Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lemony Mint Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Besides enjoying a few hours with friends, there are two definite advantages to spending time Saturday night and Sunday morning preparing a big brunch: 1) the house, or at least the main floor, gets cleaned, and 2) there are lots of leftovers that provide a variety of lunches and dinner for a good part of the week. So, after making brunch again this Sunday (which consisted of a breakfast burrito bar), the last thing I wanted or needed to do last night was make dinner.

That, of course, was until Josh brought home the CSA haul and sitting right on top was a round bag o' squash blossoms. Which I had been hoping for. But have to be used the same day because they wilt hella quick. Sigh.

So, after trying to talk myself out of cooking, I gave in and started thinking about what I wanted to stuff the blossoms with. I even thought of doing quesadillas, but the consensus seems to be that you can't really taste the blossoms in quesadilla form and I thought that a plain vegan cheese quesadilla sounded less than appetizing. Stuffing them seemed the way to go (especially since I'm cooking solely out of the pantry this week), so I threw together a kitchen sink/CSA tofu ricotta and fried 'em up. They definitely needed a dipping sauce of some kind, but they turned out pretty good.

I would definitely make these for a dinner party, especially if I was already using the fryer for vegan cream cheese wontons. They are, above all else, a little exotic and a whole lot impressive to behold.
20 squash blossoms (you can do less but you'll have extra filling)

Lemony Mint Ricotta Filling
1 lb. extra firm tofu
1/3 cup tofutti cream cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 read onion, finely diced
4-5 sprigs mint, chiffonaded
4-5 springs basil, chiffonaded
Zest of 1/3 lemon
Juice of 1/3 lemon
Coarse ground salt and pepper to taste

The Batter
1 cup AP flour
1 cup club soda
1/2 t salt

In a small saute pan, saute garlic and red onion in a bit of olive oil on medium heat. Cook until the red onion in soft and beginning to carmelize. Meanwhile, drain tofu, squeezing as much of the water as possible out of it. Crumble into a bowl and keep massaging it until it resembles the texture of, well, ricotta. Add cream cheese and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Add fresh ground salt and pepper until you get the desired flavor. Put filling a gallon size ziploc bag and push it all toward one bottom corner.

I used a deep fryer, so, at this point, I filled the fryer to the maximum line with canola oil and heated it to 375 degrees.

Next, you need to prep the blossoms, which basically involves removing the stamen. Many sites say you need to use a knife or cut the blossom open, but it's easy to get out while leaving the flower *ahem* intact. Just gently pull the petals apart, stick you finger into the blossom, and press the stamen to the side of the petal (believe me, I tried to make this as non-sexual as possible as I was writing it--it's a challenge). If they're fresh it should break off easily, then you can shake the stamen out. You may need to use you nail, but it should break off easily. I did all of them this way without any mishaps.

Once the blossoms are ready, cut half an inch off the corner of the filling bag. Hold hte flower in one hand, using your fingers to pull back the petals, and squeeze a couple tablespoons of filling into each flower. Twist them closed gently. They won't stay closed but they don't need to. Just make sure it's not overflowing with ricotta.
Lemony Mint Tofu Ricotta Filling

Next, you have to fry them. The blossoms are delicate, so I went with the deep fryer--which had it's challenges. Because they're battered, the first two blossoms stuck to the frying basket. So, with the frying basket lowered into the oil, I would dredge a blossom, covering it at least 3/4 with batter (which is thick), and drop it into the oil. Give it a couple seconds, then gently nudge it around with tongs to make sure it didn't stick to the basket. Then I'd add another dredged blossom. I only did two at a time, frying until they were a golden brown color. After the first couple, they came out fine. But, if you're doing this for the first time, I'd plan on making more then you need.


veganboyjosh said...

never had these before tonight, but i remember Rocco freaking out cos he couldn't find any during one episode of "The Restaurant" years ago.

i shall be having them again, i hope. so good they were.

Cassie - Vegan Fox said...

These sound incredible. We eyed the squash blossoms last week at the Farmer's Market, but weren't sure what to do with them.