Years ago we went to Venice for vacation during the summer. We soon realized that during the day it was a very hot and crowded place so we talked to a few locals and discovered there was a nearby beach and the hotel had a classic Riva wooden boat to take us over there in the morning and back during sunset.
The beach area, called Lido, also attracted a hipper crowd than the day travelers (cruise ship) to Venice and as much as I would like to see tourists in the middle of Piazza San Marco feeding pigeons in 90 degree heat, escaping the city during the day was very welcomed. Lido was definitely the place to be when the sun was up and the restaurants there made it all the more enjoyable.
When we left the beach we stumbled onto a small restaurant and were greeted by the owner and his wife. It was then I realized there were no menus and we were brought through a culinary tour of whatever was fresh at the market that day. To our delight, squash blossoms were in full bloom and they had stuffed them with an herbed goat cheese and lightly fried them in a tempura like batter. They served them with a spicy marinara sauce and when I got back to the U.S., I opened up an LPB Test Kitchen to figure out how to best make this amazing appetizer.
You know that squash season is soon upon us as they bright yellow blossoms come to bloom a few weeks earlier. The blossoms do not last long after they are picked so plan to use them within a day of buying them. This is a great appetizer and on a summer night you can greet your guests with a platter of fried blossoms alongside a freshly made the classic Cipriani’s Bellini which was created in Venice.
- 32 Zucchini Flowers, gently cut each flower open on one side and remove the stamen that is inside. Cut the stems to one inch
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 shallots, peeled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon zest
- 1/2 cup fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill
- 12 ounces of goat cheese, room temperature
- 4 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- Tempura Batter
- Vegetable, canola or peanut oil for frying (Frying Tips 🔥)
- Rao’s Marinara Sauce or make LPB Red Sauce
- Red pepper flakes
- Take a large dutch over and fill it half way with the oil, put in a candy thermometer, place over a high flame and bring to 350 degrees. You have to gage the temperature carefully
- Put the garlic and shallots in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until they are finely chopped, then add the herbs and lemon zest, pulse three times until the herbs are chopped. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper and pulse until fully incorporated
- Now this is where The Houseterns come in handy. The flowers are delicate and must be handled very carefully. You want to take a tablespoon of the cheese mix and put it inside the pedals, and fold the flower shut until the are all done
- At the same time the flowers are being stuffed you should drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium flame. Add a hearty teaspoon of red pepper flakes and let cool for 5 minutes and then add three cups of the sauce and let cook down for 15 minutes. Stir it occasionally
- Make the Tempura Batter
- Drag the flowers through the batter until fully coated and then fry for two minutes, flipping halfway through and then serve immediately with the spicy marinara sauce. You can either have it in a bowl for dipping or just spread on the bottom of a platter and place the fried blossoms on top.