Thursday, August 22, 2013

Squash Blossom Love

It's squash blossom season again. It has been for a few weeks in our garden. And this year they just keep coming. I don't know if it's the kind I planted, yellow crooknecks, or the awesome compost from Cedar Grove or the EcoFeed fertilizer. 

Maybe it's all the garden love.

We've had so many blossoms, I can't keep up. I wish I had a local cafe or restaurant to deliver them to. Every year in my garden I've planted some kind of zucchini, yellow squash or winter squash. They always produce; usually they produce more than enough. Many of us have had those summers where we have so much zucchini we're desperate to pawn it off on others. But this year I've had way more blossoms than squash. 

The amount of blossoms may in fact outnumber the amount of hoodlums in my hood, which isn't really a very comforting thought, because I'm pretty sure if I had to stand up to one of the hoodlums, or defend my home, squash blossoms absolutely would not come in handy.  Halt! Or I'll throw my small, tissue-thin, fragile yellow blossoms in your face!

Good thing we have a ferocious guard dog!!

I do love the vegetable, grilled, roasted, sautéed in some pasta with lots of garlic, fresh herbs and lemon, always the lemon! Grated and added to brownies, cookies and loaves. But it truly is the blossoms that have my heart. Why? You may ask. Two words for you, deep fried! 

Lily and Jasper could care less about eating them. 

(What do they know anyway!) But they do love climbing under the three-foot tall plants and finding them. Actually I think they like discovering the pollen inside and the beautiful furry black bumblebees searching for that pollen.

But these gorgeous babies, stuffed with a little bit of soft cheese like a whole-milk ricotta mixed with some fresh herbs, garlic and lemon. Dipped in a light batter, fried in hot oil and topped with some sea salt and just a sprinkle of lemon. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!

I like to pick them in the morning when they are wide open so I can pick the stamen and pistils out. Some people pick them when they are closed; it's all up to you.  If I'm not using them right away, I carefully cover them with some damp paper towels and put them in the fridge. 

The filling I make differs every time, based on what I have. But generally I mix about a 1/4 cup of ricotta or goat cheese with some fresh herbs from the garden, chives, parsley and basil, a bit of lemon zest, some minced garlic, salt and pepper, all to taste.  Each blossom only needs a teaspoon or so of cheese filling. I fill them carefully and then gently twist the tops closed so they look like this.  

For the batter I mix: 1 cup rice flour or Pamela's Gluten-Free Artisan Flour Mix, 1/2 cup corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then I whisk in 1 cup chilled beer, milk or soda water.  (Some recipes call for more corn starch.)  Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Then heat up some canola, peanut or coconut oil and fry away for a few minutes each, people.  Sprinkle some salt and squeeze just a touch of lemon over the finished fried goodies. YUM! We've been doing this once a week for several weeks now, and I never remember to get a picture of the finished product. Stuffed, deep fried squash blossoms beg to be eaten almost immediately, or as soon as they've cooled off enough not to burn your tongue!  

Enjoy your squash blossoms!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lily's Carrot

Last year Lily and I planted lots of carrots, about six rows. So many seeds fell into the rows I was certain I would have to thin them.  Unfortunately something else thinned them for us; some creepy crawly came along while we slept one night and feasted on all the green carrot sprouts popping up, leaving us with two or three chomped down remains.

Earlier this summer I noticed two carrots growing in the same spot, a few seeds must have overwintered and Lily was delighted. They just happened to be in a section of the garden where the kids dig and play and create mountains, lakes and volcanoes for pachycephalosaurus, you know, things common to most gardens. So even though we watered the two carrots, that was about all we did to take care of them and honestly I didn't hold out much hope for them. 

However, one of them thrived despite the plastic dinosaurs, raging floods and hot lava. Two weeks ago, Lily and I decided to pick it.  It was huge and gnarly looking with a mini carrot growing out the side. And it tasted delicious.  

Here she is last year about this time planting her carrot seeds.

And here she is this year with her carrot. Amazing the difference a year can make.

I'm sure glad we picked it when we did, because just two days after Lily ate it, she crashed teeth first into the coffee table knocking four of her front teeth loose. One of them was broken and fell out all by itself this week, another one's on it's way out any day, and the other two are loosey goosey! I think it'll be a while before she can eat huge carrots again.