It seems that every time we turn around, there’s another spectacular dinner popping up in a farm field somewhere. As far as we’re concerned, this is a very good thing.
Six years ago, Jonathan Rapp of the River Tavern Restaurant in Chester, Connecticut, together with Drew McLachlan of Feast Gourmet Market in nearby Deep River and Chip Dahlke of Ashlawn Farm in Lyme, launched a series of farm dinners of their own. More than just opportunities for guests to indulge in locally-grown, multi-course feasts, Dinners at the Farm serve a charitable purpose: Since the events began, Jonathan and his team have donated $105,000 to local agricultural and humanitarian organizations, and they’ve purchased more than $180,000 worth of food and wine from area producers.
Jonathan Rapp and his team catered my own Connecticut farm wedding last August and I’ve been eager to tell their story ever since. I’ve been equally eager to recreate the particularly dainty squash blossom fritter that I managed to eat in the moments between saying my vows and sitting down to the wedding dinner.
Read on for a look at Jonathan’s pickup truck kitchen, plus step-by-step instructions for how make that memorable appetizer.
Photos by Michelle Parr Paulson
Above: Dinners at the Farm tents and tables set up alongside a field of zinnias at Barberry Hill Farm in Madison, Connecticut (see 12 Tips for Growing Cutting Flowers).
Above: Jonathan’s 1955 cherry red Ford F-600, outfitted to cook multi-course feasts.
Above: Jonathan at work in the back of the old Ford, frying up squash blossoms.
Last weekend, I managed to coax the recipe out of Jonathan. His squash blossoms aren’t stuffed, just lightly fried in a tempura batter. The simple recipe combines humble field flowers and chick pea flour with sparkling wine. In other words, like the farm dinners themselves, it’s just the right mix of farm and fancy.
Squash Blossom Tempura by Jonathan Rapp
- chick pea flour
- sea salt to taste
- sparkling wine
- canola oil
- squash blossoms (stems in place)
Quickly mix the first three ingredients into a light, liquid-y batter [Editor’s note: Jonathan mixes this batter in large volumes for hungry dinner guests; in my home kitchen I used 1 cup of chick pea flour, a few healthy pinches of sea salt, and enough sparkling wine to make a soupy batter, about 3/4 of a bottle. This was more than enough for 20 squash blossoms]. Do not over mix, you don’t want to lose the effervescence of the sparkling wine. Working quickly, carefully dredge the blossoms in batter and deep fry in hot canola oil. Place blossoms onto a cookie sheet or hotel pan lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil and serve immediately.*
Photos and notes by Erin Boyle
Above: Squash blossoms, ready for a dip in the batter. NB: If you attempt to harvest your own squash blossoms, make sure that you take only the male flowers, which don’t become the fruit (if you need a lesson on The Summer Sex Life of Squash, The Kitchn has an excellent tutorial).
Above: A cup (or so) of chick pea flour, plus sea salt and sparkling wine. Sparkling water will work in place of the wine, but won’t be nearly as much fun for the chef.
Above: If you’re cooking a small amount of squash blossoms at home like I did, consider using a seasoned cast-iron skillet. I used a 12-inch Skillet, $12.95 from Lodge.
Above: Dredge squash blossom in chickpea and sparkling wine batter. The mixture should be mixed lightly enough to retain the wine bubbles.
Above: I used a 5-inch Spider Strainer, $7.99 from Amazon, to remove the blossoms from the hot canola oil.
Above: To soak up excess oil, transfer fried blossoms to a towel before serving.
Above: Serve blossoms immediately. They’re delicious all by themselves, but a quick dip in aioli is delightful.