Cooking Like A Mexican

Squash Blossom
BY: ALEJANDRA SARACHAGA

All these years, that I have been writing the Mexican cooking column I have been tempted more than once to write about the Flor de Calabaza (Squash Blossom or Pumpkin flower), and never did because I was either too early or too late for the season and when they were not easy to find at all.

But this year I am right on time and not only that, but I have seen this beautiful product in every supermarket and organic markets/stores around town. So this is my time to go for it.

First cultivated for food in pre-Hispanic Mexico as one of the three sisters: squash, maize, and climbing beans (typically teary beans or common beans).

They’re commonly called squash blossoms in English - as you might guess, this is because it doesn’t matter too much what kind of squash they’re from. They’ll most commonly be from smaller summer squash plants (e.g. zucchini) though, since they produce many small squash instead of a few large squash, (like pumpkins), so you can get more blossoms for your trouble.

As weird as it may be for those who were not born in Mexico, the squash blossom is edible and it is delicious by the way and it is part of the Mexican traditional gastronomy that has influenced the Italian cuisine. These flowers give to the different dishes a delicate flavor and texture.

It is also used in cooking in other countries such as Italy, where they consume it as side dish, stuffed, fried dumplings and croquettes; but they rather prefer to eat the fruit, (squash), than the flower. Lately some chefs, trying to give some sophistication to their dishes, have added this ingredient to give new flavors and appearance to them, but it is not a new thing or extravagancy for us. We are pretty used to it.

This flower can be eaten in several ways: raw in salads, cooked with other vegetables, steamed, stuffed, in tacos, quesadillas, and many other ways. They are big and beautiful with a wild yellow color.

Along with the arrival of summer squashes this season are their dainty edible flowers. The bright orange blossoms sold at farmers’ and specialty markets are generally from zucchini plants, though the flowers of other summer squashes may be eaten, as well.

Squash blossom contain mainly water, but also active components are linoleic flower, aspartic, oleic and palmitic acid. Proteins, Carbohydrates, iron, potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and folic acid

Squash blossoms cream soup

(makes 8 servings)

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

3 cups raw corn grain

2 ancho chilies roasted and soaked in boiling water

4 cups of chicken stock

2 bunches squash blossoms

1 sprig epazote leaves and

2 cups of milk

1/2 cup sour cream

1 pasilla chile fried strips

Fry the onion in butter, when the onion is translucent, add the garlic and corn and give them a quick fry, add the drained ancho chile and chicken broth, leaving it in moderate heat. Then add half of the squash blossoms chopped, add the epazote branch and the milk. Season and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Remove the epazote branch, liquefy the soup; fry the remaining flowers chopped in a little butter and season. Pour the sour cream in the serving bowl and add the boiling soup. Stir and decorate with the rest of the flowers that are already fried in butter.

I think this is the best way to really taste the flavor of squash blossoms, but here are other ways to cook it. Try them all, pick your favorite or dare to create your own recipe. If you do, be nice and share it with me.

Also the blossoms are often served fried – a dish we will never turn down, but there are several other ways to fully enjoy the beautiful color and delicate texture and flavor of this summer treat.

Fried: From Mexico to Italy, frying is one of the most popular ways to prepare squash blossoms. Simply batter and fry them or stuff them first. Cheeses (ricotta, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese) and herbs (basil, thyme, and parsley) make good fillings. Try adding lemon zest to the cheese or season the crispy fried blossoms with a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkling of coarse salt.

Baked: If deep frying turns you off, or you just want to try something different, you could stuff the blossoms with cheese – savory or sweet – and then bake them in the oven. Steaming is another healthy option.

Pasta: We sometimes gently tear or make a “chiffonade” of squash blossoms to serve over pasta, risotto, or salad. The blossoms can also be cooked into a pasta sauce. This is one of our favorite recipes.

Quesadilla There’s something very satisfying about the combination of the mildly sweet, squash-y blossoms with creamy cheese.

Alejandra