Flor de Calabaza or “The Boys of Summer”

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 4.59.25 PMBy Leigh Morrow

These delicate flowers with their brightly yellow colored trumpet shaped blooms and slightly zucchini-like flavor, can be battered and fried, stuffed and baked, torn in strips to decorate pasta and summer salads, stirred into soups or make a superb filler for your quesadillas with my favorite stringy Oaxaca cheese.

In huge bunches I first saw them for sale in the markets of Mexico, and would have easily popped them in a vase, to revive their wilting, and enjoyed their showy faces in such a happy shade of yellow.

However, to eat them as a summer appetizer, is quite simply, bliss. At first I wondered if I had dashed my blossoms fate as a future squash by eating them instead of nurturing them through pregnancy. Squash Sex 101. Squash blossoms come in both genders, male and female. However, only the female blossom will mature into a vegetable. The females grow close to the center of the squash plant, squatting low on stubby stalks that when fertilized, quickly swell and develop into baby squash. Male blossoms are distinctively different if you know what to look for. The male grows on long stalks that wind through the plant and off down the garden, and will always out number and outweigh the female blossoms. The male, showy and numerous, is what you pick and devour with no sense of betrayal. Picked at night, the blossoms will be open and perfect for stuffing. Raw or cooked these blossoms are best-consumed 48 hours after picking (or before) and be sure to remove the stamen and wash in cool water.

Pinterest has 86 posts of things to do with these “Boys of Summer”. Some chefs use the blossoms with roasted poblano peppers, corn and onion in a typically Mexican flavor combination. Other cooks will use a tempura batter on the flowers and deep fry, and serve on a salad of thinly sliced zucchini. Others like to stuff with four cheeses and cayenne pepper with fresh tangy tomato vinaigrette. I like something very simple to try and preserve the delicate flavor these beauties.

Edible flowers have always been a passion of mine, from nasturtiums and borage, to calendula and chamomile, but these big yellow buds provide a wonderful vessel for creative fillings that capture the essence of summer and the irony of nature that a plant so large and prickly can produce such delicate and delicious blossoms. Buen Provecho!

BAKED SQUASH BLOSSOMS WITH PINE NUT FILLING

10 Squash Blossoms, rinsed and stamens removed.

1-Tablespoon Olive Oil

Sea Salt to Taste

For the filling:

1/2 cup pine nuts, soaked in hot water for at least 2 hours

1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 3 tablespoons water

1tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons (about 10 leaves) fresh basil

1tablespoon fresh parsley

1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed

Sea salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper

In a food processor, combine soaked pine nuts, mustard, water, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. Blend, taste, and add salt and pepper according to your preference. Scoop into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (You can make the day before. This allows the flavors to really come together. If you don’t have the time, by all means use right away, it will still taste awesome!)

Pre heat oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Rinse and let squash blossoms air dry. Using a small knife, make a slit on one side. Cut the stamen from the inside of the flower (hard yellow fuzzy stem inside the flower).

Using a tiny spoon fill each flower with two healthy spoonfuls.

Twist the end of the flower to close. Place the flowers on your baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each flower with olive oil (bottoms too), and sprinkle them with large grain sea salt

Bake at 400° for 10 minutes checking them halfway through.   They should be a nice golden brown throughout. Enjoy!

Leigh Morrow operates Casa Mihale in the quaint ocean front community of San Agustinillo, Mexico www.gosanagustinillo.com

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