Friday, August 21, 2009

Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Strawbs with Rose Petals

I had an impromptu visitor at the farm this morning.

My friend, Cindy (wearing glasses at last Sunday's dinner) lives a couple miles west, toward Boulder. She rode her bike over at around 8 a.m.

Having just come up from feeding the goats and letting the chickens out of their coop, I put on the kettle for tea, fried some eggs, and made hot oatmeal. We ate breakfast outside, and what a yummy brekkie it was!

I tossed sunflower seeds into the oatmeal and the last of some cherry jam that a French friend gave me this summer. Dominique's mother in Marseilles made it with cherries from her orchard. She left the cherries whole, which I loved, because it contributed to the jam being one of the richest, chewiest cherry jams I've had.

I served Cindy the eggs with a side of oatmeal. I passed on eggs and had a bowl of oatmeal with the fixings I mention above, topped off with a sprinkling of whole almonds, a drizzle of honey, and a good glug of half and half.

The chickens scratched about at our feet, and as we stepped away to wander down to the veggie garden, I looked back toward the table and caught sight of two cheeky chooks on the table feeding on our leftovers.

I wonder about chickens eating scraps of fried egg -- do you think they have a clue they're eating something that given the right circumstances, would have been their progeny?

As I mentioned yesterday, there's one remaining vegetable dish that I made for last Sunday's dinner, but before I get the stuffed squash blossoms (pic below), I have to share a little back story:

A number of years ago, my sister in Australia called me in a panic. She was having friends over to dinner and she wanted to make a dish that was all the rage in Melbourne then, it was stuffed squash blossoms.

My sister went to fashion design school and she's worked in fashion ever since. Where I learned to cook watching my mother in the kitchen, my sister learned to sew and design watching my mother in the sewing room.

When we lived together in Melbourne, her culinary skill consisted of toasted cheese sandwiches and instant coffee. Needless to say, Melinda would call wherever I happened to be in the world, not with queries along lines of "how are you?" but along lines of "Oh, god, people coming to dinner, tell me, quick, how do you cook thus and such?!"

Having lived many years in Colorado when she called with her stuffed-blossom query, I made something up to satiate her need to know because I'd never heard of this newly in-vogue dish.

When I pottered around Barbara's garden last weekend, and saw the beautiful yellow-green squash blossoms flowering at the end of young green squash, I decided to put into practice the made-up instructions I'd given Melinda.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms
1) If you have access to a vegetable garden, that's probably the most likely place you'll find squash blossoms. Pick the young squash with open blossom attached.
2) In the kitchen, gently remove the blossom from the squash, and then just as gently cut the stamen out from inside the blossom.
3) Wash blossom of dirt and little bugs (you can of course leave the bugs in the blossom; they'll add to the mineral and protein content of this dish). Set blossoms aside.

4) Wash and grate the baby squash into a bowl. Take a handful at a time of grated squash, and squeeze it over the kitchen sink. Remove as much of the water from the squash as you can. Return grated squash to bowl.
5) To the bowl add rice or cooked polenta or bread crumbs to create a mix that's half grain and half squash.
6) Add one or two eggs to the mix, stirring gently so the stuffing binds together. If mixture is sloppy, add more grain / breadcrumbs.
7) You might also like to add your choice of grated cheese, i.e. Parmesan. I also added some chopped, lemon basil. You could substitute that for regular basil or parsley.
8) Take a small teaspoon of stuffing and place it into the center of each blossom.
9) As you stuff each blossom, curl the end close, and place it on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil.
10) Place baking tray of stuffed blossoms into heated 350-degree oven for about 10-15 mins. Keep and eye on the blossoms, you don't want then to overcook and brown, but you do want the stuffing to set.

To Serve: Decorate a serving platter with nasturtium leaves and nasturtium flowers -- both of which are edible, in fact their slightly peppery, slightly bitter flavor adds a piquancy to the delicate flavor of the stuffed blossoms. Using a spatula, gently arrange the hot, stuffed blossoms in the center of the platter.

The picture to the left is a mixed plate of all the side dishes I've mentioned this week. As you can see, it's a rainbow of color, a variegation of fresh and cooked vegetables collected from Barbara's garden.

To complete the meal, I made up individual dessert plates (pic below) featuring Barbara's strawberries, which have the flavor of wild, French woodland strawberries: sweet, yet delicate and slightly earthy.

To the dessert plate, I added a blob of yogurt drizzled with honey, and a white chocolate almond wafer topped with sliced Colorado peaches. (Yes, I went out and bought these ingredients!)

For a fun little flourish, I cut two, tiny red-rose buds from the garden. Removing the velvety petals, I placed the inner, most delicate petals on the plate for effect. Though of course, rose petals are edible too.

The dinner last Sunday was such a success the friends who came (above pic) asked for a repeat. So tonight, Friday, Catherine (on the right in the blue shirt) is bringing Australian lamb, and I think I'll barbecue it.


Louise Ross said...

I'm posting this comment on behalf of Patty:

Hey Louise,
The stuffed squash blossoms can you do that with pumpkin blossoms or would you recommend something else?

Louise Ross said...

Hey Patty,
Yep, you can use pumpkin blossoms. Pumpkin and squash are of the same family, I believe, and both produce an edible blossom that's great stuffed and baked or stuffed and gently pan fried, or coated in say a corn meal batter and deep fried.