Tempura-fried squash blossoms with eggplant-almond stuffing

Summer officially starts when you make this dish for a cookout. This is peak party food—seasonal, salty, colorful, crunchy, dredged, and delicious. The idea for this recipe came after I read an article about ancient Africans making cheese. The piece described how archeological scientists at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom analyzed organic residuals on pottery in the Libyan Sahara and discovered the remains of dairy products made from cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk, dating back to between 7,200 and 5,800 years ago. Around the time I read the article, summer squash was at its peak. I saw some beautiful blossoms at the market and created this recipe, inspired by the classic cheese-stuffed squash blossoms. This flavorful eggplant-almond stuffing contrasts brilliantly with the crunchy coating on the blossoms. Keeping it seasonal, I serve the fried blossoms with a simply sautéed mixture of fresh sweet corn and zucchini.

Ingredients:

corn puree

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (from 4 large ears)

1 cup vegetable stock

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1 large lemon

sautéed corn and zucchini

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1½ cups diced zucchini

Kernels from 3 ears fresh sweet corn

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

squash blossoms

1 medium eggplant

1 cup slivered blanched almonds

2 tablespoons Umami Powder

2 tablespoons minced basil

1 tablespoon yellow miso paste

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

12 large squash blossoms, stems intact, pistils removed

Vegetable oil, for frying

1¼ cups flour

¾ cup chilled club soda

Peach Filfel Chuma (recipe follows), for serving

Directions

Make the corn puree: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the olive oil and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the garlic smells fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the corn and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and stir well to combine.

Transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the puree starts to thicken, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Make the corn and zucchini: In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil until shimmering. Add the zucchini, cover, and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Add the corn and continue cooking, stirring often, until the corn is heated through and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the corn and zucchini to a serving bowl. Wipe the pot clean with a kitchen towel.

Make the squash blossoms: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet and roast until very soft, about 45 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Slice the eggplant in half, then scoop out its flesh into a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Press the eggplant with a spatula or the back of a spoon to extract as much of its liquid as possible. You should have about 1 cup of eggplant. Transfer to a food processor and add the almonds, umami powder, basil, miso, lemon juice, cayenne, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Process until well blended. Season to taste with additional salt and lemon juice.

Gently open the petals of each blossom and stuff a heaping tablespoon of the eggplant mixture down toward the base. Twist the tops of the petals together and transfer to a plate.

Fill the Dutch oven you used for the corn and zucchini with vegetable oil to a depth of about 2 inches and heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F. Line a plate with paper towels and set it nearby.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt. When the oil is close to the right temperature, add the club soda to the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Some small lumps are fine; be careful not to overmix.

Dip a few of the stuffed blossoms into the batter to coat. Gently shake off any excess batter, then transfer the blossoms to the hot oil and fry until golden brown all over, about 90 seconds per side. Transfer to the paper towel—lined plate and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat to batter and fry the remaining blossoms.

Divide the corn puree between four shallow bowls and place three squash blossoms and a scoop of zucchini and corn over the puree. Serve with the Peach Filfel Chuma for dipping.