Soon after meeting Founding Foodie Amy, some nine years ago, I realized I had so much to learn. One spring afternoon, she served me something I had no idea was a thing: squash blossoms. Little delicate beauties stuffed with a savory cheesy concoction. Mind … blown.
I thought of myself as a Padawan learner; Amy, a food Jedi master. She introduced me to so many things and I’ve learned a ton from her since then. Our bond formed over food, cooking and delicious ingredients. It’s why we do this blog together, nearly five years strong without missing a single weekly post. And still … there is much to learn!
This month’s “lesser used spring veggie” topic brought me smack right back to that warm day in Amy’s old condo. I haven’t had squash blossoms since – not at a restaurant, let alone in my own kitchen. Could the Padawan become a Jedi master? Well, I don’t think I’ll ever reach that level, but it’s always good to have goals. Perhaps I could graduate to being a Jedi knight?
Off I went on my journey to continue my training, much like Luke Skywalker when he went to the Dagobah system to run with Yoda on his back. It was a pleasant April Saturday morning, when I walked to my local farmer’s market in search of some inspiration. I met my other bestie, Julie, also on her own food journey. She’s completed her first 30 days on Whole30 and is still going strong. The farmer’s market is a great place to find new ideas. After talking to a local sausage maker she walked away with some great nitrate-free and diet approved spicy sausage, plus some ham from a local ranch.
So what did I walk home with? Squash blossoms, of course! Or, more accurately, a hanging zucchini plant flush with flowers. After a quick Google search I asked a local purveyor of produce and plants about eating the blossoms from the squash or zucchini plants. He showed me which ones to eat and directed me to a plant that had some good ones ripe for picking. As Julie looked on in like I was a crazy person (“You eat which what?”), I paid my $10 for the plant. One plus? I get to eat zucchinis from my deck. I’m not a gardener, although I have aspirations … lazy aspirations.
My internet searches wrangled up some quick guides on how to pick, prepare and cook the blossoms. The Kitchn has a a good, high level post which helped me identify which were the male and which were the female. Yes, it matters! The female produce the squash, so if you want them later on, it’s best to harvest the male blossoms. You can spot the difference pretty easily – male blossoms appear on longer stems, further from the center of the plant. They also do not have pistils and are much more slender than their female counterparts. Once cut, use fairly soon. Since they are so delicate, they don’t last long. Also, if you’ve ever grown squash or know a gardener who has, you know how out of hand they can get. Almost too many to keep up with! Eating the blossoms are a great way to keep your plants in check.
Other than the one preparation I’ve had, I wasn’t too sure what to make with them. They have a light savory flavor. Much like other flowers and blossoms they take on a hint of the flavor of the fruit or vegetable they produce. In this case, they have a light zucchini flavor. The most common preparation is to stuff and/or lightly batter and fry them. I also saw some pasta recipes, pizza topping ideas, egg casseroles and frittatas, soups and fritters, along with several quesadilla recipes. The possibilities are endless and super simple.
The idea of a delicate savory flower tucked into a cheesy, crispy tortilla got my Jedi senses all afire. Quesadillas it is! What I made was more like a tiny snack sized version, since I used the smaller corn tortillas. But don’t let that stop you from going bigger. The more the merrier and these did not disappoint.
Squash Blossom Quesadillas
I used corn tortillas, so they were more like flat, squished tacos or mini-quesadillas. You can use larger flour tortillas for a more traditional quesadilla, just increase the amounts to cover a larger surface. Note, the amounts here make 8, assuming 2 per person, to serve 4; adjust as needed.
16 squash blossoms
8 corn tortillas
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (substitute cheddar, pepper jack or some combination)
1 spring onion or 2 scallions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
1 lime, cut in wedges
Warm a cast iron or non-stick skillet on medium heat. Place a tortilla in the pan for a few seconds to warm one side. Flip and sprinkle cheese, cilantro and onion on one side of the tortilla. Place two blossoms on top of the cheese side, then fold the tortilla in half, covering the cheese and blossoms. Press down with spatula, then flip to warm/crisp the other side.
Remove from heat, sprinkle more cilantro on top. Serve with avocado slices and a squeeze of lime.