One of the most beautiful products of summer is also one of the most fleeting. Squash blossoms can be hard to find due to their highly perishable nature, but chefs love them for their mild flavor and floral presentation.
You won’t see squash blossoms on the menu at American Harvest Eatery in Springfield, Illinois, but if you’re there at the right time, you just might catch a special from chefs Jordan and Aurora Coffey. Squash blossoms are grown specifically for the husband-and-wife team by nearby Suttill’s Gardens, so they show up as an appetizer, topping or garnish as they’re available through the season. American Harvest has featured them stuffed with a light cheese like ricotta or goat – or perhaps chorizo instead – and tempura-fried, or raw on a pizza with burrata and herb pesto. “The flavor’s real subtle – they’re flower petals, so they’re soft in texture, but it still has a squashy, earthy flavor to it,” Jordan says. “If you eat them raw, they have a light bitterness, so we usually dress them with a vinaigrette that’s got a bit of honey or some sweetness to balance it out.” Jordan says he and Aurora like to play around with different preparations of the special summer ingredient. “We do seasonal, contemporary American food,” he says. “We use what’s around, when it’s around – we’ll have squash blossoms through the summer until they’re done, and then it’s on to fall products.”
American Harvest Eatery, 3241 W. Iles Ave., Springfield, Illinois, 217.546.8300, americanharvesteatery.com
Chef Mathis Stitt of Veritas Gateway to Food and Wine in Ellisville, Missouri, likes to use squash blossoms as a complement to any dish with summer squash. “It keeps the dish relatively simple in terms of the number of ingredients but adds to the variety and texture,” he says. Stitt starts by removing the pistils (from female flowers) and stamens (from males), which he usually procures from Double Star Farms in Benton, Illinois. Then, he says, you can eat them raw, cook them, or batter and fry them. At Veritas, the sliced raw blossoms appear in a squash salad with roasted summer squash, goat cheese and arugula. In early July, he ran a braised pork entrée with raw squash blossoms, sweet
corn-goat cheese, roasted zucchini, yellow squash and arugula, as well. He’s also complemented a summer squash soup with fried squash blossoms stuffed with an olive-anchovy-cheese mixture. “[Home] gardeners have the best access to squash blossoms because trying to buy them at a farmers’ market – they’re perishable and kind of expensive,” Stitt says. “But if you’re gardening, you can just get them as they’re available and throw them in salads or risotto dishes without having to worry about using them before they go bad. Squash is one of the best parts of the summer, and it has a lot of different uses that you can pull from.”
Veritas Gateway to Food and Wine, 15860 Fountain Plaza, Ellisville, Missouri, 636.227.6800, veritasgateway.com
Squash blossoms are common in the cuisine of central Mexico, says Ivan Marquez, co-owner of Cacao in Prairie Village, Kansas. Marquez sometimes uses squash blossoms in a traditional quesadilla preparation, with Oaxaca or asadero cheese in a corn tortilla; in a creamy soup; or as a garnish with its meat entrées. Don’t miss the Flor de Calabaza enchiladas, though: Squash blossoms are used to make a béchamel-like sauce that tops the requesón cheese-filled tortillas. “Squash blossoms [taste] kind of sweet – it’s a very peculiar flavor,” Marquez says. If you can’t find the sunny yellow and orange flowers fresh, Marquez suggests tracking down a canned or jarred version and mixing it with ground beef or cheese. “We don’t try to complicate it a lot [at Cacao], and people love it,” he says.
Cacao, 5200 W. 59th St., Prairie Village, Kansas, 913.296.7485, cacaokc.com