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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sweet Pumpkin Fritter

A sugar pumpkin flower dipped in sweet batter, fried and dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar. Yum.

This time I found the end had a slight bitter taste. I gathered the flowers a little later after drunken bees had wedged themselves into the middle. I gently shook them out of the flower. But I wonder if this was why the ends were slightly bitter - just a touch. It was hardly noticeable.

However, I'm removing the stamens now, just in case.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Pumpkin Flower Pesto

100 gr salted butter or half cup
1 clove garlic, sliced

200 gr pumpkin flowers, cleaned and destemmed (about 50)
50 gr Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter over low heat and add garlic. Cook until soft but not brown. Put flowers and chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano into the blender. Add melted butter and garlic. Process until smooth.

At this point, I put it into the freezer as we were not going to eat it for a while. I'll find out if this completely destroys the flavour.

The pesto was smooth and tasty but needed something to elevate it.

When I will use it, I'll mince a little fresh sage and cook gently in butter. I'll add it to the pumpkin pesto along with freshly ground pepper. The minced sage flecks should add another dimension to the dish.

Today's Haul

76 Flowers

1 butternut
11 acorn
12 zucchini
42 pumpkin


Squash blossom pesto?
Sweet battered pumpkin flower?
Battered fried pumpkin flowers with tiramis├║ filling?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pumpkin Flower Gelato

There was a video I watched of a famous Mexican chef and one quote struck me.

"Mexican food is rich in its poverty."

He was referring to the scarce resources that Mexicans would laboriously gather and turn them into exquisite regional dishes that could not be replicated elsewhere. It was inspired labour born out of necessity but it has emerged as unique culinary experiences for the regional, rich or well traveled.

Today, I'm making pumpkin flower gelato and it seems incredibly pretentious. (I'm using heirloom sugar pumpkin flowers too) The cost of squash blossoms is very high, if they are even available, and ordinarily this would be a costly and exclusive dish. This dish has neither been inspired by high brow aspirations nor scarcity of food resources, but by the abundance of my pumpkin plants in producing exquisite, fragrant flowers that I do not wish to waste.

But similar to the quote above, I'm using a normally scarce resource to create a dish that is rich and generous in its taste but will not travel far from my table.

I would encourage anyone who has a bit of room and a place to allow the pumpkins to climb, to plant them and be inspired too.

I was inspired by this Italian video demonstrating the making of zucchini gelato. A couple of things to note; he used pistachios, avocado and the entire zucchini flower. It was pureed with what appears to be water and added to the machine which contained the base. He also mentioned he could add shrimp but that becomes a restaurant food and they didn't seem fresh enough. It seems odd to me but he spoke of it being more Japanese with raw fish.

Gelato di Zucchini

Even though the stems could be used, I wanted to preserve the delicate orange colour; therefore no stems in the gelato.

Pumpkin Flower Gelato

800 mL heavy cream
200 mL white sugar
4 egg yolks
2 mL cinnamon (1/4 tsp)
1 mL ground cloves
1 mL ground nutmeg
1 vanilla bean split down the length

30 - 35 pumpkin flowers, cleaned and destemmed
50 - 100 mL water

For the base, whisk the first 6 ingredients together except the vanilla bean. Once everything is smooth, add the vanilla bean and cook over low heat until mixture thickens. Do not boil or the mixture will curdle. Strain out the vanilla bean then refrigerate and allow to cool.

Just before making the ice cream, combine pumpkin flowers and water in blender to make a very smooth paste. Mix this into the base. Add to ice cream maker and process until smooth and thick.

The gelato had a delicate pumpkin pie flavour.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cottage Life

Painting done for family.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Squash Stamina

It seems like a long journey of discovery with my garden producing so many pumpkin and zucchini flowers.

The pumpkin flowers are very fragrant compared to the zucchini. They also have needle like hairs on the undersides, stems and leaves. This combined with the fact they are more delicate than zuchini flowers make them a challenge to harvest.

Pumpkin Flowers

The butternut squash flowers are sturdy and ruffled with the strongest scent of all.

Butternut Squash Flowers

In all the recipes, it is recommended to remove the stamen as it is said to be bitter. This is the central stalk inside the male flower and is covered with pollen.

I dutifully removed them then decided to taste one. It wasn't bitter and I didn't suffer from indigestion so I decided to cook with them to see if heat rendered them bitter. The dish, which I call zucchini stamina because of this long bountiful season and for the ingredients, was really delicious. But I don’t think the stamina (plural of stamen) added much flavour. It would be interesting to collect more and treat them like saffron.

Zucchini Stamina

2-3 zucchini cut into chunks
Good olive oil
Few sprigs lemon thyme
Freshly ground pepper
Stamina of squash blossoms, as many as you have, I added about 30

Drizzle oil into non stick pan and heat. Throw a chunk of zucchini into pan. When it starts to sizzle, throw in the rest and add freshly ground pepper. Lay the thyme sprigs on top. Don't stir; wait until the zucchini had browned a bit and releases water to flip or stir.

This will coat the thyme and prevent it from burning. Add the stamina at this time. Salt if the zucchini seem dry at this point.

Once the zuchini are well browned, you can add water and cook it off. This will diffuse the lovely caramelized flavour.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve from hot to room temperature.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Stuffed Squash Blossom Tatin? Torte?

I thought a tarte would be easier as my stuffing skills are lacking so I jumped into this recipe with both feet. The original recipe is in Italian and I was completely smitten by the beautiful pictures and possibilities. However, this recipe does include stuffing the blossoms with a wonderful mousse like concoction. Since I did not follow the original exactly, I've included my version in this post. The original can be found here:

Torta Salata ai Fiori di Zucca

Gluten free pastry crust (use a commercial type if this is your first try)
15 squash blossoms (cleaned and stamens removed)
150 gr ham
100 gr mozzarella
3 heaping tablespoons grated parmiggiano
small handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, minced
200 ml heavy cream
3 eggs (one separated)
1 envelope of saffron
salt and pepper

Roll out and parbake the gluten free pastry crust for 10 minutes at 350 F.

Combine 2 squash flowers, 100 gr of ham, the mozzarella, 1 tablespoon of the parmiggiano, the minced parsley and one egg white in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put this mixture into a ziploc bag, snip the tip and stuff the flowers. Lay them on the slightly cooled crust. Cut the remaining ham into pieces and lay between the stuffed blossoms.

Combine the remaining 2 eggs, egg yolk, cream and saffron in a bowl.Pour over the squash blossoms.

Cook at 375 F for 40 - 45 minutes or until firm and slightly brown.

Let cool slightly before serving.


The stuffed squash blossoms set into the gluten free crust.

Addition of the remaining 50 gr of ham.

The 2 eggs plus 1 yolk, cream, two spoonfuls of Parmigiano, saffron, salt and pepper poured over the stuffed blossoms.

Into the oven for 40 to 45 minutes at 375 F.

The 2 eggs plus 1 yolk, cream, two spoonfuls of Parmigiano, saffron, salt and pepper poured over the stuffed blossoms.

Into the oven for 40 to 45 minutes at 375 F.

Voila - the finished product. The saffron gives a beautiful rich yellow colour to the tarte.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ligurian Squash Blossoms

We've had an abundance of blossoms this year and the fried squash blossoms are a treat that we've been battered with quite a few times. To prevent a revolt, I googled "fiori di zucca -ricette" or squash flower recipes in Italian and a slew of new ideas appeared.

My attempt was based on a Ligurian recipe for stuffed baked squash blossoms that can be found here:

Mine are an anemic echo of those gorgeous pictures. But they were extremely tasty and creamy .... due to the fact I used a blender instead of a food mill and I did not cook it down. They would have been perfect battered and fried  as a contrast to the creamy interior.

Sigh. I can't win.

400 gr new potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
150 gr green beans, cleaned 
150 gr zucchini, cut into chunks
60 gr Parmigiano
Clove garlic
1 egg
Handful fresh basil, minced
Olive oil (add to basil after mincing to prevent oxidation and it will be used for drizzling over the prepared stuffed flowers.)

Salt and pepper to taste

In salted water, bring potatoes to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add green beans, cook for about 2 minutes. Add zucchini and cook until tender. 

Don't be afraid of overcoooking a little bit. I was shocked in Italy when I saw the vigorous cooking applied to different food and the taste was amazing. Have no fear about a few going over the time.

Drain the vegetables when cooked and throw them into the blender when slightly cooled, along with the cheese and garlic.  This will give the smooth creamy texture - which is a huge mistake if you are aiming for light fluffy mashed potatoes and the original recipe used a food mill so the texture is probably supposed to be more rustic.

 Taste and add salt and pepper. Add the egg and minced basil/oil. Let the mixture cool before stuffing flowers. 

Prepare flowers by removing the stamen and little green appendages on the side. They look like spikes at the base of the petals.

Stuff the flowers. This is the most difficult part. Put the mixture into a ziploc bag, cut off the corner and pipe stuffing into each flower.

Gently twist the flowers close and lay on parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes.

Serve once they have cooled.

Can't lie - they were delicious and creamy but looked nothing like the other pictures and were not true to the original recipe. I don't think creamy was the intent.

But you too can have a delicious anemic looking echo of authenticity if you follow my recipe path. Even mistakes can be delightful.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Creamy Avocado Dip

We've been eating a few battered fried zucchini flowers lately and needed a contrasting texture and flavour to dip and drizzle. This is like a silky smooth guacamole with a zing.

2 small ripe avocadoes
1 ripe tomato
1 small zucchini
3 cloves garlic
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup cilantro
Small piece of jalape├▒o
Tablespoon mild olive oil

Pumpkin seeds - pepitas

Wiz in blender until smooth. Spoon into serving dish and garnish with pumpkin seeds.