>Squash Blossoms

>These tasty morsels are one of the delicacies of summer. There are so many things you can do with them, too. They are delicious in a quesadilla, in an omelette, or in a casserole. But, our favorite thing to do with them is stuff the flower with fresh chevre, herbed ricotta, or mozzarella. Then we dip them in egg and flour and pan fry them in olive oil. The flavor is somewhat like a mushroom, but so much more. Besides what could be better than a fried cheese concoction?

SAUTÉED BABY ZUCCHINI WITH SQUASH BLOSSOMS AND LEMON BASIL
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound baby zucchini, halved lengthwise, each half cut lengthwise into 3 wedges
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon basil or regular basil
Fleur de sel (fine French sea salt)
18 zucchini squash blossoms*

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini; sauté until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in basil. Season with fleur de sel. Transfer to plate.

2. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in skillet. Add squash blossoms and cook until barely wilted and still bright orange, about 2 seconds per side. Arrange atop zucchini and serve.

FRIED QUESADILLAS WITH TWO FILLINGS
For mushroom filling
1/4 cup minced white onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 lb mushrooms, trimmed
2 teaspoons chopped fresh epazote leaves, or 1/2teaspoon crumbled dried
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
For tortilla masa
2 cups masa harina (“masa mix”) such as Maseca or Quaker
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups warm water

For cheese and squash blossom filling
5 oz queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese), ricotta salata, or feta, crumbled (1 cup)
1/4 cup Mexican crema or crème fraîche (omit if using ricotta salata)
5 squash blossoms, petals torn into 20 pieces and remainder discarded

For frying
About 3 cups vegetable oil

Guacamole, for serving (optional)

Make mushroom filling: Cook onion in butter in a medium nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Pulse mushrooms in a food processor until coarsely chopped and add to onion along with epazote and salt.

Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until mushrooms are softened and any liquid is evaporated, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool filling completely.

Make masa and form quesadillas: Stir together masa harina, salt, and warm water in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Knead dough in bowl with heel of your hand 1 to 2 minutes.

Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll into about 40 (scant 1-inch) balls. Transfer balls as formed to a plastic-wrap–lined tray and cover with more plastic wrap.

Cut 2 (5-inch) squares from a small plastic bag and use 1 to line lower half of tortilla press. Put a ball of dough in tortilla press and top with second square of plastic. Close tortilla press, pushing gently on lever to flatten dough to a 2 1/2- to 3-inch round. If press doesn’t flatten evenly, rotate tortilla 180 degrees and gently flatten again. (Alternatively, use rolling pin to flatten dough between squares of plastic.)

Remove top square of plastic and put 1 teaspoon mushroom filling, or about 1 teaspoon crumbled queso fresco with 1/2 teaspoon crema and a piece of squash blossom, in center of round.

Fold round, still in plastic, over filling to form a half-moon and pinch edges together to seal. Gently peel off plastic, then transfer quesadilla to another plastic-wrap–lined tray and cover with a second sheet of plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough, making about 20 quesadillas of each filling.

Fry quesadillas: Heat 1 inch of oil in a deep 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until deep-fat thermometer registers 375°F, then deep-fry quesadillas in batches of 6 to 8, turning once or twice, until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and return oil to 375°F before adding next batch.

Serve quesadillas immediately.

FARMERS’ MARKET FETTUCCINE

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp ground fennel seed
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 1/2 lb fresh ripe tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped (or one 28-oz can plum tomatoes)
12 oz fresh fettuccine (or dry pasta)
3 small zucchini, julienned
12 fresh squash blossoms, trimmed well at the base (or 2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed)
1 1/2 cups packed baby spinach, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil
preparation

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Warm oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute or until translucent and fragrant. Add fennel and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in vinegar, increase heat to medium-high and cook until very little liquid is left. Stir in tomatoes with their juices. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 10 minutes (if using canned tomatoes, simmer uncovered, breaking them up with a wooden spoon).

2. While sauce is simmering, add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions.

3. Season sauce with salt and pepper, add zucchini and cook 5 minutes. Add squash blossoms and spinach and cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes; remove from heat and stir in basil. Drain pasta, add to sauce in skillet and mix well.

THREE GENERATIONS OF SQUASH
For squash blossoms
3 cups small cherry tomatoes (1 lb; preferably Sungold), halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 oz mild fresh goat cheese (6 tablespoons) at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, toasted until they puff
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (preferably Thai)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
12 male squash blossoms with stems (not with baby zucchini), stems trimmed to 1 inch

For vinaigrette and shaved squash
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lb assorted baby summer squash, stems discarded

For tempura batter and frying
6 cups vegetable oil (preferably canola or grapeseed)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chilled sparkling water

For topping
2 tablespoons green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, toasted until they puff
1/3 cup small basil leaves (preferably Thai) or sliced larger leaves

1. Stuff squash blossoms:
Preheat oven to 250°F. Toss tomatoes with oil and arrange, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan. Bake in middle of oven until slightly shriveled but not completely dried or browned, about 1 1/4 hours. Transfer pan to a rack to cool.

2. Stir together goat cheese, cream, pumpkin seeds, basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and fold in half of oven-dried tomatoes.

3. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon of this filling into each blossom and twist ends of petals gently to close. Chill, covered, until ready to fry.

Prepare vinaigrette and shaved squash:
4. Purée vinegar, shallot, oil, pepper, and salt in a blender until smooth and emulsified.

5. Slice squash paper-thin (lengthwise) using slicer, then overlap squash slices decoratively on 4 plates to cover surface.

Make tempura batter and fry blossoms:
6. Heat 2 inches of oil in a 3-quart saucepan to 350°F on thermometer.

7. Set a bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, then whisk together flour and salt in smaller bowl. Then whisk in sparkling water until combined well.

8. Working in batches of 3, coat blossoms in batter, lifting each out by its stem and letting excess drip off, then fry, turning, until batter is crisp (it will not brown), 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer blossoms as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels, drain, then season with salt.

Assemble plates:
9. Drizzle vinaigrette over squash slices, then arrange 3 fried blossoms in middle of each plate. Sprinkle remaining oven-dried tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and basil around blossoms and season with salt and pepper.

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