Welcome to anybody who has found me thanks to Rufus who has a fantastic blog and was kind enough to mention me the other day. If you somehow found me without Rufus I definitely recommend checking him out. He and his wife are prolific bloggers with some great food and beverage entries.
Thanks to an LA Times Focaccia recipe by way of Panini Girl I started the day ahead with a batch underway. I decided it was high time to return to the Palo Alto farmer’s market. The one I go to is seasonal but when it is going it has some great produce and is on Saturday as opposed to my normal Sunday market. They also have a crepe stand which the kids enjoy so with them eating nutella crepes I took a look around. Sometimes my whole day can change in an instant when I find something inspiring and that is what happened.
The photo at the top of the post is taken just outside Volterra Italy. I had many memorable meals in Italy but in Volterra I ate at a small Trattoria just outside of Volterra. It was a casual place and the chef sent out a single fried squash blossom to start the meal. It was amazing. The memory of it is strong even without the photo I managed to dig up! Long story “short” one of the stalls had perfect looking squash blossoms. I put this together with the focaccia and a romesco dish I’ve been thinking about since I did my Zuni book review and I had the start of a “tapas” type dinner party. A few phone calls and hours later and we had a dinner party for six (plus six kids). I managed to take more photos this time and some notes but more about that later.
If you can find them fried squash blossoms are light and wonderful. They are fragile and will not last long but oh so worth it. Here is a batter close to one I found on the web that worked well.
12 squash blossoms (trimmed and rinsed)
2/3 C flour (I used a bit more to get it thicker)
2 C white wine
1 1/4 C fizzy water
1 egg separated
Mix the flour, wine, water, and egg yolk together and let rest a bit (I did this ahead of time). When you are ready whip the egg white and then fold it in. Fry in olive oil at 325. Drain and dry and sprinkle with salt. Eat when you can just barely pick them up. Somehow the adults didn’t share these with the kids.
I mostly followed the dough recipe though did end up adding extra flour, maybe even close to two extra ounces because it just looked too wet to work with but other than that followed the LA Times recipe. I made a plain one for children and one with sun dried tomatoes and rosemary. They came out a bit uneven and the tomatoes look a bit unappetizing but this was amazing. Definitely something to add to your arsenal!
There is a brief window of time when you mix morels and asparagus and boy are they an amazing combo. This was another thing I’ve been thinking about so after the menu started coming together I grabbed them at the market as well.
1/4 lb morels (washed, yes washed, they can be sandy)
1 tbsp tarragon
1 tbsp butter
1/4 c cream
1/4 c milk
splash of wine
1 tbsp creme fraiche
two bunches of asparagus
I sprinkled the prepped asparagus with olive oil and salt and roasted them in a 400 oven for about 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the morels and sauté for a few minutes. Then add the cream, milk, wine, and tarragon and simmer until the morels are soft. Reheat if necessary and add wine and creme fraiche (or some other kind of acid) to taste and top the aspargus with it. I also sprinkled some fresh tarragon at the end.
Romesco is definitely a bit involved to make but its flavor is soooo amazing you’ve got to try it if you haven’t. In short it is an amazing combo of nuts (almonds and hazelnuts), tomato, paprika, chiles, olive oil, and fried bread. This was the linchpin to my “tapas” style menu. I pretty much followed the Zuni recipe which details all of the steps. Since this post is getting to be epic in length I will just point you to the book for this one.
Not pictured sautéed beet greens, grilled whole sardines stuffed with lemon and parsley, and a second try at my poundcake with strawberry and blueberry compote. They were all good though the dessert was definitely better the second time I made it. Oh yeah, pasta for the kids :). It was a wonderful evening with good friends.