Succulent Squash Blossoms
Stuffed or fried (or both!), these bright orange beauties offer a burst of flavor in every bite.
Tempura-Fried Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed With Herbed Goat Cheese $14, Carmen
Bite into one of the zucchini blossoms at Carmen in the North End, and each layer calls out - the delicate olive-oil-fried coating gives way to the soft squash-flavored petals of the flower and then a gush of hot goat cheese. But it's the drizzle of balsamic reduction on top that makes these blossoms taste like dessert. They're served on an olive-wood board on a pile of fried zucchini sticks and curls of lemon zest. Bottom line This summery starter pleases the eye as much as the palate.
Crispy Zucchini Flowers With Tomato, Pancetta, And Polenta $15, Prezza
Served on a generous bed of creamy polenta, this appetizer at Prezza, also in the North End, is more substantial than the one at Carmen, and it's prepared simply enough to allow the subtle flavor of the blossoms - and their pretty petals - to shine through. Chef Anthony Caturano dips them in buttermilk and semolina before frying them, just as his Italian grandmother did. A spoonful of roasted-tomato and pancetta "gravy" adds just the right touch of sweetness and salt. "People love them," he says. It's not hard to see why. Bottom line This is Italian comfort food at its heartiest.
Squash Blossoms $7, Sorriso
Chef John Paine lets the blossoms speak for themselves at his Leather District establishment. The preparation is minimalist: He stuffs each blossom with milky ricotta cheese, fries it lightly in tempura batter, and serves every three-flower portion with a wedge of lemon, fresh parsley, sea salt, and pepper. Look for blossoms on the per la tavola ("for the table" - to be shared) portion of the menu. Bottom line These fiori are finger food - just right for splitting with companions.
CARMEN 33 North Square, Boston, 617-742-6421, carmenboston.com
PREZZA 24 Fleet Street, Boston, 617-227-1577, prezza.com
SORRISO 107 South Street, Boston, 617-259-1560, sorrisoboston.com