Monday, September 22, 2008

This squash blossom's for you

Tomatero Organic Growers is clearly becoming my heart-throb farm stand of late. Not only did I find the charming lemon cucumbers and sweet tomatoes of recent posts at their Noe Valley farmers market stand, I also got this glossy zucchini there, with no extra charge for its lovely squash blossom headdress. Squash blossoms are often sold separately as specialty items, sometimes in their own plastic container for protection, so I was especially excited to get it as a freebie. The squash blossom, or flor de calabaza is common in Mexican cuisine, and I've had them fried up on tortillas in Mexico City, but I had never actually tried to prepare my own since they are more of a rarity here, and I've been a little too cheap/too daunted to experiment with them

My Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook had some tasty-looking advice on how to prepare my blossom. First, I sliced it off of the cucumber and rinsed it gently. Then I made a slit with a sharp knife (it needed extra help to open because it had wilted in on itself in the fridge overnight) and checked for bugs (Alice's recommendation). The pistil and stamen fuzzy bits looked somewhat insect-like but also like they should be left alone in their little cocoon, so I let them be. (I had to review my flower parts here, if you need to too.) The recipe then calls for sliding a "thumb-sized" piece of goat cheese into the flower chamber, and luckily I had a thumbish amount of creamy chevre from Point Reyes Farmstead in my fridge. In the next step, you're supposed to dip the flower in egg before rolling it in flour. I had no eggs, but the water from rinsing still made enough flour stick to my flower.

Once the olive oil got hot enough in the frying pan, I lay the squash blossom down. It began to sizzle and then did the most alarming thing. It began to heave and throb violently, like someone hyperventilating or gulping for their last breaths, or like a tell-tale heart pulsating under the floorboards of your bed. In order to go on, I had to remind myself that it was just a vegetable, that it had been inanimate matter for some time now. The blossom continued to puff in and out on itself as it browned on the outside and wilted like a shrinky-dink. After about one minute, it looked nice and toasty. My camera ran out of batteries, which is why I wasn't able to document the final result, but I will say that it was extremely delicious, with a deep, hearty flavor (hearty as in rich, not like an animal organ). I will definitely be making more of these in the future. And so should you! A Chez Panisse-inspired recipe and more squash blossom lore are waiting for you here.

No comments: