October 20, 2022
A couple of weeks ago at the farmers market, Armando Bustamante — a farmer with a warm smile and a large field in the Heights neighborhood who has often provided us with local fennel, cauliflower and amaranth leaves — asked me if I’d like some squash blossoms. He had too many and did not know what to do with them.
The next day a giant container of huge sunflower-yellow delicate squash blossoms landed in the restaurant's kitchen. We tore some up and threw them into salads; one of my cooks went to town making squash blossom quesadillas for family meal; and I decided to try a true and tested approach with them. Stuffed with a tangy cream cheese filling, they were tasty just as is and could be served chilled with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. But fried in a light delicate pakora batter, they were ethereally delicious, especially when the fried blossom pakora was stuffed inside a fresh blossom.
For the filling_
40 squash blossom flowers
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
½ cup red onion, minced
1 medium serrano pepper, minced
2 tablespoons of currants or raisins
1 teaspoon toasted slightly crushed coriander seeds
1 tablespoon of unpeeled minced ginger
Juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 bunch cilantro
For the batter_
½ cup chickpea flour
½ cup rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups rice bran oil for frying
Makes 4 servings
To make the filling_ Combine the cream cheese with onion, serrano, currants, coriander, ginger, lemon juice and salt. Discard the bottom 2-inch stems of the cilantro bunch, mince the rest finely and mix into the cream cheese. Dividing the mixture into roughly 20 portions, stuff 2 to 3 teaspoons into each blossom and pinch close. Set aside until ready to fry.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk the chickpea and rice flour with water, salt, black pepper and 1½ cups of water. If there are any lumps, strain the batter. The mixture should be runny – add more water if needed.
To fry the blossoms_ Bring the oil to 350 degrees in a wok or a Dutch oven. Dip each blossom into the batter and quickly drop it into the hot oil. Repeat with as many as can fit in the oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown, then drain. Stuff each pakora into a fresh blossom and serve warm.
While most pakora batters are made with chickpea alone, adding rice flour lightens the flavor and the texture. Feel free to use either chickpea or rice entirely.
Replace the cream cheese with chevre or a combination of your favorite melting cheese like Swiss, Cheddar or Gruyere.
Toast coriander seeds in a 300-degree oven for 5 minutes or over a hot skillet until the color changes slightly and an aroma emanates. To crush coriander seeds, use a light rolling pin.
December 02, 2022