Remember that famous book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum? I might take a cue from the author and write a copycat book: “All I Really Need to Cook Comes From Leite’s Culinaria.” It’s my favorite, and most-used, food blog.
This week, David Leite, the head-”blahger,” posted a recipe for squash-blossom quesadillas that has only five ingredients and is gluten-free, too. Boy, is it ever good. All you do is heat up corn tortillas in a cast-iron skillet, top with shredded pepper jack cheese, chopped cilantro and a grind of pepper, then layer on a couple of blossoms, fold the tortilla in half and heat until the cheese melts. Crunchy, creamy, colorful and delicious, the dish is fast, easy and sure to please. For a light supper, I’d add a leaf lettuce-and-onion salad and pass wedges of watermelon for dessert.
Squash blossoms are the edible flowers usually plucked from zucchini plants. A friend who grows Hubbard squash has monster, he-man-size blossoms. All squash blossoms are candidates. They‘re subtle in flavor and in season right now at most farmers markets or in your neighbor’s garden. Prep them by removing the stems and stamens and checking for bugs, but do not wash them.
Once you get familiar with them, you’ll want to experiment with more ways to feature the blossoms.
Quick-fried Blossoms: Slit the base of the blossom on one side and open the flower flat, then remove the stems and stamens. Heat vegetable oil in a small straight-sided skillet. When it’s hot, dip the blossoms into a tempura or flour-water batter. (To 1/2 cup water in a soup plate, whisk in about 1/3 cup flour to get a batter the consistency of very heavy cream.) Slip dipped blossoms into the hot oil. When they are golden brown, turn over and cook until golden on the other side. Transfer to paper towels, sprinkle on coarse salt and serve hot and crispy. These are wonderful with cocktails. You will have company in the kitchen when you make these.
Squash Blossom Pizza: The most famous rendition of this pizza comes from Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. Use it as a model. Make your pizza dough the way you like it, and preheat the oven. When it’s risen, brush the dough with olive oil, and sprinkle on a bit of coarse salt. Spread your fave pizza sauce over the dough. Arrange squash blossoms over the sauce, in a pattern if you like. Bake as usual. Remove from the oven when done, and top with spoonfuls of burrata or good ricotta cheese. Give the whole thing a drizzle with olive oil. Gorgeous.
Here‘s the recipe for the quesadillas:
12 zucchini squash blossoms
6 corn tortillas, (preferably 6-inch)
1½ cups coarsely shredded pepper jack cheese
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Inspect the blossoms for bugs and brush away any dust that lingers. Slit the flower down the side, and remove the stems and stamens.
Heat up a cast-iron skillet to moderate. Place a tortilla in the warmed pan and heat, turning once, for about 15 seconds a side to soften. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup cheese, 1/2 teaspoon cilantro and some pepper on half the tortilla. Place 2 squash blossoms on top of the cheese, arranging the flower petals at the edge of the tortilla so they peek out slightly. Fold the tortilla in half and press down lightly with a spatula. Cook for about 1 minute, then flip and cook the other side for 1 minute more until the tortilla is thoroughly warmed and the cheese has melted.
Transfer the quesadilla to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat to make 5 more squash blossom quesadillas. Serve warm. Makes 6.
-- “Vibrant Food,” by Kimberley Hasselbrink (Ten Speed, June 2014, $25)
Marlene Parrish: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-481-1620.