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Imagine my delight when I saw these beauties at the Farmer’s Market last weekend. Squash blossoms are something of a delicacy in that their window of availability is very short – a few weeks in June or July, depending on the region. I snapped up a couple of bunches, excited to take them home and fry them, in the style of the Italians, a la fritto misto.

I’d like to tell you how much I enjoyed them when I was in Rome, at one of the many beautiful little outdoor restaurant tables that could be found in many a cobbled courtyard, serving incredible food in the warm afternoon sun.  The truth is, though, that we got there too late. It was June when my sister and I visited there and I would keep seeing notes about squash blossom specials on the menu. Eventually I had to ask about it. The waiters looked pained, pitying really, that the blossoms were gone. We’d missed the golden hour, it never lasted long. Too bad for us. The plates of fritto misto we were served that week, however, were so exquisite that I made one of those ‘notes to self’ that I needed to some day experience eating a delicately fried flower of the zucchini. (It’s the male variety of blossom that is pictured above by the way, and eating them won’t stop a little zucchini from coming into the world. It’s at the base of the female blossoms that the zucchini-ini-ini plants begin to form.) I also felt a particular interest in trying to make the dish at home because the Italian guide books mentioned that the fried foods that were distinctively Roman was actually a contribution of the Jewish quarter that is now the neighborhood known as Trastevere.

I did manage to hunt down some of these golden squash blossoms the following Spring at a Farmer’s Market, whereupon I took them home and fried them as I imagined it should be done – dipped in egg, then bread crumbs, then fried in olive oil. Magnifico. I find the crunch of the breading with the delicately flavored blossom at the center a special delight. Now if I run across them as I did on Sunday, (at a dollar a bunch!) making a batch is a mandate, a golden opportunity – it stops the action. Don’t worry about its being fried, it only comes around once a year so give it a go and let me know.

The breading operation. A little water in with the beaten whole egg this time was a good addition, per a tempura method recipe I consulted. The breading I used is a combo of plain bread crumbs and flour with cayenne pepper, salt and herbs like oregano and basil.

Dip ’em and roll ’em. But first, prep them by rinsing and patting dry with a paper towel and removing the flower stamen in the center with a little paring knife. Also trim the stem to about a half inch. You can see that the stem makes a nice little handle for rolling in the bread crumbs.

A batch ready for the fryer. I used olive oil in a cast iron skillet. There needs to be at least an inch of oil in the pan. Test that the oil is hot enough the Italian way by dropping in a little square of bread. If it floats in the oil and bubbles form around it, the oil is hot enough.

Turn the blossoms over, using tongs, after about 3-4 minutes on the first side. They should be golden brown. Cook the other side til golden and crispy. Remove them to paper towels to drain.

Ready to eat!

Imagine if I ever actually had them prepared in Italy! My husband and daughter don’t entirely get it, but they humored me, trying them and enjoying my enjoyment.  I struck the pose of that superior Italian waiter: Too bad for them. More for me.

Buon Appetito!

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