Tag Archives: summer

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Warm Tomato Sauce

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This is a story about the plight of the male squash blossom.

Squash blossoms, I have learned, are either male or female. Females bloom, become fertilized and swell to produce the fruit. Males bloom as well, fanning the sky with their magical essence that floats into the soft yellow petals of any female nearby…with the help of our winged friends. And once this job is done, the males lose their purpose. And, as so often happens in the wild, they die.

I came upon this realization as I recently researched how to harvest one’s own squash blossoms for the purposes of cooking. We are lucky enough to have a glorious growing season in N.C., and planted one too many yellow summer squash in our little garden patch. Grant clips the soft yellow squash, but just as many “male” blossoms stay there, not producing fruit, being wasted.

Until I came along with a desire to stuff them with creamy ricotta and herbs.

If you are lucky enough to find squash blossoms at the market, I would cook them within 24 hours. Garden-grown is always best, of course, as I ate mine less than 10 hours after picking, which was ideal because some were still wide open and easy to fill. I leave a bit of stem – makes for easier handling – and be sure to clean them of any bugs and pull that little…”male thingy” out from inside. Picking in morning is best, as the flowers will be open.

You can find a much more professional recipe elsewhere, such as epicurious.

Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Warm Tomato Sauce

Use 6-8 fresh squash blossoms, cleaned, stamen removed.

Filling:

Mix together 1/2 c. ricotta (I used fat-free ricotta from Trader Joe’s, but by all means go whole milk!), 1 egg yolk, 4-5 fresh sliced basil leaves, S&P to taste.

Using a spoon or your hands, push about 1 T filling into each flower. Careful! Gently twist the top closed.

Batter:

In a medium bowl, mix 1 c. AP flour with enough white wine to make it look like pancake batter. That is as technical as I get. I used a really sweet wine that I hated, and it turned out great. Probably close to 1 c. wine.

Meanwhile, heat 2 inches of canola oil in a deep pan until shimmering – probably close to 300 degrees but I didn’t check. Test and learn! I also didn’t have enough oil, so mine were shallow-fried and a little flat on one side. Oh well!

Dip each stuffed blossom in the batter and let excess drip off before dropping into hot oil.

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Make sure squash brown on all sides – it will only take a few minutes. Sprinkle with coarse salt when you remove them to a towel to drain and cool.

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Serve with warm tomato sauce, or, as I have been calling it, tomato oil.

In small saucepan, cook 1 large clove garlic in 2 T olive oil and a pinch of chili flakes. Add 1 large chopped garden tomato or equivalent. Cook over low until soupy – season to taste.

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I served mine with extra basil and Maldon sea salt sprinkled over. It was lovely. The crust was crunchy and the blossom and filling were so soft inside. It felt like biting into a Krispy Kreme donut. You can really taste the wine in the batter.

The garlicky tomato sauce is a perfect complement. See how that ricotta just oozes out…

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Grilled Pierogi with Kielbasa

Having heritage from a poor, Slavic country limits my desires for homeland cooking. Unlike those whose last names inspire images of grandmothers over rich stews, or handmade pastas or buttery pastries, mine is the simple Polish translation of “owl.”

My dad remembers growing up in a house full of sausages, dumplings and dark beet soups – and I remember visiting my grandparents’ house with my nose turned up at such olfactory overloads.

But here, finally, I am embracing my Polish roots and all of their carb and fatty-meats glory. And it was delicious!

Grilling pierogi is genius. Pierogi are simple dumplings usually filled with potatoes and cheese, but you can get them with all sorts of sweet and savory fillings. Available right in the regular grocery store – frozen or in the deli section. I’m sure in Chicago you can find them right outside your door.

I love the charred, smoky flavor. And added to grilled onions, kielbasa sausage and a mustard vinaigrette? Please. Can’t wait to make this for my dad next time I’m home!

This recipe is EASY and adapted from Food Network Magazine.

Grilled Pierogi with Kielbasa

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound kielbasa (I used turkey), cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 6 wedges (I used purple spring onions halved)
  • 1 pound frozen potato-and-cheddar pierogi (do not thaw)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat a grill to medium or light your charcoals. When hot, grill the kielbasa, turning, until charred and split, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter and cut into large chunks.

Meanwhile, whisk the mustard and vinegar in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons olive oil until smooth.

When sausage is off, toss the onion and pierogies with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, covered, until the pierogies thaw (soft in middle)  and the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the pierogies and onion and continue to grill, covered, until the pierogies are cooked through and the onion is tender, 4 to 6 more minutes. Transfer to the baking bowl with vinaigrette.

Add kielbasa to the bowl with the mustard dressing and pierogi. Add parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss.

We packaged ours up with some additional fixins and brought to a concert downtown. It was a great picnic meal because I felt like I was eating street food – but so much better than the traditional hot-dog stand! A few friends came by and tasted with us.

I highly recommend using charcoal to grill these – that flavor is like liquid smoke and takes this to the next level.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Strawberry-spinach salad

Warning: poppy seeds will get stuck in your teeth

Warning: poppy seeds will get stuck in your teeth

This is my favorite salad to make in the summer, when strawberries are ripe and inexpensive. You can also make it in the fall with pears, or peaches.

I promise that this will get you rave reviews at parties, potlucks and the dinner table. Every person I’ve ever served it to has gone home with the recipe. And I got the recipe from my friend Lindsay’s mom, after she brought it to a party. So…pass it on!

Super simple:

In a small bowl, whisk the dressing – 2 T poppy seeds, 2 T white wine vinegar, 2 T milk, 1/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. mayo.

Pour that over a salad bowl filled with baby spinach, sliced strawberries (as many as you like – I usually use a pint or more) and sliced red onions (maybe half an onion).

Toss and serve!

The weather is still hot and humid here in North Carolina, so this salad would still feel appropriate. For all you Northwesterners, maybe you could make it to celebrate the end of warm days.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo