Monday, June 28, 2010

Meatless Monday

This morning when I was in the garden, I noticed the pumpkin blossoms blooming (below).

It was just this past weekend that I commented on a series of pictures of harvested squash and their blossoms posted by my Facebook friend, British actress and author, Carol Drinkwater.

Carol and her husband have an olive farm above Nice, in the dry Mediterranean climate of the south of France. There they grow olives--which produce award-winning olive oil--farm bees, and harvest produce from their vegetable garden.

The growing season is obviously longer in the south of France since the pictures Carol posted of the squash from her garden reveal large, ready-to-eat squash, versus the just-budding pumpkin growing in the Colorado garden I'm care-taking.

Pumpkins, which are actually a gourd-like squash, produce the same edible yellow flowers as the zucchini, a summer squash.

Last August, when house sitting another property, an urban farm with a huge vegetable garden, I wrote about preparing squash blossoms for a series of garden-to-table vegetarian side dishes.

Seeing Carol's pictures this weekend on Facebook, and then noting the pumpkin blossoms in the garden this morning, I thought I'd reprint a variation on my recipe for stuffed squash blossoms for this week's Meatless Monday all-vegetarian meal idea.

Lining the platter of cooked blossoms (pic at top) are nasturtium leaves and their flowers.

To the left are nasturtiums growing in the garden.

Both the nasturtium leaves and the flowers are edible and they're easy to grow, even in a window box! (Or find them at your local farmer's market.)

The leaves have a delicate peppery flavor, and the flowers look amazing tossed into a simple green salad because of their bright orange, yellowy-red color (pic at very top).

(The pink flowers in the pic just above are not nasturtium flowers.)

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Nasturtium Leaf Salad
1) If you have access to a vegetable garden, that's probably the most likely place you'll find squash blossoms (or your local farmer's market). Pick blossoms which are open and healthy looking.
2) In the kitchen, 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 vegetarian dish!) Set blossoms aside.
4) Into a bowl crumble about a cup or so of cornbread. If you made my DuckEgg cornbread, use stale leftovers. Or you could use stale bread crumbs or leftover cooked rice.
5) To the bowl, add your choice of grated vegetable, such as carrot or zucchini, perhaps some green onion, and some fresh herbs i.e. basil and oregano, or sage and thyme, or parsley and cilantro -- a mix of your favorite herbs.
6) Add one large or two small eggs to the mix, stirring gently so the stuffing binds. If mixture is sloppy, add more grain or crumbs.
Note: As you can see in the pic at top, my stuffing was too wet and so it oozed out of the blossoms. To avoid this, make sure your stuffing is firm, one large, rather than two small eggs, may be plenty.
7) You might also like to add your choice of grated cheese, i.e. Parmesan.
8) Take a small teaspoon of stuffing and place it into the center of each blossom. As you stuff each blossom, curl the end so that the blossom is sealed; now place it on a baking tray and moisten with a little olive oil.
9) 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 them to overcook, but you do want the stuffing to set.

To Serve: Decorate a serving platter with nasturtium leaves and nasturtium flowers. Using an egg spatula, gently arrange the hot, stuffed blossoms in the center of the platter.

To a bowl of Garlic Dressed Salad Greens add a couple handfuls of nasturtium leaves and a handful of the edible flowers, toss, and serve salad alongside your platter of stuffed squash blossoms.

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