Squash Blossom Special

I know the title of this blog is a rip off of the beloved bluegrass song, “Orange Blossom Special,” but I’m so inspired after discovering squash blossoms yesterday at the Saturday Great Falls, Virginia, Farmer’s Market that I just don’t know what I’ll say next!

I stopped by the Penn Farms tent where Tessa and Samantha were chatting away about perfect teeth until I came up to them and said, “What are these?” (pointing to the squash blossoms).

Tessa went enthusiastically into her explanation:

“These are squash blossoms; they’re all over the Internet! And, you have to pick them at the exact right time, like 7 a.m., or they are just no good and you have to wait a whole day. Zucchini is plentiful in summer so we have tons! You stuff them, dip them in a batter, fry them and they are delicious!” (Samantha is shaking her head the whole time especially about picking them at the right time; she was emphatically nodding in agreement.)

I asked, “What do I stuff them with?”

In unison, they replied, “Cheese!”…Any kind of cheese.

“Or meat,” said Tessa, “like you would stuff anything else, a pepper, a tomato, a mushroom.”

She continued….”What’s really good is to stuff them with meat, then dip them in pancake batter and fry them so you have a savory flavor mixed with a sweet flavor.”

Many blossomsI decided then and there to buy some and Tessa started choosing the best ones for me. (They all looked fresh and great so I’m not sure how she chose but I could tell she likes taking care of her customers.)

“They’re [Squash Blossom Recipes] are all Over the Internet”

Tessa said I should eat them within a few days so I started searching for a recipe with my “How to Cook Everything” app. Nothing. Then I went to my old standby website, epicurious, and did a search. Eureka! Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta. I set about to use this recipe as the basis for my own. Thanks to epicurious, here is the recipe with only slight modifications from me:

Stuffed Squash Blossoms [Known in Italy as fiori di zucca]

Buy a prepared marinara sauce for dipping. This recipe makes about 10 large squash blossoms. Can serve as an appetizer or as a main course with a salad.

INGREDIENTS FOR FILLING

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon each of salt and pepper

INGREDIENTS FOR BATTER

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chilled club soda
  • About 1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Wash squash blossoms and pat dry.

Mix filling ingredients until well blended. Open each blossom and fill with a spoonful of cheese mixture. Twist the end of the blossom.

Prepare batter by stirring together the ingredients.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Meanwhile, dip a few of the stuffed blossoms in the batter to thinly coat. Fry coated blossoms until golden about five minutes, turning once. Transfer with tongs to paper towers to dry. Coat and fry the remaining blossoms.

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Will the Best Tomato Please Stand Up

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)

Golden Sunshine (left) versus Cherokee Purple (right)

Early Girl. Better Boy. Heirloom. Beefsteak. So where have I been? I thought I knew about and have tasted just about every tomato known to mankind until I ran into Samantha and Tessa from Penn Farms in Colonial Beach Virginia, at the Great Falls Farmers Market.

“What tomatoes are good today?” I asked

Tessa replied, The Cherokee Purple…it’s everyone’s favorite and we sell out fast!”

“You mean those small ones that look more like an apple? Okay, I’ll try them.”

What is a Cherokee Purple Tomato?

According to Rareseeds: “This tasty tomato is an old Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety; beautiful deep dusky purple-pink color, superb sweet flavor, and very large sized fruit. Try this one for real old-time tomato flavor.”

Seed Saver’s Exchange says this about the Cherokee Purple: “Unique dusty rose color. Flavor rivals Brandywine, extremely sweet. Productive plants produce large crops of 12 oz. fruits. Indeterminate, 80 days from transplant.”

The Cherokee Purple did not disappoint. Today I had them for lunch, sliced with a little salt, fresh basil, some mayo, and a piece of toast for dipping into the tomato juice left on the plate.

Two Girls

Samantha (left) and Tessa (right) are pretty cheerful early on a Saturday morning at the Farmer’s Market in Great Falls. They also know their produce. As I pointed to all the tomato varieties they quickly rattled off their names. Thanks to them, I’ve now experienced the Cherokee Purple. They also introduced me to squash blossoms which is a topic for a later blog.

The variety from Penn Farms. Samantha and Tessa knew the names of all of them.

The variety from Penn Farms. Samantha and Tessa knew the names of all of them.

 

 

Tomato Wellness

According to many sources, tomatoes are a formidable source of lycopene and antioxidants. The Tomato Wellness website says tomatoes are one of the worlds’ healthiest foods. I have a friend in the south who claims that if you eat something with tomatoes in it every day you will not have a weight problem. While that theory has not been proven, it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s the best time of year to take the tomato plunge, so go ahead. It’s all good.

 

For more on my tomato thoughts, see “It’s Too Hot to Eat,” page 71 in the summer issue of Celebrate Home Magazine. Download for free here. 

From the Garden

Chef Emily Doerman not only studied at the International Center for Culinary Arts in Dubai, she is also a registered dietician who works in an internal medicine practice. You can always find her at the farmer’s market in Great Falls, Virginia, on Saturday mornings doing cooking demos with fresh ingredients.

Here Emily takes the best from the summer garden and creates her Warm Eggplant Caprese Salad (recipe below). You can find this and her other light summer recipes in the summer issue of Celebrate Home Magazine. (Click on the link to download for free.)

Warm Eggplant Caprese Salad 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 large tomatoes, such as heirloom or Beefmaster
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, plus extra
  • 4 ounces buffalo mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼-inch round slices
  • Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375⁰.

Wash and trim off the ends of the eggplant. Create a striped eggplant look — use a peeler and peel off skin in one-inch strips alternating with one-inch strips of eggplant skin lengthwise.

Next, cut eggplant crosswise into one-half- inch round slices until you have 8 slices. Lay slices on a plate and salt both sides. Let stand for 10 minutes. With a dry paper towel, wipe off salt and pat dry.

Cut the tomatoes crosswise into one-half- inch slices. To chiffonade the basil leaves, make a stack of 6 to 8 leaves at a time. Tightly roll leaves. Make very small slices crosswise into the roll. Mix cut basil with vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or oil. To layer the eggplant caprese salad, start with one eggplant slice on the bottom, top with 1 tablespoon balsamic basil mixture, then 1 mozzarella slice, 1 tomato slice, next another slice of mozzarella, 1 slice tomato, 1 tablespoon balsamic basil mixture, and finish with 1 slice eggplant.

Hint: When layering the salad, make sure the slices of eggplant, mozzarella, and tomato are similar in diameter.

Drizzle tops with balsamic vinegar. Repeat this for three more stacks. Use toothpicks to hold in place while baking.

Bake 18 – 20 minutes until cheese is melted and eggplant is soft. For garnish, top with small slices of mozzarella and allow to melt. Remove toothpicks before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

 

Not-a-Burger!

Summer grills are a sizzlin’ and that means burgers. But what about those who don’t care for red meat or like the taste of a burger but don’t want the beef? Here is a tasty grill-lover’s alternative.

The Not-a-Burger gets its girth from generous slices of portobello mushrooms, Beefsteak tomatoes, peppers, cheese, onions, all on a hearty bun. Recipe creator Jane McLaughlin says, “You’ll swear you’re eating a big beefy burger.” The Not-a-Burger is a popular menu item on Bonefish Mac’s Sports Grille restaurants in south Florida which she owns with her husband Chuck.

This is a good time to fire up the grill and have a burger….NOT!

The recipe is featured in this issue of Celebrate Home Magazine, page 39. You can download it for free at www.celebratehome.com or get a free page-turning version or purchase a print copy at Magcloud.com.

Celebrate Home Magazine Summer Issue

Go to www.CelebrateHomeMagazine.com to download your free issue now. Here’s what you’ll find in this issue:

HOME
Up a Creek with Lots of Memories—The Havermann family finds a place to play in a vacation 
home on St. Leonard’s Creek in southern Maryland.

FOOD & ENTERTAINING
Light and Lively Summer Fare—Chef Emily Doerman whips up a tasty summer meal.

Not-a-Burger—Everyone loves a burger on the grill during summer. If you’re not a meat-eater, here is an alternative that can’t be beat!

Six Summer Sips—Mixologist Karen Covey shares cool summer drinks to beat the heat.

Space Cake—Put down that Moon Pie and try this heirloom cake without-of-the-world taste.

Inspired by the Garden: Garden Muse Tea Reception—A photography exhibit and reception to remember.

Summer Tablescapes—Usher in summer with cool summer-inspired tablescapes.

THE ARTIST
Shoe-la-la, Ooh-la-la!—A popular children’s book is the inspiration for a mural in 
a shoe-loving little girl’s room.

HOME
That 80s House—A bathroom gets a new lease on life.

Rest for the Weary—Create a welcoming guestroom for your visitors.

GARDENING
Ode to a Chicken—Becka Davis pays homage to a beloved feathered friend.

Suburban Agriculture: Confessions of a Brown Thumb—Maria Hufnagel shares her experience as a first-time gardener.

Fashioning a Fairy Garden—Kristin Clem connects with her inner child and creates 
a miniature fairy paradise.

HOW-TO
Photographing Your Garden Through the Seasons—Photographer Cindy Dyer shares her tips for creating captivating images in the garden.

THE COLLECTOR
Rampant Biblioholism—A book lover shares her passion for  her treasured collection.

So Charming—One gal shares her lifelong passion for charm bracelets.

CRAFT
Fit to Tied (and Dyed): Fun and Easy Wearables Made with T-shirts—Achieve amazing results with inexpensive t-shirts, colorful dyes, simple 
knotting and a pair of scissors!

Outdoor Dinner Foiled Again!

I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny,
but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.” 

Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

Planning an outdoor dinner party is always tricky in July, especially when summer afternoon rainstorms are the norm.  But all that planning for the outdoors can be easily brought indoors with a positive attitude and some strategic switching of gears. Move in and don’t look back thinking the sun will eventually shine. It usually doesn’t.

Get inspiration from summer flowers and sunny colors. Here I brought the outdoors in with some summer blooms randomly arranged in glass pots used with yellow place mats and napkins. (Yellow is a happy color, remember that.) The food will still be good, the guests will still arrive, and you can still “have lots of good fun that is funny!”

Patriotic Kabobs

Back by popular demand are these quick Fourth of July dessert nibblers. Get some berries, bake some brownies, and buy marshmallow stars. [Hint: cut the brownies with a shot glass or small cookie cutter. Or buy brownie bites.] Thread all the treats on wooden skewers and you have an easy dessert for the day.

Happy Independence Day to all! Now, go have some fun.