Monday, May 18, 2009

At Market...Zucchini Blossoms

There is a true champion of summer, an over-achiever and vigorous grower that is so easy to start from a tiny seed, pushed down into a mound of soil as soon as it's warm enough. Its savory fruits, yes fruits, we eat eagerly at first, hungry for a taste of the season. We like them grilled, sauteed, baked, stuffed, and even raw. We're thrilled when they first appear in our gardens and in the farm stands, and it seems as if we will never tire of them. But we do eventually, and they sit, unattended on the vines, growing to gargantuan sizes. As summer reaches its peak, there is a holiday for this special variety of produce, celebrated each year on August 8th, called Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day, created to help us rid ourselves of the burden so much wasted food.

But fortunately, we are early days yet, and the zucchini and other squash at the market are small and tender, easily prepared, and we haven't nearly had our fill. Though I enjoy the succulent flesh of a young squash, my very favorite part of the plant is the blossom. Goldenrod yellow, faintly floral in flavor, yet not as dainty as other edible flowers (like pansies or nasturtium blossoms), their subtle squash essence holds up well in pasta dishes, soups and on top of pizzas. There are many recipes for stuffed squash blossoms which are typically filled with some sort of cheese, battered, then deep fried, but I usually prefer a lighter preparation. Gently sauteed and added to fresh pasta, along with the baby zucchini to which they were attached, they make for a wonderfully fresh and fast summer meal.

This simple pasta dish really accentuates the lovely colors and mild flavors of the zucchini blossoms. I think it would have been much better with fresh pasta, but time was of the essence, and I had to use what I had on hand. You can make your own, of course, or buy it. Just make sure that the pasta contains eggs for added richness and depth of flavor. The base of this dish would also make for a wonderful risotto. Another important tidbit to know when working with zucchini blossoms is that it is necessary to open each one, check for creepy crawlies, and give them a good rinse just in case. A tightly closed blossom makes for a wonderful hiding place, don't you agree? This recipe is adapted from one posted by Molly of Orangette.

Zucchini Blossom Pasta
serves 4

1 pound of your favorite fresh or dried egg pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T minced shallot
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 carrot, diced
salt and pepper
2 C quality vegetable stock
1 pinch of saffron threads, crushed
10 baby zucchinis with blossom attached, rinsed thoroughly (inside blossom) and halved lengthwise
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Reserve 2 blossoms and slice thinly for garnish.

Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, carrots, and salt and pepper and saute, stirring frequently until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Pour in vegetable stock and add saffron and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until reduced to 3/4 C, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat another 1 T olive oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and saute, until zucchini is tender and golden brown, about 7-9 minutes. Turn off heat.

When pasta is finished cooking, remove it from the pot with tongs or a spider and add to the skillet with the reduced vegetable stock. Toss to coat. Add zucchini and toss again. If pasta seems dry or sticky, add a tablespoon or more of the pasta cooking water to loosen. Pour out into large serving bowl and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and reserved sliced blossoms. Serve immediately.


Half Baked said...

Your pasta looks divine. I love zucchini blossoms! Thanks for the great recipe.

Supriya said...

I love zucchini blossoms too :)) they are my favorite! I make fritters and bake them or shallow fry them.