Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good Things GroOow...

...in Ontario!

Yes, it's the trademark jingle of a (slightly cheesy) PR campaign by Foodland Ontario. It's heard on both the TV and radio solidly from the time the first green tips of asparagus and pink stalks of rhubarb crawl out from their hiding places in the Spring until the last dregs of the zucchini and apples die off in late October. But it is a truthful sentiment, and can be altered to fit no matter where you live: locally produced, or better - homegrown - food can blow anything from your run of the mill chain grocery out of the water when it comes to flavour, texture, and nutrition. Perhaps most of all, though, when you bite into a still warm, perfectly ripe tomato that you've just picked from the vine, or crunch down on that first, sweet carrot of the season, the sense of sheer pride in yourself, your garden and the fertile land you have at your disposal is beyond comparison. I don't know when the last time was that I ate storebought snap peas like candy, or developed a sudden urge to make fresh pesto walking through Loblaws. But I can tell you - walking into my backyard on a day like today: sunny, perfectly warm without being cloyingly sticky and not a cloud in the sky, inspiration is everywhere.

Now, it doesn't take very much to inspire me, really. I mean, my brain is one of those ones that's firing all cylinders, all the time. I'm not kidding, either - I physically can't fall asleep at night without my black "ideas journal" right next to my bed, which is currently filled with lists upon lists of things I want to create and concoct someday that I don't want to forget, as well as some of the dreams I've had that really struck a chord. So when I spotted a ton of huge flowers on our acorn squash and pumpkin plants this weekend, I asked my mom if she and the rest of the family would be amenable to trying some stuffed blossoms with dinner. She agreed, especially once I told her about the recipe I had been given by one of my friends (who's traveling in Italy) that roasts the flowers... no deep frying!
Along with the garden's flowers (I only cut the "male" ones, so we'd get the full crop of fruits) I kept things even more homegrown by using fresh basil from (literally) right outside our door and tomatoes from last year that I dried! I also got to use a delicious, high quality chevre from Monforte Dairy (another local gem!), and it made all the difference, I think! This is no place for supermarket goat cheese - search out a decent brand if you can't find a local producer.

These beauties made for a delicious, light side to the otherwise dense and oil-slicked Friday menu that the family religiously orders in - pizza and ribs. I also got to break out one of the two delicious-looking bottles of wine Beringer Vineyards was kind enough to sent to me - a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from their new California Collection. Both my mom and stepdad raved about this red wine - it appealed to them because it was full of berry flavour and aroma (I can speak for the aroma - it's like being in the field!) and it is a very dry wine with a smooth finish. It was a surprisingly good pairing to the blossoms too, probably because of the heavier chevre flavour notes that wouldn't be overwhelmed by a powerful wine. I can't wait to see what they have to say about the other Beringer wine I received -a 2008 White Zinfandel. I would definitely look for these next time you need a fairly low-priced, quality sipper this summer, I don't recall seeing them in our neighbourhood LCBO last time I was in but since I rarely have cause to be there (I can't drink alcohol, so it's usually for liqueurs for baking) they very well may be on the shelf!

So, onto the recipe. Stuffing these is a bit of a production, but it is so worth it - and the purchase of a disposable piping bag! You really don't want to go the Ziploc baggie route with these. I tried, believe me - and the seam split almost immediately.

Roasted Squash Blossoms with Tri-Colour Filling
Makes 9
Boiling water
12 dry-packed sun-dried tomato halves
200g soft goat cheese (chevre), room temperature
12 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
1/2 tbsp richly flavoured olive oil
9 large squash or pumpkin blossoms, cleaned and dried

  1. Pour boiling water over sun dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Let stand 20 minutes, then drain and set aside.
  2. In a shallow, wide bowl, mix together goat cheese, basil, olive oil and soaked tomatoes with a fork until well blended.
  3. Scoop into a piping bag (disposable ones are cheap at craft stores, Ziploc baggies tend to burst at the seams) and place into the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 425F, lightly spray a casserole or rectangular paking dish with PAM.
  5. Pipe the cheese filling into the blossoms, as tightly as possible, to the point where the petals flare and separate.
  6. Arrange the filled blossoms in the sprayed pan, coat with a spray of PAM and cover with foil.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool 5 minutes covered, then serve immediately.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 90.4
Total Fat: 7.4 g
Cholesterol: 17.6 mg
Sodium: 115.6 mg
Total Carbs: 1.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.2 g
Protein: 4.9 g

I finally have something to contribute to Grow Your Own this month! I figure that I can't get any more home-grown, since we're not allowed to raise livestock in the backyard! It's the second anniversary of the event (by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes) and the 34th roundup! Congrats Andrea!

2 comments :

kat said...

I meant to try making these this year too but we pulled the squash plants before I got a chance

Andrea said...

Oh, these are so pretty! I like squash blossoms, but our plants were overtaken by garden pests and only produced two blossoms which never amounted to anything. Hopefully we'll have better luck next year. Thanks for sharing with Grow Your Own!
Cheers,
Andrea