Archive for September, 2013

September 10, 2013

Squash blossoms: delicious with cheese.

This summer I took a Maya Cooking workshop at UBC farm where we walked into the farm kitchen, took a seat and the Maya gardeners cooked us at least 6 meals accompanied by family chatter and the most delicious corn tortillas I’ve ever tasted.

The table setting had delicate greens and squash blooms, baby sunburst squashes and mystery herbs like Zapote and Yerba Mora.
Mayan Cooking UBC

We were cooking with Faviana, Francesca, Maximo, Nattie, Martina, Juanita, and Leche. Martina showed us a handful of greens, Amaranth/”bledo” and served us our mystery greens, blanched, sauteed with onion and served with pinto beans.
Nattie showed us Yerba Mora, “Very good in soup” and used as medicine, teas and poultices. She had also created her very own Yerba Mora juice- mixed with blueberries, acai, and pomegranate, and taken as a shot.
Slowly the wine from the night before faded away.

We ate a salad of Purslane, Macuy, Yerba Mora. The dressing: sea salt and lime juice. The mix of every single ingredient was magic. It didn’t need a coverup. All cooking techniques used minimal oil. No broth, just water. A pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime.

We had a harvest of squash blooms for our soup, complete with baby sunbursts and even the squash stems. I learned how to differentiate a male and female blossom. To leave some male flowers in the garden to pollinate the females. A female blossom has a small bulb under her bloom that will be a baby squash. Sex education for gardeners. A family tip to never remove the stamens from the bloom- “that is where the flavour is!”.

And this was summer.
This soup.

UBC: Squash Blossom Soup

Squash Blossom Harvest

I left the class and spent the next couple of weeks studying my sunburst squash plant. A few blooms. A boy. A girl here and there. Harvest, zero. I wanted a big bowl of squash blossom soup.
A bit of powdery mildew set in the leaves. I babysat my plant with a rescue remedy.
September rolled around and bloomless, with a harvest of one sunburst and a few babies, I considered chopping the stem and making a soup out of the whole plant.
Then last weekend I wandered up to the garden early enough on Saturday, and there were two beautiful blooms and a baby. Enough to make breakfast for two.

Saturdays Harvest: Squash blossoms, a baby squash, a handful of juliet romas and yellow pear tomatoes, a lemon cucumber.
garden harvest: squash blossoms
Our last meal with the Maya cooks was sauteed baby squash and blossoms. I remember the tastes and flavours of every single dish but with my prized two blossoms all I could hear was the clever and often repeated wise words from Nattie: Squash blossoms “delicious with cheese”.

Squash blossom scrambled eggs "delicious with cheese"

Squash blossom scrambled eggs “delicious with cheese”

Credit to my husband for piling the breakfast bounty on a bagel. I present to you: Breakfast bagel with Squash, blossoms, and cheese:

sh Blossom Breakfast Bagel

Squash Blossom Breakfast Bagel

Enjoy!

-Thanks to my dad for documenting the class with beautiful photos, while I ate.
-And a very special thank you to the Maya families who cooked the most incredible dishes of my summer.

Maya cooking workshops are held at UBC farm:Three Sisters in the Kitchen- A Traditional Maya Cooking Class
The Mayan Garden is an initiative of the Vancouver Native Health Society, the VNHS Garden project has been growing and preparing food at the UBC Farm since 2005. The garden project runs a weekly community kitchen with urban Aboriginal participants who grow, prepare, and eat food while sharing knowledge and skills with members of the UBC community and beyond. Ceremonies and celebrations throughout the year mark important seasonal shifts in traditional food ways, such as harvest feasts and the use of the cedar smokehouse for fish (part of the project’s work to bridge land and sea).

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September 5, 2013

Farmer’s Market Find: Flower Salad

One of the truly special fresh-from-the-dirt vegetables I love is simply, lettuce. I noted in my UBC farm CSA box roundup last year, one of my favourite produce items was the baby lettuce heads and salad mixes fresh from the field. They are strikingly beautiful. Deep purple lettuce heads that fit in the palm of your hand, served on the plate as your side salad, you taste it with your eyes. The actual bite of just a plain old lettuce leaf turns novel and incredibly gratifying.
Salad mix from the farmers market has actual flavour. The right salad mix has a blend of baby leaves with flavours of sweet, tangy, peppery and textures of crisp, and delicate. What I never really encountered was fragrance.

Do you know you can smell with your tongue?
Taste with your nose?
As stated in tastingscience.info’s article: Is most of taste really smell? A more scientifically accurate statement would be that “Most of flavor is smell,” where flavor is defined as the combination of sensations experienced when eating or drinking, especially, taste, smell, and chemesthesis.

Following this theory, I present to you, my Farmer’s Market Find: Flower Salad.
Flower Salad

A simple bag of fresh mixed greens from the market, washed & sealed, dressed with little flowers on top. I opened this bag and my kitchen was filled with fragrant flower a hint of salad and the incredible smell of a just watered garden.

And that is what dinner tasted like. A fresh watered garden, like when you water your basil or tomatoes and you can taste the flavour in your nose.

I saved the leftovers with the remaining few flowers and tasted fresh watered garden a few meals in a row.

Other ideas for flower flavours?
Sage blooms. Drying what I swear was a bushel of sage from my neighbor, I found a few stems with deep purple blooms. I saved the dried sage in a fancy recycled ‘fleur de sel’ jar with the sage bloom on top. Can I taste it? Sort of, I can see it with my eyes, when I twist open the jar and add it to my butter sauce. Just on a visual I can taste it and smell it and know I’ve just added something special to the meal, a piece de resistance.

Thank you to Ice Cap Organics for my inspirational salad mix, and my Wednesday ‘Grocery Store’: Vancouver Farmers Markets Main street Station Market.