It is the season for zucchini, summer squash, and cucumber flowers. If you see them on Farmers Market and want to, but don’t know how to turn them into a beautiful and healthy dish, this recipe is for you! Note, that stuffing part can be used as a recipe for humble zucchini pancakes when the flowers are not available anymore.
I think I’ll remember my parents’ and my in-laws’ gardens forever and for many reasons. They provided us with most of the food during difficult times in the 90s. They became the source of our memories about the best tasting fruits and vegetables. They gave us the knowledge of how much hard work, patience, and passion goes into gardening.
I still see something magical in being able to walk to the garden, harvest whatever looks good at the moment, and quickly fix a meal, fresh and satisfying, and undoubtedly healthy. The next best thing for me is going to the local farmers market. The closest, Pedernales farmers market is slowly growing on me. Things changed when I started talking to farmers, asking questions, talking about ingredients, food, eating experiences. It became a pleasure to see them almost every week and to notice their ever-changing assortment of fresh vegetables. The more we talk, the more I realize how passionate they are about their lifestyle. I have to mention two farmers and farms that became special for me — April @LivinOrganics and Neal @food_forest_tx — my major organic vegetables, greens, and herbs suppliers for the last month. These farms are the reason my family eats much more plant-based food recently, and not so much for health reasons, but mostly for the pleasure of true, real, natural flavors of food as we remember it from the past.
Both beet varieties in this salad are an heirloom. Detroit red beets are the most popular, often described as “old standard.” Touchstone Gold roots have bright yellow flesh and retain their color when cooked. They are smooth, sweet and tasty, highly flavorful. Creamy Feta dressing with a touch of garlic compliments them, and the toppings add to their beauty. If you like a combination of earthy-sweet and pungent-salty, this salad is for you!
I dreamed of making something special with the treasures I got at the LivinOrganics farm for a few days. The idea of steamed chard rolls came to me when two other legendary recipes crossed my mind almost at the same time — capuns and vertical lasagna with morels. Gently steamed broad chard leaves seemed a good candidate to sub the sfoglia. And then there were April’s amazingly sweet young carrots I could use to flavor bechamel, along with garlic and cheddar.
“My mom just made her signature Gata. It smells like summer, sun, and a mountain breeze.
— This recipe is traditional, — she anticipates my question.
— Why is your Gata ten times better than mine?!
— It’s the quality of ingredients. The sour cream and matsun are the freshest and made of real milk. The butter is a Flower butter I melted myself.
Flower butter! It is made in June-July when high in the mountains wild strawberries are ripe, and flowers are in bloom. Cows then are milked with cream, and the butter churned of this cream makes any other butter seem like a mockery. If happiness has a taste, it should be the taste of Flower butter.” — read more: (in Russian) Narine Abgaryan Facebook post
After this story, I’ve been dreaming of the Flower butter, trying to imagine how it smells and tastes. Since Gata is made of 4 ingredients — flour, fermented milk, butter, and sugar — the quality of each component is what makes this pastry special. I can use the best there is in the states. And then a crazy idea came to my mind. What if I also add the flavor of edible flowers? How about Roman Chamomile? For the first experiment, I powdered 2 teaspoons of dry flowers and added them to the dough and the stuffing. For the second, I’ve infused heavy cream with Chamomile flavor and then fermented it. That was a hit!
This year, I made mimosa confiture of fresh flowers harvested on February 11, during the sunrise somewhere between Sonoma and Napa. Mixed with sugar, they traveled with me to for 4 days I spent in California. I have some Californian sun with me here in Texas now.
This recipe makes a delicately sweet confiture with naturally preserved mimosa flower flavor. It’s incredible with soft creamy cheeses like triple cream camembert, ricotta, or chevre. One tbsp of of flowers form the bottom of the jar makes a nice cup of tea.
Cooking together is one of the most romantic activities! This recipe requires cooking rice, quails, and sauce at the same time. While the logistics are easy for pros, it might be challenging for home cooks. That’s where cooking with loving partner might be highly beneficial. Come to my kitchen and I’ll teach you every step. Make this dish your special for special occasions!