There's no need to fear this beautiful summer ingredient. 
Zucchini Blossoms
Credit: Victor Protasio

If you've been admiring squash blossoms—the beautiful orange flowers from a zucchini plant—from afar for years but have never personally tried your hand at them, now's the time. Just ask Melissa Rodriguez, Executive Chef at New York City's Del Posto.

"While they are delicate, they aren't precious," says Rodriguez, who loves the blossoms' mild summer squash flavor. She tears the flowers to toss with cooked pasta, shreds them into frittatas, and stuffs the whole blooms with lobster meat, fresh mint, and mascarpone (see the recipe here.) "They're only at the Greenmarket for a few weeks at the beginning of summer," she says, "and as a chef, I get so excited."

First, you need to know what you're looking for at the market.

You can find squash blossoms at the farmers markets or at some grocery stores when they're in season. Look for blooms that are bright and not shriveled, and use them as quickly as possible after buying.

Once you've bought your blossoms, here's how to clean them:

1. Using kitchen tweezers or long, thin scissors, clip away the pointed sepals where the stem meets the flower.

2. Blow into the flower so the petals separate naturally. Pluck out the stamen or pistils from inside.

3. Use a pastry brush to gently remove any dirt or pollen.

Now comes the fun part: Cooking.

You've probably had them fried and stuffed with cheese, or as a topping on pizza.

You can also sautée them in butter with scallions and then add beaten eggs to the pan and bake for a simple frittata. Or, toss them with spaghetti, golden tomatoes, basil and olive oil for a quick dinner. Dress them with olive oil and lemon in a salad of pea tendrils and arugula to serve with burrata and warm bread, and you've just made an elegant but easy meal.

But try Rodriguez's recipe for zucchini blossoms with a lobster-and-mascarpone filling, and you may never look back. You can swap in crabmeat, cooked shrimp, or diced zucchini in place of the lobster, if you like.

For more ways to cook with squash blossoms, see these six Food & Wine recipes.