Squash Blossom Quesadillas, Quesadillas de Flor de Calabaza
These quesadillas are nothing like the Americanized cheddar and flour tortilla variety. They are imbued with the subtle squashy flavor of zucchini blossoms, the sweetness of red onions and summer corn. You can also add roasted poblano chiles, which are a common compliment to squash blossoms. I used a mozarella cheese made by a Mexican quesero (cheesmaker) since no quesillo de oaxaca could be found, it was just fine since it was subtle and melted beautifly, stretchy and soft. Keep the flavors mellow so they don’t over power the blossom that are the star of this dish! xogabriela
During the high months of summer, peacocks perch on the coyote fence surrounding a small vegetable garden in my parent’s backyard. Pea shoots and green bean creepers climb up the timber, while squash blossoms begin to bloom. Since I am neither at home nor have the real estate for a garden, I rely on the NYC Greenmarket for such summer delicacies.
This week the indulgences were sunflowers and squash blossoms. The former came from working the fresh flower stand at the Tucker Square Green Market, the later was a gift from a generous fellow vendor of Locust Grove Fruit Farm who would not allow me to pay for the precious, edible blooms!
I was careful to keep the squash blossoms shaded and cool as I finished my shift, because I know how quickly they wilt. But, in my exhaustion and absent mindedness from working the early hours of that Saturday, I put them in the fridge and decided to go for a swim, convincing myself that I would cook them that evening. Instead we ate fried chicken. And…well, the next day was Fourth of July, corn dogs and Coney Island were on the agenda so the blossoms remained forgotten in the fridge. Monday was too darn hot to cook – I’ll admit it, we ordered a pizza. So I didn’t get around to cooking them until Tuesday night!
If you’ve had squash blossoms, you know that after they’re plucked they should be used as soon as possible. I was lucky, my fridge must have been at just the right temperature and humidity because my blossoms were still fresh and supple. So last night I made Quesadillas de Flor de Calabaza.
I used blossoms from a summer varieties of squash like zucchini, since I’ve been told the hard winter squash blossoms have a less palatable, bitter flavor. Both male and female blooms are edible, although male blooms are more commonly harvested allowing the females to bear fruit.
They have been used in ancient Mexican and American Indian dishes such as Sopa de Flor de Calabaza or Squash Blossom Stew. They’re also used in more colonial dishes such as the French influenced Mexican crepe, Budín de Flor de Calabaza. And in Spain and Italy they’re commonly stuffed with goat cheese and fried.
These blossoms have a slightly sweet, more delicate flavor of a mature squash and a silken texture. I’ve heard them described as tasting like “squash perfume”.
Quesadillas de Flor de Calabaza
10-12 fresh squash blossoms
12 corn tortillas
1/2 red onion
2 sprigs, about 1 Tablespoon pungent herb such as epazote, racao/culantro or cilantro
1 ear of corn husked, kernals removed, about 3/4 cup frozen corn thawed
1/2 pound, about 6 quarter-inch thick slices asadero, quesillo Oaxaca or mozzarella cheese
salt to taste
Prepare blossoms by removing stamen and stems. Gently wash under cold water and pat dry. Chop the blossoms, red onion and pungent herb so they are uniform in size, similar to the corn. Heat one teaspoon olive oil in a pan. Add onions and sautee until aromatic and slightly translucent, about 2 minute on medium-high heat. Add corn, blossoms and herb and sautee for another 2 minutes, promptly remove from heat. The goal is for the veggies to be tender but slightly crisp. Salt to taste.
Slice cheese into six, quarter-inch thick pieces, they should fit with a bit of room around the edge of the tortilla. Brush each tortilla with some olive oil. Place a slice of cheese and about 2 tablespoons of the sauteed vegetable between two tortillas. Grill on a comal or griddle on medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side, until tortillas become speckled brown and the cheese is melted.
Serve immediately with salsa, beans or avocado.