; and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. (The batter will be thin.)
  • Dip and fry the blossoms. Working in batches of 5 to 6, dip each blossom into the batter one at a time. Add to the oil and fry, flipping once, until golden-brown, about 2 minutes per side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried blossoms to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat dipping and frying the remaining blossoms, making sure the oil is at 375ºF for each batch.

Pumpkin blossoms-the edible flowers of the zucchini plant-are the farmers' markets I most look forward to. They usually make their debut in late July, and the beautiful orange-yellow flowers....


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