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Seasonal Pantry: Delicious ways to cook with squash blossoms

We're at a special point in summer's harvest, an intersession, so to speak, when there is plenty of zucchini on the vine and at local farmers markets but not so much that it's stalking us in our sleep.

"Sneak Some Zucchini On Your Neighbor's Porch Night," on Aug. 8, is still weeks away, although if we have too many more hot spells, look out, it will be taking over.

One way to prevent this is to harvest the blossoms before they turn into fruit. For this strategy to work, you must snag the female flowers, not just the male blossoms. You can recognize the difference because the stem of the male flower is straight and the blossom has no pistil. Female flowers have a round swelling at the base of the blossom; this is the ovary and it will grow, quite quickly, into a zucchini.

Some experts warn not to harvest the female blossoms, lest you not have enough squash. But isn't reducing the quantity part of the point? I've never heard a single person say, "Oh, darn, I ate too many zucchini blossoms and now I don't have enough squash." It's not going to happen, so don't worry about it. Besides, if your own plants don't produce enough, you can always wait until the morning of Aug. 9 and check your porch.

If you've got a surplus of squash blossoms, a simple way to use them that does not involve cooking is to simply remove their stems, julienne them and add them to salad greens.

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Squash blossoms make wonderful little packages that hold delicious fillings, perfect as an appetizer — and delicious with sparkling wine — and good as a first course, too.

One of the most common ways to fill them is with a blend of cheeses, and in this recipe I use two local ones from Bellwether Farms.

You may also fill squash blossoms with leftover polenta, leftover risotto and even leftover dirty rice, in which case I recommend serving remoulade sauce alongside. If you have leftover paella, fill the blossoms and make a simple Romesco sauce to accompany them.

<b>Fried Squash Blossoms Filled with Bellwether Ricotta and Pepato</b>


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