Thursday, June 23, 2011

Limited time only

Are there any other three words that can strike fear into our hearts so easily? (Probably. “I am Megatron!” comes to mind—but let’s move on.) The phrase is designed to play on our fear of lost opportunity, our draw to exclusivity, and our need to beat the clock. Limited time only. It makes me shiver just to think about it, like a 25th anniversary Beauty and the Beast DVD, out for a few months before Christmas, about to be snatched back to the impenetrable fortress known as the Disney Vault.
I saw those three words on a sign at the Nichols Farm stand in Daley Plaza this morning, and my blood ran cold. Fava beans! I have no idea what they are, but they will be mine! I snatched up a carton, but couldn’t shake the fear. Strawberries! Their time is so fleeting! Summer squash with their delicate flowers—pick them up! Now! Garlic scapes, I saw them last week and was afraid—how lucky to have a second chance! The frenzy, the hysteria! The strange choices I made!
Strange, delicious choices. Eating seasonally is hard, but so rewarding. For dinner tonight Alex and I had a farm fresh summer salad that had “limited time only” written all over it.
Pickled spring onions, fava beans, zucchini sautéed with red pepper flakes, goat-cheese-stuffed squash blossoms, and garlic scape dressing. What to talk about first?
Buttery fava beans taste like spring. They need to be shucked like peas, then blanched and removed from their waxy skins. By the time I was done, I had only a tiny pile of ready-to-use beans. If I were a fava bean nut, I’d have bought more cartons.
Despite their elite status, the beans were outshone by a brighter star on the menu: the garlic scape dressing that topped our salad. To make the dressing, I blended the scapes together with fresh parsley, lemony thyme, olive oil, the juice of a lemon, and a big spoonful of Greek yogurt. A cousin of green goddess dressing, this salad topper has the consistency of dip (and serves well as such) and a bright, bold flavor. The garlicky punch is balanced by acid from the lemon, cream of the yogurt, and an herby depth.  We finished the meal dipping bread directly into food processor’s bowl.
And yet. The sun in this solar system of flavors was the item I was most apprehensive about. Stuffed, fried squash blossoms—how long I have dreamed of these delicacies! I was hesitant about making them because the recipes I found all seemed so complicated. The flowers so difficult to work with, the stuffings so elaborate, and deep-frying, a technique that would turn my galley kitchen into a nightmare box.  Would they be the same delectable treat if I dumbed them down?
Yes. Is the answer. To the question. I was able to harvest four blossoms off my squash this evening. After carefully removing the pistil (thanks, sixth grade science), I gently stuffed each flower with crumbles of Dutch Girl Creamery’s chevre frais—a soft goat’s milk cheese, coated with herbs. Traditional blossom fillings are a blend of cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, taleggio) and herbs, sometimes bound together with egg, then piped into the flower. Buying a flavorful, malleable cheese with the extra seasoning built in allowed me to cut a number of corners and made this dish ridiculously easy. Instead of creating a thick tempura batter, and deep-frying the blossoms, I tossed them in egg and then in breadcrumbs (seasoned with salt and pepper) and pan-fried them to create a thin crust. The result? Delicate, crisp petals filled with hot, cheesy tang.
You should make these. Track down some squash blossoms, fill them with cheese, and fry them up. But act quickly, loved ones, squash blossoms are available for a limited time only.

5 comments:

  1. Two things: one, how your blog continues to get more and more amazing is beyond me. Two, GOD DAMMIT. Why did you have to go and mention the Disney Vault. I now have stress hives.

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  2. This. Sounds. AWESOME. I will now proceed to stalk your blog.

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  3. There MUST be a way for you to do this professionally! I already stalk your blog.....

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  4. So impressed. I want squash blossoms.

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  5. I now read you instead of Laurie Colwin while eating my triscuits, raisins, and peanuts.

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