Archive for July, 2008

Squash Blossoms Rellena de Oyamel

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

While we unfortunately weren’t able to actually eat at Oyamel during their Squash Blossom Festival last week, there was no way I was going to miss Chef Joe Raffa’s demo and tasting at the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market Thursday evening. I have been going to Penn Quarter on occasion for years – a former coworker and I used to go out of our way to schedule meetings downtown on Thursday afternoons to take a late lunch at the market. Like just about every other local market, it seems to have grown quite a bit from the humble beginning of about three vendors (I remember cheese, bread and soap in the early days). I had read grumblings about DC market prices being significantly higher than those in the ‘burbs, but didn’t really believe it until we picked up blueberries for the toddler at $6 a pint. That would be twice what we’ve been paying in Alexandria. Yikes! (You city-dwellers might find it worthwhile to venture across the river after all … might I suggest the Old Town market, with the free trolley service from the King Street metro.)

There were a few things at Penn Quarter we don’t have though, like the squash blossoms Sand Hill Farm brought, and the marvelous gelato by Dolcezza. I bought the lemon ricotta flavor, made with my favorite Keswick Creamery ricotta. The lemon was the perfect touch to keep it light yet flavorful. Cibola buffalo is also absent from the Alexandria markets (though I think they may be down at Kingstowne – Ramona?) See below for photos from the market.

Chef Raffa dished up a delightful squash blossom soup and watermelon agua fresca (also with squash blossoms). He was also handing out a recipe for goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms, which is how I cooked them up as soon as we got home. (No toddler review of this one, as I greedily ate them all myself! The husband was sick and doesn’t eat goat cheese anyway, his loss.)

Recipe: Flor de Calabaza Rellena de Queso de Cabra con Salsa
(Goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms with salsa)
by Chef Joe Raffa, Oyamel

Ingredients:

  • Fresh salsa
  • 1 lb goat cheese
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and deveined
  • 1/2 c epazote leaves (I didn’t read the recipe at the market to know to buy this – so had to substitute parsley. I would suggest cilantro if you can’t find epazote, but parsley worked as well.)
  • 12 squash blossoms
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

Instructions: (Prepare salsa first, to allow flavors to meld while preparing the squash blossoms. I was missing several ingredients for Raffa’s salsa, so I made a simple one of corn, tomato, red onion, parsley.)

Preheat the over to 350*. Gently rinse the squash blossoms in a bowl of cold water and lightly pat dry with paper towel and set aside. Combine 1 c of the goat cheese, jalapenos and epazote in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer puree to a mixing bowl and mix in remaining goat cheese. Season with salt. Separate into 12 pieces and roll into 2-3 inch long logs. Gently pry open a squash blossom by pulling back on one of the petals and place a cheese log inside. Lightly pinch the blossom closed around the cheese. Repeat. Place the stuffed squash blossoms on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for no more than 5 minutes. The cheese should be warmed through and the blossoms should soften but not brown. Divide the salsa between 4 plates, top each with 3 squash blossoms and drizzle with olive oil. (Serves 4 – I reduced this for one serving and needed less than 4 oz. of goat cheese to fill my 3 blossoms.

This was by far my favorite meal of the summer. With a simple green salad on the side, it’s rich and creamy yet crisp and refreshing. I loved the jalapeno heat with the sweetness of the squash blossoms. Now I am desperate to get my hands on more squash blossoms to make this again!

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Food miles: Squash blossoms, Sand Hill Farm, Greensboro, Md. (84 mi.)

Squash Blossoms at Oyamel

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

For local readers … if you missed Chef Raffa at market Thursday, head on over to Oyamel this weekend to catch their Sopa de Flores de Calabasa (Squash Blossom Soup) and other special treats featuring this fleeting summer ingredient!

Flor de Calabaza Rellena recipe coming soon!

Compromise and Indulgences

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

This week, the Washington Post‘s Mighty Appetite blog is hosting an Eat Local Challenge. I signed up, even though we are already doing the One Local Summer challenge, and frankly, at this time of year it’s almost more of a challenge not to eat local — at least when you spend as much time at farmers markets as we do!

The ELC challenge was simply to include 10 local items into your meals over the course of the week. The Southern Maryland “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” campaign, also this week, suggests adding one farm-fresh ingredient each day. Since we ate 10 local items on Saturday alone, I challenged myself to go further — no chain coffee or lunches, and eliminating some of my usual cheats. While we don’t have true local grains (mills yes, but the grains come from elsewhere), my general rule is to get locally-baked breads and pastas. For other grains, the rule is organic and/or whole grains – and if all else fails, absolutely no high fructose corn syrup. Which meant I made my pie crust from scratch this weekend, since Pillsbury meets none of those standards. I would like to make my own bread and pasta, but it’s hard to find time with a toddler who seems to get clingy whenever I head into the kitchen.

As a “foodie,” there are certain ingredients I could never give up, such as olive oil, olives, sea salt, balsamic vinegar, citrus and my Hungarian smoked paprika. The OLS challenge exempts oil, vinegar and spices, so I permit those. Whenever possible, I follow the Locavore “Terroir” rule — if local olive oil isn’t available, then buy it from regions that specialize in that product (and preferably organic and/or fair trade certified). I also try to buy my gourmet products from locally-owned shops. We have some great bakeries and shops nearby, including Cheesetique in Del Ray and Grape + Bean in Old Town, which make it easier.

I know this is a family-friendly blog, but sometimes the grown-ups enjoy an adult beverage with their meal. While I have yet to come across Virginia-produced gin, we do have a decent wine and beer selection. (And Delaware’s Dogfish Head is just slightly more than 100 mi. from us.) Virginia wines can be hit or miss though, so I stopped into Grape+Bean to see what local wines they carried.  I was told rather apologetically that they only have two at the moment, but hope to add more soon. I picked up a bottle of Thibaut & Janisson sparkling wine to enjoy this weekend. Definitely an indulgence, but I thought it would be fun to celebrate the best of local drinks along with all our peak summer produce. (Their other pick was Barboursville‘s Voignier.) In addition to wine and coffee, Grape+Bean sells fresh-baked bread from Restaurant Eve. I got the most perfectly chewy loaf of olive bread yesterday to accompany last night’s pasta dinner.

Another area where we are blessed with local options is dessert. Of course, it’s not that hard to make your own frozen treats, but we have a number of locally-owned establishments who make scrumptious treats with local, farm-fresh ingredients — the Dairy Godmother, Moorenko‘s and Dolcezza, to name a few. With sources like these, there’s no need to rely on those two guys from Vermont.

For those participating in the Eat Local challenge, or just taking small steps, what’s the one non-local thing you can’t give up?

Roasted Roma Tomato Pappardelle

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

The first CSA tomatoes of the season arrived in our bag yesterday, which means a quick stop at Cheesetique for pasta and cheese is all that’s needed to put together a fast, fresh pasta dish.

This week, I used red pepper pappardelle. I had orange Roma tomatoes, which I quick roasted in my cast iron skillet until they were just beginning to burst. I sauteed a chopped sweet onion in olive oil, added a handful of green beans broken into 1 inch pieces, then quartered the roasted tomatoes and returned them to the pan. Simmered a few minutes longer, added salt, pepper and fresh basil, then tossed it all with the papardelle and fresh goat cheese. (I used 4 oz. goat cheese which was a little much for 4 servings of pasta – but the toddler and I love our goat cheese.)

Typically I would use garlic, but the sweet onions from our CSA have just been incredible this summer, so I thought I’d give them a turn to star.

Toddler verdict: He slurped the noodles with glee, laughing “bye bye noo-noo” after each one. But when he discovered the green beans at the bottom of his bowl, he promptly requested ketchup. When we said no, he asked for a cup of frozen peas for dessert. Such an odd little kid.

Shared with Presto Pasta Nights, created by Once Upon a Feast and hosted this week by Thyme for Cooking.

Kitchen Memories Winner!

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

I have to thank everyone who shared their favorite food memories for our contest. From fresh from the field, or off the truck, sweet corn to blackberry picking in Oregon and the apple orchards of Ojai, Michigan and upstate New York; date shakes from Palm Springs and the cheese of Marin County with a family connection – it was fun to read such an array of stories. I’ve made a contribution to Farm Aid’s Family Farm Disaster Fund (tacked on an extra zero to my pledge), and judging from the number of clicks through to their site, I’m guessing a few of you did as well. So thank you for sharing and supporting our family farming friends in the Midwest!

And without further ado, our free cookbook winner – as decreed by the random integer generator – is … Lelo in Nopo! Who shares the following:

Eating local and supporting local farms was inherent to my childhood. In the fertile valleys of Southern California, some of the very best growing conditions for produce existed. I’ve written extensively about my memories on my blog, but last fall I wrote about a recent trip to an apple orchard, and how as a child, we’d visit Ojai, California, to pick apples. Today that area is so different than it was then, but my memories shape who I am, and where I put my money, today, even though I live in a different state. You can read about it here.

Visit the original post to read the other stories. Thanks everyone!