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How to Stuff a Zucchini Blossom

With so many fruits and vegetables available year-round, it's rare in the modern world to enjoy a food that's really, truly a limited-time offer.

You can get an apple in June, when, by all rights, all the apples from the previous autumn should be long gone. But it seems it's always apple season somewhere, and we've come to rely on that constant availability.

But due to a brief season and great delicacy, the zucchini blossom is, I believe, one of just a handful of what I like to think of as "now or never" foods.

Zucchini Blossoms

But the blossoms are a-blooming right now at the farmers' markets (and in gardens, presumably), so friends... your once-a-year opportunity has arrived.

Quick, now! Snap up a half-dozen and a little crottin of goat cheese or maybe a mild, creamy feta — you'll need just over an ounce, but get two to three ounces of cheese, and you'll have a bit extra left over for topping tasty summer salads.

When it comes down to it, it's very simple to stuff a blossom. I didn't know this until I worked in a restaurant, but after having now stuffed more blossoms than I care to count, I can assure you, the process is dead easy. Like breading a fish fillet. You really can do this, and the results are lovely.

Interior of the zucchini blossom

Just take a sharp paring knife (or a pair of kitchen shears) and slice (or snip) into the blossom along one side. Gently open the petals and remove the pollen-covered pistil inside (that's the yellow tube-shaped part).

Fashion a small, football-shaped portion with about a teaspoon of the cheese and place it where the pistil once was. Close the petals firmly around the cheese. Voila! You're half-way there.

I like to remove the green leafy bits from the base of the flower (I believe they're called sepals) before moving on. If you like, you can do this much ahead of time and just keep the stuffed blossoms chilled for a few hours before it's time to make dinner.

Goat cheese stuffed zucchini blossom

When the time for cooking arrives, you have a few options as far as the breading goes. I've always loved to dip the blossoms in a simple egg wash (one egg beaten with a teaspoon of water), then roll them in panko. Simple as that.

This summer, J requested a version made without wheat flour, so we've been coating zucchini blossoms in seasoned spelt flour.

It's such a flexible recipe, I'll be so bold as to use this rule of thumb: if you can use it to bread a fish or chicken breast, you can probably coat a blossom in it, too.

The cooking process is simple pan-frying. Just dip a stuffed blossom in the egg wash, roll to coat in the panko/flour/crumbs, then move the prepared blossom to a skillet heated over a medium-high flame with a few tablespoons of olive, canola or veg oil.

Cook each blossom about a minute before turning. Continue cooking and gently turning the blossoms until the whole surface crisps, about three minutes total.

Move the cooked blossoms (a pair of tongs helps for this) to a paper towel to cool slightly. Serve hot alongside your favorite entrée. Stuffed blossoms go especially well with grilled meats and seafood or as garnish atop pasta dishes.

We had them with sautéed zucchini and the supremely tasty pork chops of Tamarack Hollow Farm.

If you're in NYC, you can pretty much score the whole meal — blossoms, goat cheese, eggs, zucchini and those superb chops — at the Union Square Market on Wednesdays and test your newfound stuffing skills right away.

But hurry... summer is short, and zucchini blossoms really are a limited-time offer.

Bon appetit!
Miss Ginsu

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8.03.2009

Old World vs New World: a Ricotta Comparison

As I mentioned in my last post, I was up at Coach Farm in Upstate New York last Friday. In the days since, I've been trying to wrangle all the video clips together into a watchable form.

Thus far, I've got a quick video that illustrates how they're doing a brand-new product: ricotta cheese.

If you're a cheese person, you already know that ricotta is a classically useful product for cheesemakers because it's made with the cast-offs of the cheesemaking process: the whey.

Coach Farm is doing their ricotta in the same old-fashioned way that Italy's alpine farmers do it:

1. Collect the whey in a pot and heat it to 180°F (they're also adding in some milk to make it creamier).
2. Add an agent (rennet or an acid) to help the curds form.
3. Collect the curds in cheesecloth and allow to drain.

Simple, right? So simple you could do it on the side of a mountain over an open flame... which is what I saw when I went to Italy last year.

In that case, the farmer first made pecorino cheese and then reheated the leftover whey to make a delicious ricotta. You'll notice the environs are a little different.

I'll repost that video below the Coach Farm one for comparison.





More video fun yet to come!
Miss Ginsu

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5.13.2009

Video Treat: Open a Young Coconut

When you open an older coconut, you need to dig in the toolbox for a hammer. On the other hand, opening a young coconut (sometimes called "green coconut") is much easier: a sharp knife and a level surface usually do the trick.

In this how-to video you can watch me take a sharp knife (and a not-so-level surface) and open a young coconut.

Well, to be truthful... I eventually get the coconut open. There's some coconut chopping hijinks in the middle there.

Some people shave the white husk away to get at the nut inside. I usually have good luck with getting a wedge in, but I think extending my arms and working on a wooden tray rather than a cutting board were maybe not my best moves.

Thus, I have to stress the need for a steady, sturdy cutting surface. It's a must when using a knife. Nobody wants to their chop hands instead of their food.

Oh... and I owe beoucoup thanks to J, my steady-handed camera guy.



Once you actually get inside the coconut, the coconut water is cool and delicious, and the soft flesh is a sweet, creamy delight when added to coconut curries, blended into Thai-style coconut soup, puréed into smoothies/frozen drinks (daiquiris, anyone?) and mixed into the pretty green chutney I made last week.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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3.08.2009

Video Treat: Saxelby's Cheese Sandwich

This savory little treat is overdue, but tasty nevertheless... and since it's an ideal choice for New Year's Eve appetizers, I think now's the right time to unveil it.

Behold! Snazzy grilled cheese as done by Anne Saxelby, charming monger of the Essex Street Market.

This video was captured at this year's NYC International Pickle Festival, back when short sleeved shirts and light summer dresses were appropriate attire. (Oh, how I pine for the sun!)


Saxelby's Snazzy Grilled Cheese
Good sliced bread
Olive oil for drizzling
Puréed pickled peppers (Anne uses Rick's Picks Peppi Pep Peps)
Thin slices of feta cheese

1. Lay out two slices of bread and drizzle olive oil on one side of one of the slices.
2. Spread about a tablespoon of pureed pickled peppers on that same slice of bread.
3. Stack two thin slices of feta cheese atop the pickled pepper puree.
4. Top the stack with the other slice of bread and toast the sandwich in a hot panini grill for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Slice into quarters and serve immediately.

You may ask yourself, why would this sandwich make a good New Year's Eve treat? Good question!

Salty, rich foods often go well with drier bubbly sips, so when you crack open the Champagne (or maybe try a Spanish Cava this year... it's just as festive and waaay cheaper), I'd urge you to consider serving up a few wedges of Anne's Grilled Cheese as a cheesy, cheery pairing partner. Delight ensured.

May the new year be healthy, happy and even more delicious than the last.

Cheers to auld lang syne, my dears!
Miss Ginsu

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12.30.2008

Pizza on a Flat-Bed Trailer

I cooked with Dave Sclarow at Tabla back in the day. He was always a pretty handy guy and a solid cook (he's now running the kitchen at Lunetta in Brooklyn), but he recently got in the NY Times and various other publications for what essentially amounts to a novelty act: he built a wood-fired pizza oven on a flat-bed trailer.

Voila! It's porta-pizza!

Dave Sclarow and his Pizza Oven

Pizza Moto

Dave Sclarow and his Pizza Oven

Now you can catch him at the Brooklyn Flea on Sundays. Mom and I were there for the first pie outta the oven a couple of weekends ago. Here's the quick and dirty how-to video:



I swear I'll someday feature something other than cheese-based foods in my food videos.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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11.20.2008

Italian Pecorino Cheese: A How-To Video

In my short career in video blogging, I've run through making fresh paneer cheese, watching the Salvatore Ricotta folks stuff cheese into cannoli and now, my latest clip documents the making of uber-traditional pecorino in the Italian countryside.

I'm afraid you'll start to believe I'm a bit cheese-obsessed. I assure you, the theme is entirely coincidental. I swear the next video will be about something other than cheese.

Meanwhile, I have to say, this is really my favorite clip yet, featuring some truly charming Italian sheep and goats I met in the mountains of Abruzzo while on a farm stay near Sora, Italy. They were excellent actors, all. Very cooperative.

Abruzzo, Italy

A very charming goat

Sheep stomach

You'll notice that, in making the cheese, the shepherd uses nothing more than milk in a big, black cauldron, a stick(!), some sheep's stomach and coarse salt. That's it. There's a campfire on hand for making ricotta, which is a byproduct of his pecorino processing.



Aside from the shepherd's snazzy threads, there's very little here that's any different from the way people have been making cheese for thousands of years.

Looks easy, no? But before you go and get yourself a herd of your own, know this: the shepherd and his wife get up before dawn every day to do this. Weekends. Holidays. Every day. There's no vacation from a herd of sheep and goats.

Meanwhile, I secreted a wheel of this very cheese back to the states in my luggage and am going to ask Anne Saxelby to nestle it in her cave to age for a bit. We'll see how it tastes after it's had a few months to rest.

Cheers, ya'll!

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7.16.2008