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Squash Blossoms: The Summer French Fry

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As some of you know, savory does it for me much more than sweet. That means potato chips, French fries, and a toasted bagel with butter win the captivation contest over cookies and donuts.

Nearly five years ago, I embarked on a fitness endeavor and life makeover that had me questioning the status quo of my eating habits. I'd reached an all-time high of 345 pounds, but dieting was out of the question. There was no doubt in my mind that decades of it had only made me heavier and more off-the-wall with food choices. But, desiring significantly better health, I knew I had to come to terms with two truths where food was concerned:

1. I am who I am and will always have a preference for savory (sometimes fried) foods, so there would be no more playing of the 'never again' game.

2. If I wanted to no longer weigh 300 pounds-plus, I would seriously have to come to terms with quantity and the frequency with which I enjoyed the salty treats. So when I really want them, I'll have a gluten-free bagel or an order of French fries. Both may be gluten-free but they're hardly calorie-free, so I indulge judiciously (often on a heavy workout day). During the months of summer, however, I'm known to indulge in my salty-fried fetish a little more often because of a delicate and short-lived crop known as the squash blossom.

These gorgeous, pale-orange flowers emanate from zucchini and squash and can be found at farmers markets, or if you've played your cards right, from your own garden. They have a miniscule shelf life, so if you're lucky enough to score a brown paper bag of blossoms, fry them the day you buy them. A little tip: insects sometimes love to burrow within the cavernous center, so I do the humane thing and let them sit on the counter for half an hour or so to allow ample escape time.

To make these gluten-free, use any kind of gluten-free flour or all-purpose baking mix. For this batch, I used mung bean flour, which I bought at an Indian imports store. It's lentil-based, packs a more fibrous punch than white flours, and is great for coating. If you don't have a can of seltzer handy, room temperature water will do. I highly recommend grapeseed oil for frying for its high flashpoint (meaning it won't smoke easily when used with high heat). If you don't have grapeseed, use light olive oil but DON'T use extra virgin as it will just scorch and become carcinogenic. And you will need higher heat to get these nice and crisp.

I'm sure the blossoms themselves have some nutritional value, making these a healthier choice than many of the carbs I once spent a lot of time with such as the potato chip, or my personal favorite: the blob of fried dough. But let's get real: this is basically a fun food, crafted for pure enjoyment. And to use a direct quote from Stuart Smalley, "That's... OK."

Fried Squash Blossoms

  • Fresh squash blossoms
  • 1 can plain seltzer
  • Gluten-free flour
  • Salt
  • Grapeseed oil for frying
There are no hard and fast rules here. The idea is to get the oil nice and hot so when the battered blossoms are dropped in they immediately begin sizzling. I don't use thermometers so start by heating enough oil to at least cover the bottom of a frying skillet. No need to submerge them, but they should fry in at least a shallow pool of hot oil. Turn heat to a medium-high and let the oil heat while you're mixing the batter. The idea is to make a thin batter with just enough consistency to coat each blossom. If you want the blossoms more doughy, make the batter thicker. I like a fairly thin, crisp coating. Start with about a half cup of flour , add a small amount of seltzer, and stir vigorously with a wire whisk to get out any lumps. You want something that resembles pancake batter, only thinner. Add salt to taste. Dip the blossoms in the batter one at a time, coat thoroughly, then drop into the hot oil, being CAREFUL not to splash yourself. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side or until crisp. As each one cooks, blot on a paper towel and then transfer to a warm oven so the batch remains crisp during cooking time. Or, if you're like them as they're ready. Bon Appetit!