Tag Archive | stuffed squash blossoms

Opportunity

I had several opportunities today to be my best self. I took them all, gratefully! Living in solitude, I don’t get a chance every day to do something kind or helpful for someone else. So much of my mindfulness is all in my head. But today was a day full of happy, healthy connections. One of these was a Bonus Boyz Lunch. Yesterday’s savory squash blossoms cooked pretty well: I let them thaw for about an hour, but think it would have been better to fry them straight out of the freezer. I stuffed today’s blossoms with a surprise sweet mix: ricotta, confectioner sugar, and chopped basil. They complimented each other on the plate.

A cheese, bean, and chicken burrito anchored the lunch, with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream; squash blossoms; and beans sautéed with generous sprinklings of two Penzeys spice blends. We didn’t really need dessert, but I tried to make ‘dalgona,’ a whipped coffee that should have turned out like a pudding. It failed miserably, so I poured some into bowls and topped with chocolate ice cream, and they were happy. We were all happy. It was another opportunity, for equanimity, for making the best of a bad situation.

As I write, there is a grasshopper crawling around on the orchid in front of me. She’s a female ready to lay eggs. I just can’t bring myself to kill her, or throw her to Wren, nor can I toss her outside where I’m sure she’ll spawn dozens more. Without the Phoebe families of the past few years, the garden is dangerously deep in grasshoppers. I’ve noticed a dearth of birds of all kinds in recent weeks, and I’m not the only one in the area bemoaning the uncanny silence. Where have all the birds gone? Higher ground? When I use the new Sound ID feature of the wonderful Merlin Bird ID app, I record more overhead jets than bird calls. Mostly I’ve recorded magpies, jays, and the two common hummingbird species. I’m grateful for the opportunity this app gives me to identify and log birds in my pocket computer, and for the few new birds I’ve heard, including the Ash-throated Flycatcher, and the Western Wood Peewee.

Practice

I’m trying a new squash-blossom stuffing: ricotta, sautéed mushrooms, fresh basil, and Penzeys Arizona seasoning. There were four blossoms this morning, and if I’m lucky there will be at least four tomorrow. I stuffed today’s and froze them, hoping to have enough total for three for each of us at Boyz Lunch. They don’t keep well in the fridge for more than a few hours when stuffed with ricotta, the moisture leaks out of the cheese and gets the blossoms too wet. Practice makes perfect. We’ll know more later!

Little One can’t decide quite where she wants to sit.

And practice did finally make perfect, almost. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve baked this sourdough sandwich bread recipe, and the first time the dough has risen above the pan before baking. The first couple of batches were baked in pans too large. I did a little research after the next batch in the right-sized pans still did not rise enough, and as I suspected, rise times are less at this altitude than the recipe calls for. Instead of four hours, I let the mixture rise for two hours before adding the remaining flour, oil, and salt. Then after kneading I let the dough rise for just over an hour instead of another two, before punching it down and splitting into loaf pans. That rise took about the designated time of “at least two more hours or until the dough rises above the top of the loaf pans.” Baking time of 40 minutes was just right–almost. Maybe a few more minutes next time. I’m grateful for the patience and persistence to practice, whether in cooking, baking, mindfulness, meditation, or any other aspect of life.

Planting Seeds

Here I’ve tipped over and pinned the arugula stalks, in order to open sun space over the carrots beyond, and to allow self-sowing of any little rockets that pop out of the drying seedheads. In between I planted rows of flowers I failed to get started this spring. If they make it, great; if they don’t come up, oh well.

I’m grateful that the monsoons are truly upon us, even though there’s been precious little moisture on this mesa. The foothills are getting some rain, and we a bit farther west are getting humidity and clouds. This helps the plants and ground (and our skin) retain some moisture, and keeps the temperature down in the 80s and even 70s for much of the day, a welcome respite. Wren helped me plant some seeds this morning, anticipating a midday shower though none came. I resorted to a watering can to set flowers, lettuces, cilantro, and two varieties of carrot seeds into the soil, grateful for a forecast of moderate temperatures and increasing chance of precipitation over the next two weeks. I’m grateful for planting seeds both in the garden, and in my heart and mind: seeds of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and equanimity. What we water grows.

I’m grateful for this beautiful Sirenevyi sweet pepper harvested this morning. I used half of it along with some red onion, basil, oregano, and ricotta cheese to make stuffing for the four blossoms the zucchinis offered up. After sautéing diced pepper and onion and chopping the fresh herbs with the herb scissors I mixed them up with a pinch of salt and pepper, stuffed the flowers, and put them in the fridge for later.

Then we did some other things for awhile.

And then it was time for a late lunch. I had awoken achy and queasy, and optimistic for rain, so I cancelled Boyz Lunch. It was a hard call. It turned out to be for the best, though it never did rain. I was forced to eat the fried blossoms by myself. No shortcuts this time! I made the batter with one egg, a third cup of flour, and a quarter cup of 7-Up. The recipe calls for beer, but what it wants is the bubble action, and the soda worked fine. The smooth thick batter clung beautifully to the flowers and fried to a golden light crisp.

I mixed a dip with some mayo and sour cream, and a splash of Penzeys Arizona seasoning. I added some chopped celery and mayo to leftover cold pesto pasta, garnished with some sliced avocado, and enjoyed another simple, virtuous lunch. It brings me great pleasure to prepare simple, delicious meals, even just for myself. Like many single people, I used to think it wasn’t worth cooking for one. It’s been a long road to learn that I deserve my love and compassion as much as anyone else does. And it’s been a joyful journey learning how to make the most of simple ingredients and techniques, leftovers, and effortless aesthetic touches. I’m grateful I’m finally learning to care for myself.

This Gentle Day

Grateful this morning for another bean harvest, mostly Beurre du Rocquencourt wax beans, but the first few rattlesnake pole beans are also coming on. I’ll blanch and freeze the wax beans. I can tell I’ll get a ton more this summer. The rattlesnake beans I chopped up and sautéed to go in another virtuous lunch.
This time I did use an egg for the batter, with a little cream, then rolled the squash blossoms in a flour-corn meal-cornstarch dredge; after stuffing them with a simple block of Havarti. I scrambled the leftover egg mixture and garnished the salad with some of it, fed the rest to Wren on top of her dinner kibble. I don’t think the cornmeal is working out for the delicate blossoms. Next time it will be a pure tempura batter.

And then I had a pretty healthy dinner, too. My personal shopper brought me smoked blue cheese crumbles the other day. I can’t be picky when I’m not shopping for myself, and am grateful that there’s someone who will do his best to get me what I want and take creative chances when the store is out of my specific requests. “Smoked is always a good thing,” he said. I wasn’t sure I agreed: I’m not a fan of fake smoke flavoring, but Amy told me how to tell if the cheese was actually smoked: It will look browned on the outside. I was pleased to see a brown rind on the crumbles, and it tasted delicious.

Amy says: “Mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, finely diced onion, that blue cheese—the best blue cheese dressing ever.” But I had a different plan for some of it tonight. We made mushroom toast last night to go with our zoom cocktails, and I had some extra shiitakes. I mashed up some soft butter, smoked blue cheese, Italian breadcrumbs, and one finely chopped date, stuffed the caps, sprinkled with more breadcrumbs, and baked at 400℉ for 15 minutes. Delicious! I’m grateful for this gentle day, with plenty of time tending the garden, a light cool cloud cover, simple gourmet meals, a long meditation, and kind, mindful observation of my thoughts and actions. Self-nourishing is an act of kindness for others. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?!” ~ RuPaul

The Right Tool for the Job

I’m grateful for having the right tool for the job for all the new and exciting foods I’m making, like this dedicated baguette baker from Emile Henry. I’ll have to bake a hell of a lot of baguettes to justify the expense, but the satisfaction of perfect baguettes the first time? Priceless.

In my Covid-related kitchen obsession, I’ve been investing in more kitchen tools than are strictly necessary. At first, I justified this as having the right tools for many kinds of food preparation as I was planning to open a small-scale retreat center and provide specialty meals. By the time it became apparent that Covid wasn’t going away soon and I wasn’t going to be comfortable opening my home to people for awhile, it was too late: kitchen shopping had become retail therapy. I’m not proud of this addiction. But I am proud of the culinary education I’ve been getting, and the gustatory delights I’ve been turning out.

I’m grateful that the Colonel taught me the value of having the right tool for the job. I’ve been wanting to bake baguettes for a long time, but never had the courage to try it, largely because I lacked the right pan. The Colonel inspired my early culinary efforts as I’ve mentioned before, as well as any handyman skills I possess. At one point he combined his two interests to fashion a sheetmetal baguette baker not too different in principle from the ceramic one I just bought. His only held two baguettes, and they were bigger than these. It looked kind of like this, but not perforated. I’ve had that in my head forever, but it never occurred to me I could just buy something like it til I stumbled upon this elegant baguette baker while shopping for a different kind of pan.

I’m grateful for the male blossoms the zucchini plants are offering up, and for the first ripe zuke, as well as for the second bean harvest. Stuffed squash blossoms seemed hard and scary two summers ago when I started experimenting with them, but today I just squished together a little feta and leftover sausage with some Penzeys Forward, stuffed the flowers, rolled them tight, and refrigerated til I could cook them tonight. I didn’t want to spend a whole egg on batter for just three blossoms, so I rolled them in heavy cream, then in cornmeal, and sautéed in olive oil, for a delicious amuse-bouche for an intimate Death Café dinner.

My friend brought sliders and coleslaw, and we sat outside in the 90℉ evening to share our meal, and work on some end-of-life planning. I got mine essentially done last winter, but she is just starting hers. It’s a daunting but necessary chore, and I’m grateful I could help her start to make some sense of it. Will, powers of attorney, advance directive, choices, provisions, designations… You look at those forms and your brain just goes numb–and not comfortably numb, either, but numb in an agitating buzzing kind of way. Grateful we could help each other navigate the necessary melancholy conversations, and motivate each other to take the next steps in this grueling process. Grateful, too, for the close time together which is rare and precious.

Speaking of rare and precious, I’m grateful every day for this little dog who always makes me laugh.

I saw something very strange in the night sky about an hour ago. I took Wren out for midnight whiz and stood there looking up as I always do. I was grateful there were stars, and then there was a short line of light that appeared and disappeared, like a few dozen stars strung close together; or like a section of a strand of patio lights. Then it appeared again, and moved across the eastern starlit sky from south to north. Like the side of a flat spaceship. I watched mesmerized for a couple of minutes as it remained lit up and moved steadily northward, diminishing with distance until it reached the vanishing point on the horizon. So weird. I’m grateful for unknown phenomena.