Stuffed Pan-fried Squash Blossoms

November 29, 2010 § 8 Comments

The town I spent Thanksgiving in is a coastal village of sorts, and the farmer’s market is right in the heart of a charming, one-storied downtown that sits at the foot of the Pacific Ocean. I know, life could be worse. I partially grew up in this town but had never been to the farmer’s market. In my defense, I never really cared about quality or locally grown food until many years after moving away. I ran right into this market on a last-minute Thanksgiving run around town, and was surprised to see many of the stalls carrying squash blossoms this late in the year. This is one of the advantages to farming in paradise!

Step 1: Wash the lovelies

The first stall I stopped at had the most beautiful blossoms with large cavities, and since I had never tried them I had a chat with the vendor who kindly showed me how to remove the pistil to stuff them and explained how they should be pan-fried. I’m such a sucker, I bought them from him @ 5.99/lb. The first stall! You never buy produce from the first stall!! You’re suppose to take a lap, check out the goods, then go home with the market’s best products. I’ve read plenty of how-tos, first hand accounts of trickery and foolish purchases. But away I went giddy with my blossoms, mind already buzzing about how I would stuff them, when I found another stall selling bunches of 10 for $1!!!! Sigh, lesson learned.  

I brought them back to make a tea snack, stuffing them with goat cheese, basil dried from our plant that sadly died at the end of summer, garlic powder and cracked black pepper. A pictorial recipe follows sans exact measurements, as this quick experiment resulted in lots of joy and little recording.

Step 2: Remove the pistil and stuff the cavity with your filling (I used a blend of goat cheese, home-dried basil, garlic powder and cracked black pepper)

Step 3: Tie them shut. This is a tricky and perhaps controversial step. The string is going to be a pain to remove after the frying process, but it's the only way I found to keep the cavity shut without damaging the petals.

Step 4: Coat the stuffed and contained blossoms in milk and then roll them in flour.

Step 5: Pan-fry and enjoy

A special thank you to our lovely friend C. who hosted Thanksgiving at her home this year along with a hike (we’re healthy vegetarians!) and fruit picking out in the country. I came home with enough pomegranates to experiment for weeks, so an advance apology goes out to those of you loyal readers who may tire of the headlines. I took oreo truffles, mint chocolate truffles and an apple, goat-cheese and persimmon tart to the Thanksgiving feast; all were made leisurely over the span of a few days. The trick was to make the tart dough on Tuesday. It lived in the refrigerator until Thursday morning. The oreo truffles were also made ahead of time and refrigerated. I made the mint chocolate truffles the night before with a friend as a fun activity for movie night, where we feasted on a deep-dish pizza experiment which used a vegan version of my tart dough. The pizza was amazing, and I will post all about in the future because I definitely plan on making it again and again!

The apple, persimmon + goat cheese tart

Gratuitous shot of the rustic tart

We ran into goats on our way over to C's brother's pomegranate and persimmon orchards, which we looted in good vegetarian fashion


Cheese Straws

November 20, 2010 § 8 Comments

Cheese straws: A great homemade holiday gift

I’ve been in the food zone lately, researching recipes, populating my To Do list…oh, and most importantly, cooking! So, in the spirit of Heidi Swanson’s advice of cooking from recipes during the stages of learning to stand in the kitchen, so to speak, I’ve been scouring the blogosphere (and the library) for interesting recipes. A few of the things I am learning about cookbooks are: 1) there are way too many out there (my local library probably has a bigger selection of cookbooks than math books), and 2) most of the cookbooks are picture-less, or if they do have pictures, they’re finished products jammed into one paltry center section that doesn’t even cover 1/4th of what’s going on throughout the book. This leads a novice cook to turn to the blogosphere where traditional publishing doesn’t limit the how-to photo bandwidth, and now we’re also blessed with video! So, one of the blogs I’ve been really interested in lately is the Smitten Kitchen.

The Smitten Kitchen is a treasure trove of recipes, translated with amazing how-to images and notes on best practices. While trolling for chocolate recipes, no excuses there, I happened upon a section of homemade holiday gift ideas, one of them being cheesy straws. We’re big tea drinkers here (old English habits die hard) and are always looking for savoury snacks to make the experience a little more pleasurable for the palate. cheese straws are one of those excellent savoury accents to add to a well-balanced tea break. In a dash of inspiration from my refrigerator again, more so than a desire to put a personal stamp on the recipe, I ended up making a few adjustments. The original recipe is linked below if you’re a cheddar purist.

Cheese Straws
(adapted from the Smitten Kitchen,, makes a lot, but not too much, perhaps two small gift servings worth)

1 cup cheddar cheese (grated or cut into small chunks)
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (grated or cut into small chunks)
1/2 stick of butter
3/4 flour (I guess you can add a layer of creativity here, I went with AP)
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 crushed tsp red pepper flakes
3 tsps milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Process all of the ingredients, MINUS the milk, until the mixture resembles coarse grain (as pictured). Add the milk, then continue to process until the mixture turns into a ball of dough.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8th inch thickness. With a pizza cutter, slice the dough into 1/8th inch straws (as pictured). Transfer to a baking sheet (I lined mine with a silicone baking mat, I would suggest using wax or parchment paper). Bake for about 15 minutes or until the straws begin to turn golden brown.

Let the straws cool on a baking rack for a good 15 minutes at least, so that they can properly solidify. If you don’t do this they’ll break apart very easily.

Aside from being given away as awesome homemade holiday gifts (they’re wonderful and will be appreciated I promise you), they would be great with a spot of tea or served as a side with soup or chili.

Thai Curry Carrot Bisque & Goat cheese Corn Muffins

November 18, 2010 § 6 Comments

My Culinary To Do list is growing out of control, so I decided to kill two entries by making a nice meal for lunch today. Two things I’ve been wanting to cross off my list have been Spabettie’s Goat cheese corn muffins and Vegan Good Eat’s Blood Orange Carrot bisque. The point of the exercise is to gain experience by following recipes when facing an inspiration downturn. In this case, I didn’t have one of the primary ingredients for the Blood Orange Carrot bisque, namely the orange. So instead, I made a Thai carrot curry soup of my favorite flavor combo (inspired by my Ginger Carrot salad): citrus, ginger, garlic, onion, Thai spices and peanut butter. I suppose the recurring presence of peanut butter in my Thai food gives away my national heritage =)

The goat cheese is somewhat visible. One can never have too much chevre, only too little

I had to take a short trip to get the corn meal for the corn muffins, the recipe for which I halved, but followed practically to the T otherwise, aside from one substitution I made to include a flaxseed/water egg replacer instead of the Ener-G version. I recently visited a health food super store here in my area where I went in search of Ener-G egg replacer. Instead I came home with a bag full of flaxseeds, which I’m told act as an egg substitute if you soak them in water. As an aside, in the bin right next the flaxseeds I noticed that pine nuts were selling for 36.99/lb!!!! Can anyone vouch for the normality of that price? I had no idea. Anyway, now that I have ‘eggs’ I’m ready to go nuts, beginning with these corn muffins. I have to say, I didn’t dig my version too much. You can even tell from the picture that my attempt is pretty dry. Spabettie’s look so much more moist and appetizing. I don’t know where I went wrong here. My plan is to find a good, egg-less cornbread recipe and to revisit the exercise. I love my moist dairy-filled baked goods, and I think this will be a great dish to take to the Thanksgiving dinner I’m attending that won’t be off-limits to the gluten-free crowd.  

Goat cheese Corn Muffins
(from Spabettie, makes 6 muffins)

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 ‘egg’ (I used 1 tsp of flaxseed + 3 tsps of water)
2 tbsps maple syrup
1 cup milk
2 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps honey goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Combine dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and stir until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Pour half the ‘batter’ into muffin cups (if you use the aluminum baking cups you don’t need to use a cupcake baking pan, you can just throw the muffin cups onto a baking sheet). Add a small bit of goat cheese to each cup (as pictured). Cover with the remaining muffin ‘batter’. Bake for 10-20 minutes.

Thai Curry Carrot Bisque
(makes two servings)

1/2 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped in fourths
2 tsp ginger
2 cups of chopped carrots and celery
1/2 cup water
3tsp liquid amino
3 tsps peanut butter
1/4 can of coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
2tbsp olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

In a soup pot, bring the olive oil to medium heat. Then add the onions and garlic. Let these cook until the onions start to caramelize. Add the carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Then add the water and liquid aminos (which together act as a vegetable broth). Let this simmer for a good 10 minutes, whilst adding the peanut butter, turmeric and lemon juice. When the carrots have become tender, add the coconut milk. This is the point at which I’d do a tasting and second round of salt and pepper seasoning. Once seasoned to your taste, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Enjoy this fun video from PES. It’s an animated recipe demo.

Peruvian Purple Potato Chips

November 1, 2010 § 2 Comments

A couple of my vegetarian friends got together this weekend at our friend K.’s house for a dinner. We had great food and wine and watched the sun set over the Pacific, all of this wonderfulness for which I have no pictures. Maybe I’m old school, but I tend to enjoy my moments. I did bring a camera with me, fully intending to take many pictures of the table that K. did an amazing job of decorating in the Halloween theme, but I was just having too good of a time to bother. 

Peruvian purple potato chips served here w. guacamole

For the starter I made Peruvian purple potato chips with a Peruvian Aji dipping sauce (recipe below) followed with a spinach zucchini cream cheese puff pastry loaf for the main. For dessert I did a three-tier vegan chocolate cake w. non-vegan cream-cheese coffee frosting. The only thing I have pictures of are the Peruvian purple potato chips, and this is only because I made a test batch a few days before the weekend. The test batch wasn’t completely successful. I cut the potato slices a bit too thin, which resulted in some unevenness since I didn’t use a mandolin potato slicer. This caused uneven baking, so you’ll see in the picture that many of the halves are brown (read: burnt). For the actual dinner, I did a mixture of Peruvian purple potato chips and classic Russet potato chips. I honestly preferred the Russets. The purple potatoes were a novelty for me, and I was eager to work with them. And although I probably didn’t use them to their fullest potential, I have so say, I didn’t much care for them. They were a bit bitter, which could be because the darker color absorbed more heat during the baking process??? When I expand my Peruvian repertoire and develop a good sauce, I may return to purple potatoes for a creamy mash. In the meantime, my heart is set on baking tarts =)

Peruvian Purple Potatoes
(serves 4 as a side or appetizer)

-5 Peruvian purple potatoes cut diagonally at about an 1/8th of an inch thickness 
-cooking oil spray
-Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Lightly spray the surface with cooking spray. Lay out the potato slices and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for an indeterminate amount of time, average time should be somewhere around 30 minutes per baking sheet. You must check on the potatoes frequently, as some may cook faster than others. As you find these, remove them and let the others continue to bake.

Peruvian Aji sauce (not pictured)

-1/8th of a head of lettuce
-2 jalapeno chiles with the seeds and veins removed
-1/8 of a cup of mayonnaise (I use an eggless mayo from TJoe’s)
-salt and pepper to taste
-3 green onions
-one small handful of cilantro leaves
-1 tsp minced garlic

Combine ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

As an aside, I just put in my first order to CSN using the $75 I won from Croque-Camille’s giveaway (thanks again to Croque-Camille and CSN). I ordered the following list of awesomeness, all of which I’m eager to put to work soon:

-4 mini 4-inch tart pans
-2 mini 4.5-inch springfoam pans
-2 silicon baking mats
-1 two-tier cooling rack

In the process of making out the order, I realized where all my interest in the kitchen lies, and apparently it’s in the oven. There will be a lot of baking going on in the future here!!!

Deep Fried Cream Cheese + Green Onion Wontons

October 6, 2010 § 10 Comments

It’s often hard to decide where to draw the line between a failure and a mistake. With respect to my kitchen escapades, this was one of those times. In the end this dish survived the column of failure on one count: it was damn good…despite the glaring error. So, the big mistake here was using won ton wrappers instead of dumpling wrappers.

Doesn’t sound like such a big deal, right? No, it is, especially when you take each dough to the realm of the deep fryer. These won ton wrappers didn’t hold up well. The resulting won tons, as you see pictured, expanded to look like little lightbulbs. This wasn’t the case when we experimented with dumpling wrappers on the same recipe. The dumpling wrappers came out of the fryer with their shape intact.

All this aside, in the instances where the won ton expansion didn’t result in explosion, the resulting shape was pleasantly unique. I absolutely love this dish, even though it’s a crass American spin on Chinese cuisine. It’s still so wonderful!!! The filling consists of cream cheese, chopped green onions and cracked black pepper. Assembly is simple enough (see picture), and the deep frying is straight forward as well. Happy cooking!!

Cream cheese/tomato/basil stuffed Multigrain biscuits

September 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’m trying to jumpstart my creative culinary instincts after a brief hiatus which left me reaching to frozen food for almost every meal =( My default tool is always pancake mix. There’s so much one can do with it: watery = crepes, less watery = pancakes, thick = biscuits, and so on… In an attempt to finish the last of the cream cheese from the prior week, I activated the no-fail killer combo: cream cheese, tomatoes, basil, and cracked black pepper. I wanted to stuff them into biscuits so that the gooey insides would hit on impact making the whole picture a hearty breakfast component on a foggy morning. I ended up making the half rounds you see pictured b/c jamming the filling into a flat disc had no chance, logistically speaking.  

Cream-cheese, tomato & basil stuffed Multi-grain biscuits (makes 5):

1 cup of Multigrain baking/pancake mix
1/3 cup milk
1.5 tsps vegetable oil
1 roma tomato, diced
handful of basil leaves
1/3 cup of cream cheese
cracked black pepper to taste

In a bowl, mix the basil, cream cheese, tomatoes and black pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the baking mix, milk and oil. Knead on a flat, flour-dusted surface. Roll until flat. Cut out large circles. Place a spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Fold over to make a half circle. Press on the edges w. a fork to ensure that the filling doesn’t escape during the baking process. Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes.

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