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Crisply luscious, these blooms melt with flavor

CULINARY SOS

July 12, 2006|Barbara Hansen | Times Staff Writer

The voluptuous cheese filling in AOC's stuffed squash blossoms is just one reason this dish is so wonderful. A lemony aioli drizzled over the top blends with the nuttiness of pepitas (squash seeds). Restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila alerted us to this dish, created by Suzanne Goin. Says Goin, "I think they are so fun and delicious and fresh tasting while still having that indulgent fried and melted cheese aspect."

AOC stuffed squash blossoms with pepitas

Total time: 1 hour

Servings: 4

Note: Tetilla cheese or fresh mozzarella can substitute for the Spanish Gallego cheese. Tetilla is available at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, the CheeseStore of Silverlake and La Espanola in Harbor City.

Lemon aioli

1 large egg yolk

1/2 cup grape seed oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small clove garlic

Kosher salt

1/2 lemon, zested, plus 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch cayenne pepper

1. Place the yolk in a stainless steel bowl. Begin whisking in the grape seed oil drop by drop. Once the mixture has thickened and emulsified, whisk in the remaining grape seed oil and the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. If the mixture gets too thick, add a drop or two of water.

2. With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic with one-third teaspoon salt. Whisk the garlic paste into the aioli. Season with one-fourth teaspoon salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, the lemon zest and cayenne. Taste for balance and seasoning. If the aioli seems thick and gloppy, thin it with a little water until creamy.

Batter

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pinch cayenne

1 egg, beaten

1 cup very cold soda water

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt and cayenne. Whisk to combine completely, and make a well in the center.

2. Place the egg in the well and whisk from the center outward to incorporate the flour. Then whisk in the cold soda water until the batter is smooth. Make this right before deep frying.

Blossoms and assembly

2 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 cup soft melting cheese (AOC uses Spanish Gallego), chopped

1/4 cup minced shallots

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Juice of 1 lemon, divided

12 squash blossoms with baby squash attached, pistil removed, stem end trimmed, and squash split in four, lengthwise

Canola oil for deep frying

1 recipe batter

1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves

1/4 cup pepitas, toasted, half of them roughly chopped

1 recipe lemon aioli

1. In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta and Gallego cheeses.

2. In a medium saute pan, sweat the shallots, thyme and salt and pepper to taste in one-fourth cup olive oil over medium heat until soft and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool, and fold the shallots into the cheese mixture.

3. Stir in the parsley and season with most of the lemon juice (reserving a squeeze of juice) and additional salt and pepper to taste.

4. Carefully stuff the blossoms with the filling, about 2 to 3 tablespoons for each, and twist them at the ends.

5. Heat oil for deep frying to 360 degrees. Dip each of the blossoms in the batter to coat, then drop them carefully into the oil. Fry the blossoms in batches for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden brown on all sides. Turn them over halfway through. Drain them on paper towels and season with salt and a squeeze of lemon.

6. Toss the parsley leaves and the pepitas in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon, 2 teaspoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

7. Arrange the blossoms on a platter. Spoon the aioli over and around them and scatter the parsley-pepita salad over the top.

Each serving: 1,225 calories; 26 grams protein; 34 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 111 grams fat; 24 grams saturated fat; 178 mg. cholesterol; 944 mg. sodium.

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