Squash blossoms are one of my favorite things to eat during the summer months. For several weeks each year, they can be purchased at farmers markets throughout the state. Native American communities learned to use the male squash blossoms to cook with because they never bear fruit and they have a long narrow stem and stamen. The female blossoms become the fruit, and they will always have a tiny fruit under the flower. They are not harvested in the flower stage to allow them to produce the squash fruits. As long as some of the male blossoms are left in the squash patch for pollination, the bees will do the rest and the additional male blossoms can be harvested. The male blossoms are used widely throughout Mexico in a variety of dishes including quesadillas and soups; in northern New Mexico, they are primarily stuffed with cheese and batter-fried using heavy cream. This recipe makes a unique crispy, stuffed version of a dish that is traditionally not plant-based. Enjoy them while you can during their short summer season.
Summer Fried Squash Blossoms
- 1 batch Lois’s Pico de Gallo , prepared in advance (below)
- 12 –16 male squash blossoms (depending on size)
For the blossom stuffing:
- 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
- 1/2 small white onion , finely chopped (approximately 1/4 cup)
- 1 –2 garlic cloves , peeled
- 1 New Mexico green chile , roasted, seeded, peeled, and finely chopped
- 1 vine-ripened tomato , seeded and finely chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 can (15.5 oz) organic great northern beans, pureed (approximately 2/3 cup)
For frying and for the batter:
- 1 liter (about 4 cups) sunflower oil
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white rice flour
- 1/2 cup sparkling water , cold
- First, blacken the garlic. Heat a small cast-iron pan over high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Place the raw peeled garlic in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally and rotating frequently, until the garlic begins to blacken on all sides (4–5 minutes). Remove from heat and cool, then chop finely.
- Preheat a medium cast-iron pan over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the sunflower oil and the onion and sauté for 3–4 minutes until the onions begin to caramelize. Add the chile and 1 teaspoon of the blackened garlic and sauté for another minute, stirring to prevent burning. Add the tomato and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the salt and stir. Remove from heat, taste, adjust seasoning if desired, and then place in a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
- While the mixture is cooling, prepare the bean puree. Place the beans in a food processor and process until smooth. Then fold the onion mixture into the bean puree. Your mixture is now ready to stuff inside the blossoms. Each blossom should have the stamen removed (the stamens are edible, but I think they taste bitter). I make a single cut lengthwise to each flower so that it is easier to get the stuffing in.
- Fill each blossom with approximately 1 tablespoon of stuffing mixture, then gently twist the flower at the top in a circular direction to seal in the filling. Set aside on a sheet tray.
- Pour the oil into a deep saucepan or cast-iron dutch oven that is at least 4 inches deep so that the oil doesn’t splatter while frying. Because frying with oil can be dangerous, it’s important to note that whatever pan you use, you need to make sure that there is plenty of room up the sides of the pan to prevent oil from bubbling over. Over medium to high heat, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. You can test a little batter once the oil is ready to make sure that it is hot enough. The batter will begin to cook immediately, bubbling in the oil, and turn brown shortly after being placed in the oil.
- While the oil is heating, prepare the batter. In a medium mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients and then add the cold sparkling water. Using a whisk, stir to make sure there are no lumps. Then, one at a time, dredge each stuffed squash blossom into the batter so that it is completely coated. Then gently place in the hot oil and cook until it turns brown, for approximately 3–4 minutes. I use a spoon or round mesh kitchen skimmer (also called a kitchen spider) to immerse the stuffed blossom completely into the oil, making sure that it cooks evenly. Then remove it from the oil and place on a sheet tray covered with a piece of paper towel to absorb any excess oil that drains off. Cook all the blossoms and then turn off the heat.
- Place 3–4 blossoms onto each plate and serve with Lois’s Pico de Gallo. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from Seed to Plate, Soil to Sky: Modern Plant-Based Recipes Using Native American Ingredients by Lois Ellen Frank. Copyright © 2023. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the author and Hachette Books.
Lois Ellen Frank
Lois Ellen Frank, PhD, is a Santa Fe–based chef, author, Native foods historian, culinary anthropologist, educator, photographer, and organic gardener. Her cookbook Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations won a James Beard Award, and she has spent over thirty years documenting and working with the foods and lifeways of Native American communities in the Southwest. Dr. Frank is the chef and owner of Red Mesa Cuisine, a catering company specializing in Indigenous cuisine and cultural education with a modern twist, where she cooks alongside Native American chef Walter Whitewater.