AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Farmers Market - Part 1: Zucchini and Squash Blooms DATE: 7/01/2008 12:20:00 PM ----- BODY:
Zucchini and other summer squashes proliferate in the garden at an astonishing rate. This plays out in the supermarket when the price plummets from $2/pound to $.49/pound during peak season. Grocers practically give it away, and home gardeners usually do.

For me, this is good news since most markets (farmers’ or traditional brick and mortar) don’t sell squash blossoms – the flower that precedes the vegetable. And with their prolific growth rate, I may actually get enough flowers to serve a meal to more than one guest. The few times I’ve seen them in the markets they can cost $1/each.

I’ve seen squash blossoms in Native American, Mexican and Italian Cuisines. This suggests to me that they are not a faddish new vegetable… they have been enjoyed for centuries. In Oaxaca, Mexico, Squash blossoms are a frequent filling for Quesadillas or a garnish for tortilla soup.



Harvesting squash blossoms requires careful timing. You want them before they bloom, though sometimes it’s tough to distinguish between a bloom that opened and closed, and one that has yet to open. You can see here that the tip of the flower on the left is slightly curled. This is a sure sign that the flower already opened. Once you harvest the squash blossom, gingerly pull open a petal and snip out the stamen – which can be especially bitter and ruin a perfectly good meal. I had tried to take a picture for you – when the blossom was fully open, stamen poking out, but in the 10 minutes it took me to run inside and grab my camera, the flower had already started to close up. Sometimes, the bloom grows out of the zucchini, and sometimes it just grows out of the stem. If can get it off the vegetable, then you are in for a treat.

In the Italian style, squash blossoms are stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto. They can be battered and fried and served with a light tomato sauce. In the Mexican style, I stuff them with black beans, goat cheese and mint. I spice the batter with a little cumin and chili and serve them with a tomato salsa.

In the farmers market this week, globe zucchini flank the tables. Their bulbous shape makes them ideal for stuffing. My favorite is a traditional Eastern European flavored beef filling – mixed with rice, onions and tomatoes, seasoned with cinnamon, lemon zest, pine nuts and raisins.

Fried Squash Blossoms with Tomato Salsa

20 squash blossoms, stamen gently removed
¼
lb. goat cheese
½
cup cooked black beans, seasoned with dried cumin and oregano
1 tbs. fresh mint, chopped
1 cup flour
1 egg
1/2 tsp. baking powder
salt, pepper and cumin to taste
oil for frying

1. Mix the filling by combining cheese, black beans and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Gingerly stuff each squash blossom with about 1 tablespoon of filling.

3. Make a batter by combining flour, baking powder, salt and cumin. Make a well and add egg and 1 cup water. Whisk to combine.

4. Heat a large pot with oil. Gently dip each blossom in batter and fry in oil until golden brown on all sides. Serve with salsa.

Salsa
2 tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper, diced
¼ red onion, diced
2-3 tbs. cilantro, diced
1 jalapeno or chipotle, diced
1 lime, juiced
2 scallions, cut into rounds
salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix everything together.


Stuffed Zucchini
2 globe zucchinis
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion diced
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 pound ground beef
2 tomatoes, diced
¼ cup red wine
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 cup cooked rice
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
Pinch cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Cut Zucchinis in half, through the stem. Scoop out the seeds and place in a roasting pan, cut side up.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Season generously with salt and pepper. Let cook, without stirring for 10 minutes, or until meat starts to brown on the bottom.
  3. Add tomatoes, red wine, pine nuts and raisins and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorb. Remove from heat. Stir in rice, cinnamon, cayenne, lemon zest and mint. Adjust seasoning with salt pepper and lemon juice
  4. Fill each zucchini with ¼ of the filling mix. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until zucchini is tender.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous TopVeg DATE:7/02/2008 11:35:00 AM Thanks - that is really interesting. Did not know you had to take the stamen out! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:7/02/2008 01:38:00 PM Topveg, I learned the hard way about taking the stamen out. The bitter taste lingers through the whole dish. Are you growing zucchini in your garden? ----- --------