We are currently facing the vegetal challenges and pleasures that come with the height of summer CSA season. One delicacy that we received for several weeks in a row was squash blossoms. Last summer, following the suggestions of many cooks, I tried to stuff them with ricotta, bread them and fry them. However, the results were disappointing, soggy and cumbersome. I ultimately decided they were not worth the effort it took to make them. Squash blossom quesadillas were marginally more successful, but the blossoms themselves were lost under the cheese. This year I’m trying very hard not to use cheese as the centerpiece of a meal or dish, so I didn’t really feel like making those either. So I was left with my original problem: what to do with these delicate, fleeting and delicious squash blossoms? This is when I turned to some of my deepest cooking instincts.
You may not know it, but I was vegetarian for 12 years and vegan for five. Those were the years when I taught myself to cook, so my vegan habits die hard. As a newly minted omnivore my inclination is to always cook vegetarian or vegan if I can help it. When done right I think it’s one of the most healthy and ethical ways to eat, as long as your diet does not consist primarily of processed soy products and other weird vegan “treats” that are worse for you then the things they are replacing.
I remembered one of my favorite things that I used to make when I was vegan: tofu ricotta. Why not sauteed squash blossoms stuffed with tofu ricotta? It solves the problem of breading and frying, which when done sloppily destroys the blossoms and makes a mess of your kitchen, and eliminates the cheese problem. I decided to pair it with another old vegan standby: vegan “alfredo” sauce made with white beans over whole-wheat pasta. It was a mid-week experimental dinner, it was easy and quick, and I was pleasantly surprised how delicious it was. Lightly sauteing the squash blossoms enabled them to keep their light, squashy flavor and the tofu “ricotta” and white bean “alfredo” sauce were perfect venues from some garlic scapes that were still hanging on in my fridge from earlier in the season. Later in the week I spread extra “alfredo” sauce on Rye Wassa crackers for a delightful snack.Truly a mid-summer, mid-week success!
Squash Blossoms Stuff with Tofu Ricotta
8 squash blossoms
1 pound firm tofu
1/2 white or sweet onion
2 garlic cloves or 1 garlic scape
Juice of 1 lemon
1 TBS dried basil (though fresh basil could work great as well!)
1 TBS Olive Oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
To make the “ricotta” place all the ingredients except the squash blossoms in a food processor or powerful blender and mix until they all well mixed. Taste the mixture and add more salt, pepper, lemon juice or herbs if necessary. If it is too thick or dry add a 1/4 cup of water and mix again. It should have a fairly spongy consistently and not bee too liquid.
To prepare the blossoms: Lightly wipe the blossoms with a damp paper towel to clean them, cut off most of the stem, and gently remove the flower’s pistal inside (your hands might be covered with pollen at this point). Using a tea spoon to help you gently stuff the blossoms with the tofu ricotta. Do not over stuff!
To cook the blossoms: Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Gently place the blossoms in the pan and then turn after 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve as soon as you can.
Note: I don’t think these keep very well, so eat them right after you prepare them. However, the tofu ricotta keeps for several days and is great on pasta!
White Bean “Alfredo” Sauce
1 can of white beans (Navy or White Kidney)
2 Garlic Cloves (or one garlic scape)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 TBS Olive Oil
1 TBS dried basil (or fresh)
1 tsp oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix. Serve over the pasta of your choice and mix in some steamed kale or spinach.