Bologna is the kind of city in Italy that one visits not for ancient Roman ruins (there's a tiny bit), grandiose cathedrals (sure, they have churches just like every other town in Italy), or the longest portico in the world (actually, that was kind of cool), but for the food. I spent 5 days in Bologna 2 years ago, and most of the time was spent eating (and drinking!). Parma and Modena are both easy drives from Bologna, which you might recognize as the important producers, respectively, of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena D.O.P., which is how our guide Alessandro referred to it every. single. time. he. talked. about. balsamic. vinegar. I also did a day long cooking class in Bologna, which is where I first had fried squash blossoms. They weren't even stuffed with anything, just a simple flour and club soda batter (with a small splash of brandy for extra flavor), then fried and sprinkled with salt. Sitting on a balcony in Italy on a breezy June evening as the sun set, sipping sparkling wine and chowing down on fried squash blossoms is kind of awesome, in case you were wondering. However, if you can't afford to do that on a regular basis (though I am almost out of my Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena D.O.P. ....), try making them yourself at home. You could just pick up a few at the PSU Farmer's Market, or even better, if you have 827 zucchini in your garden right now, save yourself the heartache of having to sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch and harvest the blossoms instead.
18 squash blossoms, brushed of dirt and/or stowaway bugs (you can wash them but they're fairly fragile so I wouldn't recommend it unless they're super dirty)
6 oz fromage blanc (or goat cheese)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
6 skinny scallions, finely chopped
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup seltzer water/club soda
optional splash of brandy
vegetable oil, for frying
1. Mix the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, scallions, and parsley. Add half of this mixture to the flour. To the remaining garlic-scallions-and-parsley, add the fromage blanc or goat cheese and stir until incorporated.
3. Carefully open the squash blossoms and spoon in a little of the cheese mixture, about a Tbsp's worth. Close the petals around the cheese filling and slightly twist the ends together to keep the cheese from leaking out later.
4. Heat a large, deep bottomed skillet or pot over medium heat and pour in 1/2 inch depth of vegetable oil. As always for proper frying technique- think crispy, not oily/soggy!!- have your handy-dandy infrared or regular kitchen thermometer nearby so you can periodically check for when the oil has reached the proper temperature.
5. Into the flour, pour the club soda and splash of Brandy, if using. Whisk until a thin batter is formed, about the consistency of a crepe batter.
6. Once your oil temperature has reached 375 degrees, start dipping the stuffed squash blossoms one at a time in the batter (this is why you should leave a bit of the stem attached, because it makes for a convenient handle), then carefully slip it into the hot oil. Add as many as will fit in your pan without touching/overcrowding. I was able to fry five at a time. Adjust the stovetop temperature as necessary to maintain the oil at 375 degrees.
7. Fry each blossom for about 90 seconds and then flip over, for a total of 3 minutes cooking time, or until each blossom is lightly golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a wire rack or a paper towel-lined plate to soak up any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining blossoms until finished. Once cool enough to try, eat one to see if it needs any more salt, and if so, lightly sprinkle the finished fried blossoms with kosher or sea salt.
8. You can serve plain or with some marinara sauce for dipping. Both ways are tasty!