Maili’s Tempura-Fried Squash Blossoms and Tempura-Fried Basil Leaves
Serendipity is often your friend in the kitchen. During her class, Chef Maili planned to teach us how to prepare her delectable tempura-fried squash blossoms. But when we went out to my garden to harvest the blossoms, we realized we weren’t going to find enough for the recipe. Maili spotted my abundant basil leaves, though, and immediately suggested that we give them a try. And, of course, her fried basil creation became the hit of the class. We all agreed (with mouthfuls of basil bliss) that the stuffed and fried basil leaves were even tastier than the squash blossoms. The basil leaves are also smaller, making them a great option for a passed appetizer plate — they’re just the right size to pop in your mouth in one bite (and then catch the tray to grab one more).
Suffice to say, Maili knows how to stuff her squash blossoms: perhaps with crab and blood oranges … or a white bean puree … or goat cheese with hazelnuts … whatever is fresh and available. For our class she stuffed the blossoms and basil leaves with a mixture of goat cheese, minced jalapenos, minced dried apricots, and garlic. It may sound like a lot of ingredients, but believe me, it certainly tasted great and was very well balanced. It was a great complement to the Abarino from Spain we were drinking … did I mention how hard we were working to learn all these new recipes? After mixing the filling, Maili herself stuffed each blossom, and for the basil leaves, wrapped them up like tiny tacos, pinching the edges closed. She then dunked them in a tempura batter and fried them until golden brown.
To garnish the plate we used a combination of green bean and arugula flowers from my garden and added a drizzle of Maili’s reduced balsamic.*
Let me know what divine combinations you come up with!
Maili’s Tempura Batter
1 cup flour
½ cup corn starch
1 ¼ cups ice cold water (with ice in it)
1 teaspoon salt
Canola oil for frying
Reduced balsamic for drizzling
Stuff squash blossoms or basil leaves with the filling of your choice. Heat the oil in a deep-sided pan to 350 degrees. Mix tempura batter ingredients together. Ice cubes in the batter are okay. Dip blossoms quickly into batter and then gently place in hot oil. Fry until lightly brown.
Remove with a spider to a sheet pan lined with towels. Sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with reduced balsamic just before serving. Can be reheated in a 375-degree oven just before service, but are best served freshly fried.
*A great tip from Maili: She always keeps reduced balsamic vinegar in her fridge. By reducing it she creates a flavor similar to aged balsamicos. She simply buys a large bottle of balsamic vinegar at Costco (Kirkland brand) and cooks it down slowly on the stove until it reduces by half. Then she stores it in the fridge in a squirt bottle.