Category Archives: Summer
The weather has been wonderful lately, a real treat compared to last year’s never ending “winter” in SF. We’ve been enjoying our backyard and sat out around 3:30pm yesterday to have a little backyard feast after a rough day of household tasks (and, admittedly, the diligent avoidance of all things Bay to Breakers, and the decision to not leave our own property, which has become an annual tradition on the day Bay to Breakers is held; we cannot get that drunk anymore, we are too old). Oh, and to observe the solar eclipse, which made some really neat patterns on our front door and cast an interesting level of clear, bright light onto the whole Golden Gate Park area.
I offered up a civilized bottle of vinho verde, raw macadamia nut cheese rolled in pistachios, raw “Mexican” chia crackers, raw sugar snap peas, rose water fruit salad with raw cashew cream sauce and delicious fava beans with pecorino.
Every year about this time I find myself craving squash blossoms–it’s a habit I developed in 2006 when Marcella Ansaldo at Apicius taught me how to make them–that such a thing existed. It’s terribly disappointing to me that they didn’t exist in my life earlier. My parents grew squash each summer growing up in Missouri–what a missed opportunity!
These are very simple–the key to making them fantastic amounts to three things. 1) Thin batter 2) Salt and 3) hot oil.
Fried Squash Blossoms Recipe
Leffe beer, or other beer or champagne
12-20 squash blossoms*
White flour, as fine as can be
Safflower or other frying oil
Wash the squash blossoms in a lot of water, gently rinsing the insides if possible. Spin dry or allow to dry upside down for an hour or two. If they are wet, they will spit when fried and hurt you! For especially large blossoms, you may want to check for any worms or creatures inside near the stem.
Begin heating your oil to an appropriate frying heat (as hot as you can stand the spitting, basically–and trust, this takes some experience to figure out, just go for it and in time you’ll be a pro on your stove) in a manageable sized pan. I find a smaller pan (a 9″ cast iron, in my case) works better when you don’t *have* to crank out a huge volume–better control.
For about 15 squash blossoms, put 3-4 heaping tablespoons of flour into a smallish mixing bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt. Add beer or champagne little by little, until you get a batter the consistency of cold maple syrup, or a little thicker than cream. Add more flour and a touch of salt if needed as you go.
When the oil is hot, dip each flower in the batter and let the excess drip off before placing into the oil. It should float to the top and begin sizzling immediately. If not, raise the heat and wait a minute or two. Place onto paper towels or a drying/cooling rack. Sprinkle with additional salt immediately.
When you bite in, they should smell of the alcohol you used (in a very pleasant way) and should be crisp on the outside, tender at the stem area. It’s one of my very favorite summer delicacies.
* If you have difficulty finding these, check your local farmers’ market at any vendor who sells zucchini or summer squash. If they don’t have them, ask them if they can bring some the next week for you. They only keep 1-3 days at best, and they’ll need to be kept dry to prevent decay and cool, such as within a plastic ventilated container within the crisper of your refrigerator. It’s best to use them the same day they are picked.
Lavender Chicken on the Grill with Tangerine-dressed Raw Summer Vegetables
Chicken & Poultry Rub
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 tsp dry rosemary
2 tsp lavender
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1 medium zucchini
1 yellow patty pan squash
2 C baby kale (or other hearty salad green, or blanched mature chopped kale)
Juice of 1/2 orange (about 2-4 Tbsp)
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
Chop your zucchini julienne (matchsticks) and use a mandolin on your patty pan squash to create discs. Set aside.
Grind all spices in a coffee grinder or with a mortar & pestle and dress your pounded chicken generously. Use olive oil spray to briefly coat each side, or alternatively, rub with olive oil prior to applying spice rub. Get your grill ready.
Whisk all dressing ingredients together and toss your kale in it, placing it in warmed salad bowls. In the remaining dressing, toss the summer squash and place 2/3rds of it on top of the kale, gently mixing in avocado slices.
When chicken is done cooking on the grill (or in a cast iron in a pan with a lid, or however you’d like to do it!), slice in 2 inch pieces and layer with remaining squash and avocado in bowls.
Quick, healthy, and delicious zucchini soup recipe. Works best with a high powered blender, but a stick blender or regular one will work too, with a little finesse. Can be served chilled as well.
Zucchini & Purslane Soup Recipe
Adapted from Food & Wine
1.5 lb of zucchini or mixed summer squash, washed, trimmed, and sliced evenly*
1/2 medium or large yellow onion, diced roughly
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 cup purslane (or microgreens, which can be tossed with a little lemon or orange zest as well)
Salt to taste
In a 3 quart pan or larger, warm your vegetable stock over medium heat. Add onions, cooking until almost transparent. Add garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and zucchini, cover and cook about 5 minutes at medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but still firm. Add the water and cover. Cook about 10 minutes, until soft.
Using your preferred blending method, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and season with salt, or salt at the table. To serve, do so immediately warm, reheat later with a little more vegetable broth, or add several ice cubes to the fresh puree to bring the temperature down, then store in the fridge up to two days and serve chilled. Garnish with generous purslane and raw zucchini strips.
*Make some thin strips for garnish if you like, before chopping it all up
It’s probably been five weeks since I posted here. I’ve been cooking plenty, but it’s been of the utilitarian type–meals my friends would (and sometimes are) still delighted to join in on, but that I’ve either posted before, or that I didn’t plate well, or that we were in a hurry to eat. That’s the true life behind a food blog–very little of what is produced makes it on here.
I’ve made Tutto Mare (for my man’s parents while they visited for three weeks in my house–another reason I’ve been absent), eggplant parmasean (without frying the eggplant but with a stick of butter in the sauce), flank steak with chimichurri sauce (for which I already owe you a recipe–noted!), cookies, Chinese desserts involving potatoes and ginger, pesto, and a million other things. Between the house guests and my day job and my latest quest to drink only disgusting green purees of things, there’s not much time to write or much worth writing about.
Now about generous friends. Usually when I post to Red Blossom Tea I’m talking about P. This time I’m talking about his sister Alice–I owe her big time. Every time I drop into the shop she seems to have some treat to share with me, we talk cheese, we talk travel, we talk food and wine. I took the visiting pseudo-in-laws to the shop and came home with a gigantic bag of washed, ready to use, beautiful mature arugula which I’ve put to several uses over the last two weeks–yes, it’s lasted two weeks and still looks gorgeous!
I’ve made arugula pesto, added it to one of my disgusting green smoothies, mixed it into bruschetta, blanched it and served it with eggs poached in tomato sauce, and even used it in this thai cucumber salad recipe. Thanks Alice!
This is why I haven’t been posting. While writing this enry, I drank this green smoothie of apples, carrots, spinach and a dash of whole lemon and tried really hard to pretend it was baked french toast with mascarpone cream.
Thai Cucumber Salad
Serves 4-6 with possible leftovers as a side
2 medium cucumbers, preferably unwaxed persians
1/4 red onion
1 large watermelon radish or other radish totaling the size of a small peach
1/2 C arugula, chopped
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 C seasoned rice vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt
Mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt and microwave for 30 seconds, stir to combine. Set aside.
Prepare your cucumber- if waxed/thick skinned, trim the ends, and peel most of the skin off leaving bright green behind, cut in half and remove the seeds with a spoon from each side. If using edible peel, simply remove ends and cut in half, removing seeds. Using a mandolin or a very patient hand, slice into 1/8th inch thick slices. Place in a serving bowl. Next, slice 1/8th or thinner slices of red onion using the mandolin. Peel off any tough outer layers before doing so. Add to cucumber bowl. Peel the watermelon radish (no need to peel other types), cut in half, and slice thinly with the mandolin.
Toss everything with the vinegar mixture, add sesame seeds and arugula at the end. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two weeks, so long as everything is coated in vinegar. Makes a quick refrigerator pickle that is tasty right away or later on. You can also store in jars with more vinegar up to a couple months if refrigerated.