By Lauren Rauh
July signifies an abundance of new crops, including summer squash and their often overlooked blossoms. If you are feeling a bit adventurous (and willing to splurge), pick up a bunch of squash blossoms; these edible flowers are surprising versatile and offer a delicate summer squash flavor. You can slice up the blossoms and bake them in a frittata, toss them in a salad, melt into a quesadilla, stuff with cheese, or batter them and fry 'em up like the Italians do. Your local farmers may have some additional tasty ideas.
By the time I got around to the farmer's market yesterday the blossoms had wilted significantly in the muggy heat. When they wilt the petals stick together and it makes it difficult to pull the blossoms apart without tearing them. So stuffing the blossoms was out for me--if you wish to stuff the flowers, you must buy super fresh and open blossoms. I considered my other options on my commute home and dreamed up this creamy sauce.
The amount of cream used can be cut down and replaced with milk or chicken or vegetable stock. On the other hand, if you want an even richer sauce, use butter instead of olive oil and add a little more butter while the sauce simmers for a lustrous finish.
Prepare the Squash Blossoms:
To removed the petals, grab the flower right above the stem and gentle lift away from the base of the blossom. The stem and all stamen should pull away. (Alternately, if you were to stuff and fry the blossoms, you would remove the insides and leave the blossom and stem in tact.)
Pull the petals apart at one point, wash them in a bowl of water and lay flat to dry. Watch out for bugs, these little guys like to hang out inside the flowers:
To julienne the squash blossoms, roll the flattened petals and slice evenly and thinly from right to left.
For the Sauce:
18-20 squash blossom, petals removed, washed and julienned (directions above)
One medium onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili flakes
6 saffron threads
1/3 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste
Over medium heat, heat a heavy skillet or dutch oven. Add the oil. When the oil is hot add the onions. Sweat the onions for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until they are translucent and soft. Add the garlic and continue to sweat until the garlic is fragrant.
Stir in the chili flakes, saffron, and squash blossoms. Cook for a minute or two. Add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes, adding more liquid if it gets to dry to quickly. Taste and add more seasoning, if necessary.
Transfer the sauce to a blender. Puree the contents on low for about five minutes.
Toss the sauce with hot fetuccine, pappardel, or gnocchi; serve with fish or grilled vegetables; use it as a dip for a crusty bread. The possibilities are endless, but undoubtedly delicious!
Makes about 1 cup of sauce.