I’ve always loved squash blossoms as nostalgia by proxy. My mom remembers her Italian grandmother cooking the blossoms for Sunday night dinner in her south Philadelphia kitchen. I’ve also cooked them before, stuffing the blossoms with goat cheese and frying them in olive oil, for a kind of crispy outside with a soft, tender inside. It’s certainly delicious but I don’t love frying food, mostly because I tend to get splattered with hot oil and because every apartment I’ve lived in has somehow had the most sensitive smoke detectors ever. In past years, I remember squash blossoms as being a special guest star at farmers’ markets, making a brief appearance for just a couple weeks of the summer (and never at the grocery store). But since I kept seeing these blossoms weekly at the farmers’ market this summer, I told my mom that I was tempted to buy and cook them. But the work of stuffing and frying them felt daunting. That’s when she explained that my great-grandmother usually prepared the blossoms by chopping them up and making fritters. Good ole’ Grandma Gesina! That sounded delicious and much more practical. I decided to give it a try, with my own twist of adding in farm fresh sweet corn and spicy peppers.
Squash blossom and sweet corn fritters
Makes 8 fritters
8-10 squash blossoms
2 ears of sweet corn
2 teaspoons plus ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small hot pepper such a jalapeno, diced (optional)
½ cup whole wheat flour
6 tbsp milk
½ tsp baking powder
Gently wash the squash blossoms. Make sure any little bugs that found the blossoms to be a good home have been evicted. Slice off the rough bit around where the stem adjoins the flower. It’s safe to eat these parts, but they are tougher and not as tender and tasty. Chop the blossoms into small pieces.
In the meantime, cook the ears of corn, either by dropping into boiling water for 5 minutes, or roasting in the oven at 400° for 15 minutes. Let the corn cool and then cut the corn kernels off the cob by holding the corn upright on a cutting board and slicing the kernels from the cob with a downward motion of the knife.
In a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the blossoms, corn, and diced hot pepper (if you want one). Then add a small sprinkle of course salt. Stir as the corn and blossoms cook until they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Spoon them into a medium-large mixing bowl.
Allow the vegetable mixture to cool, then add to it the flour, milk, egg, baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir together with a spatula until fully blended.
Coat the same skillet with a thin layer of olive oil (about ¼ cup) and set heat to medium. When you can flick a bit of water onto the skillet and it sizzles, use a ¼ cup measure to drop a spoonful of the batter into the pan to form each fritter. Turn each fritter when it’s golden brown on the bottom side, approximately 4 minutes. When the second side is also golden brown use a spatula to remove each fritter and transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate (to drain excess oil).
Then, as Grandma Gesina would say, “mangia” (eat)!