August 26, 2010

Antipasto Fridays: Tempura Fried Squash Blossoms

We started Antipasto Fridays as a low-cook, snacky way to herald the coming of the weekend. This series introduces small plate favorites during the week so it may grace your own weekend opening ceremonies.

One morning. Three farmers markets. And a beautiful reminder of Italian days gone by.

I normally leave frying to the professionals. Beyond the fact that it's not the healthiest of options, there's the incredible mess and oily waste to deal with. But husband promised PROMISED he had done this before, and would be responsible, and that it would yield the most delicious treat EVER. He was only right on one count.

The secret is simple: soda water. The little bubbles make for an incredibly delicate tempura batter.

Since the squash blossoms, we've tried eggplant and zucchini sticks too. And I can no longer claim to be against home frying.

Tempura Fried Squash Blossoms
Batter adapted from Wolfgang Puck
8 squash blossoms

1 tablespoon rice flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup soda water

Optional stuffing:
Grated parmesan cheese
1 clove minced garlic
Small handful of ground or chopped pine nuts

1. Sift together all of the dry ingredients. Whisk in soda water, a little at a time, until the right consistency is achieved. Most of the batter should run off the back of a spoon instantly, leaving only a very thin coat. Allow to rest in the refrigerator 1 hour before use [not the end of the world if this doesn't happen].

2. Combine the optional stuffing ingredients and mix well. Shape the mixture into 1 tablespoon balls.

3. Gently clean the squash blossoms in a bowl of water, shaking out any dirt and removing the stamen.

4. Insert one cheese ball into each flower. Gently press the filling into the base of the flower. Cover with the petals and pinch the top to seal.

5. Heat 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat, ultimately coating your pan with a 1/3 inch of olive oil across the bottom.

6. While oil heats, dip each blossom into the tempura batter, making sure to coat completely. Let any excess batter drip off. Place the blossom in the oil and fry until golden brown, about 1 minutes. Flip and fry the other side to brown evenly. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.