Six years ago my family joined a CSA (community supported agriculture), otherwise known as a farm share. We joined because I really wanted to take advantage of local, responsibly grown produce. Being a member of the farm share has been a truly wonderful experience—from the warm and friendly staff, to the community atmosphere amongst the members, to the access to truly seasonal fruits and vegetables!
Our CSA is sort of unique in that instead of just picking up a box of pre-selected produce, you get to pick your selections in a farm stand-type set up. When I was first starting out, this feature was nice because I was nervous about cooking with unknown vegetables, so falling back on familiar ingredients made me more comfortable. As I have become a more confident and curious cook, though, one of the things that I have really grown to enjoy is trying out a new ingredient every week (or almost every week). This season the highlights so far have been kohlrabi, tatsoi, and squash blossoms.
As I have experimented with these new ingredients over the years I have figured out five tricks to make it fun and easy:
- Ask for recommendations! I have found that the staff at the CSA, as well as at farm stands and farmer’s markets, are incredibly knowledgeable about ways to prepare the fruits and vegetables they have to offer. All you need to do is ask and they will happily share some ideas with you!
- Google is your friend. Search for the ingredient with the term “easy recipe” and see what pops up.
- Be flexible. If you find a recipe that seems like it might work but you don’t have all the ingredients, allow yourself room to fudge things a little bit—use a different kind of cheese, skip the spicy pepper, use regular bread crumbs instead of panko, etc.
- Try using a new ingredient in a familiar favorite. If you come across an ingredient that is similar to one you use in a favorite recipe, try substituting! That way you are confident in the recipe, but just trying a new version. Up until this week, for instance, I had been just enjoying kohlrabi raw (which is amazing by the way), but on Monday I decided to use it in a stir-fry as a replacement for the crunchiness of bok choy and it was delicious! Similarly, I have found that tatsoi is delicious sautéed just as I would sauté chard, spinach, or kale.
- Accept failures. There have been a couple of duds and that is ok! For instance, one time last year I picked up dandelion greens, brought them home, found a sautéed dandelion green recipe online that looked promising, and made it. BLEH! I quickly discovered that no one in my house enjoys dandelion greens, but that same recipe made with baby kale was awesome!
So now that I’ve (hopefully) got you inspired to try a new ingredient, here is a recipe that uses squash blossoms, an ingredient many of us haven’t used much. These babies are in season right now and are wonderful! They have a very delicate taste and texture and, when cooked, they are silky smooth. Most squash blossom recipes involved frying, which I don’t do much of, so I tried baking them and WOW! They are so delicious! These are a fantastic side dish or appetizer. Last night we had them with beans, rice, and the fixings and I thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers reheated in the toaster oven for lunch today.
- 10-12 squash blossoms
- For filling:
- 8 ounces queso fresco or another soft cheese (ricotta, feta, etc.)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- For coating:
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Gently wash the blossoms and pat dry. With a sharp knife, carefully slice open the blossom. If you have male blossoms, then there will be a stamen on the inside. Carefully pull that out.
- In a medium bowl, crumble the cheese and mix in the egg, oregano, and chili powder.
- In a shallow bowl or plate, lightly beat the other two eggs and pour the breadcrumbs onto a second plate.
- Using a small spoon, carefully scoop some of the cheese mixture into each squash blossom and then gently twist the ends of the blossom so it is closed up.
- Dip each blossom into the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs. If you are worried about the filling coming out, then you can also spoon the egg and breadcrumbs onto the blossoms.
- Place the blossoms on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden.