Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shana Tova with Squash Blossoms

This has been a year of many wonders. Blogging took a back seat while I was doing a lot of other things that I love - cooking, teaching and spending time with our growing family. Zoe turned one last month and we have much to be thankful for as we take stock of this last year. My hope for us all in the coming year is to discover life's bounties and inspiration.

Below are my Rosh Hashana 2013 menus - 60 people will surround our dining room table over the course of six meals. There will be a lot less meat than there has been in years past - my parents are on a predominantly vegetarian diet for health reasons, my father-in-law doesn't eat chicken and half our guests don't eat meat so we're focusing on fish and produce. I'm mightily impressed by my old self looking back at our 2011 menu plan (ditto for 2010. 2012 was undocumented here but bless my mother and friend Jess for all their help in making amazing food while I was occupied by a six week old Zoe).

This year's menus encompass both summer and fall food vibes, given this limbo time we find ourselves in, between the two seasons. Last week started out with me enjoying a blueberry beer in an outdoor cafe, and over the weekend I sipped my inaugural pumpkin ale of the almost-fall. On the first night of Rosh Hashana we're going to enjoy some final summer favorites - corn on the cob (which Zoe devours with exuberant typewriter-like motions) and stuffed squash blossoms. But below you'll find instructions for my base recipe.

I recently made a facebook promise to share my recipe for stuffed squash blossoms here. The problem is I don't follow a recipe. So I've tried my best to sum up what happens when I get home from the farmers market with big beautiful fragrant blossoms. How I stuff them with goat cheese, or cream cheese, or even shredded mozzarella with chopped anchovies, and dredge them in water and flour, or buttermilk and flour, or even beer and flower. For Rosh Hashana I'll be trying a description heard on the Splendid Table podcast by Lynne Rossetto Kasper using a garlic and herb spiked ricotta stuffing and panko-egg coating.

Fried Stuffed Squash Blossoms
I buy squash blossoms as often as I see them at the farmers markets over the summer.

12 squash blossoms
1/2 cup - 1 cup of soft cheese (such as goat cheese, or cream cheese, or finely shredded mozzarella)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup water (or buttermilk or beer)
1/4 tsp salt and pepper olive or vegetable oil

Start by cleaning the squash blossoms - either by dusting them off and carefully inspecting them for dirt/bugs or by gently rinsing them with cool water and patting them dry. Leaving them wet can damage the blossoms and you want them in-tact for stuffing and frying.

Next use a small spoon or you fingers to stuff about 2 tsbp of cheese into the center of each squash blossom and set on a plate. You don't want them to be over stuffed.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1/2 and inch - 1 inch of oil.

Meanwhile, mix the liquid and flour in a shallow bowl with a fork and season with salt and pepper. Dredge each blossom in the mixture and place in the hot frying pan. Flip each blossom after they turn golden brown - about 2 minutes. I like to use a pair of kitchen tongs for this. Wait till the other side is golden brown and serve.

I find the green part of the blossom (the stem) too bitter to eat - plus leaving them on our plates lets us keep count of who has eaten their fair share.


Rosh Hashana Menus 2013
While I'm simplifying things this year, I'm still trying to uphold our tradition of incorporating foods that symbolize our wishes for the new year (and whose Hebrew words play up on a related pun). Dessert is sort of neglected in this accounting but we won't be skipping it. It will star sorbet, fruit and my grandmother's recipe for A Bit More - you can find an updated recipe below.

First Night
Romaine salad with tomatoes

First Day Lunch - all Ottolenghi recipes
fish balls
roasted butternut squash w tahina
date/spinach salad

Second Night
lamb tajine
herbed couscous

Second Day Lunch
salmon kabobs
quinoa tabouleh salad

Third Night
black bean soup  
London Broil

Shabbat Lunch 
white fish with chimmichurri sauce
Israeli salad

A Bit More
A dessert attributed to my maternal grandmother, Noelle Cadle Swart, and updated this year by my mom Marilyn Horen. Serves 4-6.

1 egg beaten slightly
5 tablespoons of almond flour   
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1/3 cup walnuts                                      
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla                                      
3 baking apples
1/2 cup of honey

Sift dry ingredients, mix them in to the slightly beaten egg. Mixture will be thick and ribbon-like when poured. 
Peel and slice apples thinly and then arrange them in a greased 10” square pan. Mix in chopped walnuts. Apples should be no more than two layers deep. Pour the wet mixture from above in a ribbon over the surface of the apples. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.