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Cooked or raw, squash blossoms taste and look good.

Cooked or raw, squash blossoms taste and look good

Do as Italian gardeners have done forgenerations and enjoy the prolific production of a squash vine by eating the blossoms as well as the fruit. The uninitiated might ask, "Why bother?' But one taste of these tender, delicately flavored blossoms tells you that they are a choice vegetable. And their yellow, five-pointed flowers are a showy addition to any meal.

If you don't have a garden, order blossomsthrough your market's produce department; wider interest in cooking with flowers has increased their availability.

Good raw or cooked, flowers from anysquash vine--winter or summer, acorn to zucchini--will do.

The only distinction that matters is thesex of the blossom: male flowers, which grow directly from the stem, tend to stay open whether used raw or fried. These blossoms don't produce fruit, but you should leave about half of them on the vine for pollinating female blossoms.

Female blossoms, which grow at the endof immature squash (some cooks use the tiny squash and flowers together), are only open briefly when they're young. You can carefully separate these blossoms from the young squash, and the fruit will continue to develop on the vine.

Pick blossoms soon after they open. Theyneed to be handled gently but are more durable than you might suppose. To clean them, reach into the well of the flower and pinch out the stem in the middle, then rinse thoroughly with gently running water to wash away any bugs and dirt. Drain flowers cup side down on paper towels.

Use the blossoms right away or, if youwant to save them until you have more to use at one time, refrigerate them for up to three days. Before refrigerating, lay the washed and drained blossoms cup side down or on their sides in a single layer on a pan lined with paper towels; cover lightly, but airtight, with plastic wrap.

Our recipes give four approaches. Themost dramatic presentations use raw flowers, as with cold poached fish and in the mango-laced rice salad.

A favorite Italian way to serve squashflowers is dusted with flour, coated with egg, and quickly fried. Here we offer them with a light tomato relish.

A real surprise is to find sauteed blossomsas a filling in cheese-flavored crepes.

Stuffed Squash Blossoms and Seabass

18 medium-size (2- to 3-in.-long)squash blossoms

1 1/2 tablespoons (1 oz.) canned blackwhitefish or lumpfish caviar

3 pounds very fresh, firm white-fleshfish, such as white seabass, rockfish, or lingcod, boned, skinned, and cut into 6 equal pieces, each about 1 inch thick

2 ounces smoked salmon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup whipping cream

Pesto (recipe follows)

Pinch and discard stems from centers ofblossoms. Rinse blossoms gently; drain cup side down. Spoon caviar into a fine strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear; set aside.

Rinse fish; trim equally from each pieceenough to make 1/4 cup total. In a food processor or blender, puree trimmings with smoked salmon and lemon juice.

Whip cream until it holds soft peaks. Addpureed fish and caviar; fold together to blend. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the seafood cream into each squash blossom. Leave blossom open or gently twist petal ends together to shut. Set blossoms in a single layer on a plate lined with paper towels; cover and chill up to 4 hours.

Bring 3 inches of water to boiling in a 5-to 6-quart pan. Add fish; cover and remove from heat; let stand 8 minutes. Cut a slit to center of thickest part of a piece of fish; if done, the fish will look opaque in center; if not, let stand 2 to 5 minutes longer. Drain fish, cover, and chill at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.

To serve, place 1 piece of fish on eachdinner plate; spoon pesto equally onto each piece. Place 3 stuffed blossoms on each plate alongside the fish. Serves 6.

Pesto. In a food processor or blender,coarsely puree 3/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup olive oil, and 2 tablespoons each grated parmesan cheese and lemon juice.

Squash Blossoms with Rice Salad

1 large ripe mango (about 3/4 lb.),peeled

1/2 cup salad oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons each minced onionand minced fresh cilantro (coriander)

1 tablespoon minced fresh or cannedseeded jalapeno chilies

3 cups cold, cooked long-grain whiterice Salt and pepper

12 large (3- to 4-in.-long) squashblossoms

Fresh cilantro sprigs

Cut mango from pit; discard pit and dicethe fruit. Stir together mango, oil, vinegar, onion, minced cilantro, and chilies. (If desired, cover and chill up to 2 days.) Just before serving, stir together the rice and the mango mixture; season rice salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Pinch and discard stems from centers ofblossoms. Rinse blossoms gently; drain cup side down. Lightly fill each squash blossom with 2 to 3 teaspoons of the rice salad. Gently mix half the blossoms into the salad and mound it on a serving platter; garnish with the remaining blossoms and cilantro sprigs. Serves 4 to 6.

Fried Squash Blossoms with Fresh Tomato Relish

6 large (3- to 4-in.-long) or 12medium (2- to 3-in.-long) squash blossoms

About 2 tablespoons all-purposeflour

2 large eggs

Salad oil

Fresh tomato relish (recipe follows)

6 or 12 springs fresh tarragon orwatercress

Pinch and discard stems from centers ofblossoms. Rinse blossoms gently; drain cup side down.

Put flour in a bowl or bag; in another bowlor an 8- or 9-inch-wide pan, beat eggs to blend. Coat 1 blossom at a time lightly with flour; shake off excess. Dip blossom into egg, lift out, and drain briefly. With your fingers, spread petals open, if desired. Add coated flowers to about 1 inch salad oil heated to 400| in an 8- to 10-inch frying pan and cook until light golden brown, about 30 seconds; turn as needed or push down into oil. If you want to preserve the open shape of the flowers, cook blossoms in about 2 inches of oil in a deep 2- to 3-quart pan. Drain fried flowers on paper towels.

Serve hot or at room temperature. (Ifmade ahead, let stand at room temperature, lightly covered, up to 8 hours; to reheat, arrange in a single layer in a 10- by 15-inch pan and place, uncovered, in a 450| oven until hot, about 5 minutes.)

Accompany fried blossoms with fresh tomatorelish; if desired, fill each blossom with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of the relish. Garnish servings with tarragon sprigs. Allow 1 large or 2 medium blossoms as a portion. Makes 6 first-course servings.

Fresh tomato relish. Core, seed, and finelychop 1 large firm-ripe tomato. Mix with 1 tablespoon each olive or salad oil, red wine vinegar, and minced shallot; 3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/4 teaspoon dry tarragon); and salt and pepper to taste.

Squash Blossom Crepes

20 to 30 medium (2- to 3-in.-long)squash blossoms

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

10 crepes (recipe follows)

5 ounces (about 2/3 cup) chevre (goat)cheese or camembert cheese

10 tablespoons chopped chives orgreen onion

30 whole chives or 10 stems from thetops of green onions, each 10 to 12 inches long

Pinch and discard stems from centers ofblossoms. Rinse blossoms gently; drain cup side down.

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan overmedium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add blossoms all at once and stir occasionally until lightly wilted, about 2 minutes; set aside.

Lay crepes out flat, one at a time. Topeach with 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 tablespoon chives, and 2 or 3 sauteed squash blossoms. Fold crepe ends in slightly, then roll each crepe to enclose filling; put aside, seam side down.

Cluster 3 whole chives or use 1 greenonion stem to wrap around middle of each filled crepe and tie in a knot; trim ends. Repeat for each crepe. Lay crepes, seams down and side by side, in a 9- by 13-inch oval or rectangular baking dish or pan.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter andpour over tops of crepes. (If made ahead, cover and chill up to 1 day.)

Bake, covered, in a 350| oven until crepesare steaming hot when uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes from room temperature, 30 minutes if chilled. Serve as a first course with 1 or 2 as a portion. Serves 5 to 10.

Crepes. In a blender or food processor,whirl 3 large eggs and 1 cup all-purpose flour. Add 1 1/2 cups milk and whirl until smooth.

Place a 7- to 8-inch crepe pan or fryingpan over medium-high heat; melt about 2 teaspoons butter or margarine, tilting pan to coat bottom. Remove pan from heat, pour in about 1/4 cup of batter, and immediately tilt pan to coat bottom evenly. Return pan to heat and cook until crepe surface feels dry, about 30 seconds. Turn with a wide spatula; cook bottom side until speckled brown (lift to check), about 20 seconds. Turn out of pan onto a plate.

Repeat, adding butter each time, to makeeach crepe; stack as cooked. To store, restack cooled crepes between pieces of plastic wrap; wrap airtight and chill for up to a week or freeze for up to a month. Before separating to reuse, bring crepes back to room temperature; they tear if cold. Makes 10 to 13.

Photo: Tender, uncooked blossoms cradle a mousse of smoked fish and caviar to serve with cold poached seabass. Male blossoms, such as these, usually stay open

Photo: Lightly coat blossoms with flour, dip inegg, fry quickly, and drain on paper towels

Photo: Unusual first course: tomato relish fillsfried blossom; garnish with tarragon sprig

Photo: Crepes enclosesauteed blossoms, chopped chives, and cheese. Side by side in baking dish, crepes tied with whole chives are ready to heat in the oven
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Date:Jul 1, 1987
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