27 March 2011

Gypsy Kitchens: Squash Blossom Dessert

I will warn you now that this is a very untraditional dessert recipe. Not only because the ingredients are mostly savory, but because its an exercise in baking without any measurements. (And, for us, without a baking sheet - more on that later). Zucchini blossoms pop up everywhere here in Rome, in sandwiches, on pizza, still attached to the squash in the produce section. Stuffed blossoms appear on menus, deep-fried with ricotta inside. This is basically a sweet take on that.
I saw a recipe from New York magazine that featured this dessert, except it called for dried chocolate cake or chocolate cookies for the 'breading.' Opting to go a non-chocolate route, we chose some almond cookies (graham crackers and Carr's whole wheat cookies were our first two choices, but neither were available). A mason jar full of raw honey from our beekeeper friend Josh in Vermont already sat on our counter. So, the other ingredients to buy were eggs (two) some fresh ricotta and basil (which was also not in the original recipe, but I thought would be nice).
The ricotta, basil, honey and an egg white mixed together easily for the filling. The amount of honey you put in depends on your taste. I recommend sampling the mixture before combining in the egg white. You know, to avoid eating raw egg white.
Some of the flowers still had the stamen inside, some didn't. I wasn't sure how delicately I'd have to handle them. It turns out, they're more resilient than their dainty beauty would suggest. Just get a fingertip in between two leaves and they'll all flop open pretty easily. The petals stick to the cheese, which is handy when you're folding them all back together. The natural seal formed is fantastic. Though, I'm sure it also helped that we bought relatively firm fresh ricotta.
The cookies crumbled easily in our palms and - not having a pastry brush - we coated the stuffed blossoms in a beaten egg with our fingertips. It was a very hands on affair. The 'breading' process was made easier by the fact that we'd refrigerated the blossoms after stuffing them. It made them a lot easier to handle. Again, firmer ricotta helped, I'm sure.
A quick google told us that 350degrees farenheit equals about 175 celsius. Fifteen minutes and they were done! The ricotta had become a sweet cake , the cookie had crisped. If you're not into the taste of zucchini, I recommend breaking off the stems. But I actually liked having that weird vegetable element in there. Ours weren't as crispy as they should've/could've been and took a little longer to cook because we didn't have a cookie sheet. Instead, we coated our cast iron skillet with butter and placed that in the oven. That gave the bottoms an unintentionally sauteed quality.

Now for all the ingredients: (sorry for the lack of measurements, but your eyes and tastebuds will do just fine)

squash blossoms- aka zucchini blossoms
ricotta cheese- fresh, fresh, fresh. if you have a choice, go with the firmer one
1 whole egg
1 egg white
honey (real maple syrup would work well, too)
basil (or mint, maybe?)
graham crackers (again - we used Anna's Almond thins, but graham crackers would have been our first choice. plus, they're easier to find - except when you're in Rome)
butter- for pan coating

put them into a preheated 350degree oven for 30 - 35 minutes and you're done! being as the cheese cakes as opposed to melting, they're not too hot to pop into your mouth fresh out of the oven.

1 comment:

  1. one of my favorite Italian food memories will always be the stuffed squash blossoms, as a savory appetizer..in fact, i am hoping to somewhat, discreetly plant a vine or two offside apartment dwelling...i am looking forward to making your dessert concoction as well! thanks!