Sunday, July 3, 2011

Zucchini flowers stuffed with fresh goat cheese

 My first farmers’ market of the summer!  We arrived early at the Urban Harvest Market (for those of you in Houston, it is on Eastside just off of Richmond between Buffalo Speedway and Kirby) and I was overwhelmed by the number of vendors and the quality of the fresh produce. 

The primary objectives were fresh vegetables and pastured meat and chickens, along with some pastured eggs.  I found an abundance of all three.  Until recently, I wasn’t familiar with the term “pastured” so perhaps you aren’t as well. Legally, any chicken called “free range” only has to have access to the great outdoors. Many chicken farms interpret this in the narrowest sense and provide a small opening through which a chicken might somehow find its way outside but only by hurdling thousands of other chickens and traversing one hundred yards of shed floor, littered with the bodies of its fallen comrades. Pastured chicken is what we think free range should be. The chickens genuinely live and forage outside, with shelter available from weather and predators. My chicken and eggs came from Olde World Farms in Montgomery, Texas.  I’m not sure exactly where the farm is but Montgomery is less than an hour’s drive away so certainly under my 100-mile parameter set by Animal, Vegetable,Miracle.   This morning we enjoyed sausage patties formed from the sausage meat I bought from Olde World Farms and their freshest ever eggs fried over easy, along side my newly baked bread. But I get ahead of myself.

Among my purchases was a bag of zucchini flowers from the Utility Research Garden stall. (They also had mixed bunched of different colored carrots for sale, so I had to buy some. Of course. Who could have watched Jamie Oliver’s At Home and NOT wanted to roast a load of different colored carrots?  Not me.)  It looks like Utility Research Garden is outside the zone but I figure it was still better then the supermarket stuff. 


Well, to show you how these things snowball, once I had zucchini flowers in my Ikea shopping bag, I needed goats’ milk.  I managed to buy the last quart from Swede Dairy Farm. The lovely young lady who helped me had a cooler full of two-quart jugs still but they were for pre-orders. Goats’ milk is great for babies who are allergic to cows’ milk so they have a steady list of orders, in fact, she informed me that there is a waiting list.  But one quart would do me fine and I was delighted to be there just in time to claim it. The plan was to make goat cheese with which to fill my flowers, in order to dip them in a light batter and deep fry them.

So I made my cheese. Easiest thing ever. 

Simple Soft Goat Cheese

Ingredients
Goats’ milk
Vinegar
Salt
Other seasonings optional: minced garlic, black pepper, green onion tops, etc.

Method
Just bring your milk to a boil in a non-aluminum pot. (If a fridge magnet will stick to your pot, you are good to go.) Turn off the fire and add any seasonings you wish to include (I added about a quarter cup of very finely chopped onion tops and a goodly pinch of Maldon flaky sea salt) then add 1/3 cup of vinegar for every two quarts of milk. Having only one quart, I had to do a few quick calculations and ended up figuring out that 1/3 cup is five tablespoons and one teaspoon. So I put eight teaspoons of vinegar. Actually two tablespoons and then a further two teaspoons. Oh, the math comes in handy now and again. Stay in school, children.

After just a minute or two, the milk separated into cheese and whey. I put my cheesecloth into my strainer, over a clean, empty bowl and poured the whole mess into the lined strainer. You should too. The whey collected in the bowl and suddenly, the snowball effect took place once more. 

I couldn’t possibly throw all that lovely warm liquid down the drain, not after paying five dollars for the quart of goats’ milk, so I had to make bread.  So I poured the whey into a measuring pitcher and I created a cheesecloth contraption out of a wooden spoon, some rubberbands and a pitcher, which I popped into the fridge so the cheese would continue to drip and dry.


I used a Jamie Oliver bread recipe and replaced a quarter of the white flour with whole wheat and used my whey instead of the tepid water. I also ended up adding more whey to make up for the brown flour which seems to need more liquid to get the dough to the right consistency.  Following instructions, I let it rise once, punched the dough down, then formed it into baguette shapes to try out my new baguette baking tray ordered from King Arthur’s Baker’s Catalogue. If you have a weakness at all for kitchen equipment that you are trying to control, do NOT go to this website. Fair warning.



And then on to the actual initial recipe as promised in the post title.

Zucchini flowers stuffed with fresh goat cheese

Ingredients
10-12 zucchini flowers
Canola oil for frying

Stuffing: Four or so ounces of soft goat cheese (if you buy plain at the market, add your flavorings when mixing the stuffing)
1 ounce of finely, freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 fresh egg, preferably pastured, of course
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Batter: 1 cup plain flour
3/4- 1 cup of sparkling water or soda water

Method
Fluff your goat cheese apart with a fork. It should be crumbly. Add the other ingredients and mix until well combined. Taste before adding the salt as the Parmesan can be quite salty and none may be necessary.

Break off the stems and the sepal (those little green leaf-like things that hug the flower) and cut off the stamen if they are still inside.  


Using a teaspoon and your finger, stuff a little of the filling into each flower, squeezing the petals together gently to make sure the stuffing is enclosed at the base.

 


 
Mix your flour and sparkling water with a whisk, adding the water a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency of thick cream. You want it to stick to the flower but you also want the excess to be able to drip off.


 
Heat your oil and drop the first stuffed flower in. It should start to crisp and brown almost immediately. If it doesn’t, let the oil get a little hotter before dropping the rest of the battered stuffed flowers in. You will probably have to do a few at a time to make sure they won’t stick together in the pot.

Turn them as needed to brown both sides.


Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with a little more Maldon salt and perhaps a few minced onion tops before serving. 


Enjoy!




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2 comments:

  1. Very cool. I have a friend who just loves these things.

    ReplyDelete
  2. They are very tasty! Even my little nephews loved them, which says a lot. :)

    ReplyDelete

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