gem of the season {squash blossoms}

Since the end of July I have been on a desperate search for zucchini blossoms.  I can’t explain why but got it in my head one day at the Pike Place Market that they should be in season and therefore must find them. Week after week I would head to Sosio’s, look around, and not seeing them, would ask if they had any thinking that maybe, just maybe, they were keeping them in the cooler where they keep the herbs.  But week after week it was the same thing: not yet, soon.  So on Sunday I was bound and determined to find them knowing that once I did a wonderful recipe awaited us that evening: stuffed blossoms with crab and cheese. Imagine how excited I was when my girlfriend Joy, already at the Ballard Farmers Market, called to say she had found some!  The weeks of pining were over. After buying the flowers, continued to wander around the market. Truth be told I was just trying to decide if I should break down and get a Dante’s Inferno Dog.  Urgh. I didn’t, instead getting a cup of coffee and a healthy muffin.  But while meandering and loitering ran into my friend Lynn and her husband and son at a different produce farmer’s stand. She told me on the other side of the market, the ‘mushroom man’ had tons of great lobster mushrooms. Sold! Quickly went over and bought some, thinking I would use one to add to the stuffed blossom mixture and the rest I would figure out a plan for later in the week. 
I don’t really know why I have been so obsessed with the squash blossoms this summer. When I was little my grandmother would cook them all the time, fried, lightly sauteed or in a Filipino stew.  I never, ever ate them. I thought it was just a little too weird to be eating flowers.  But I had them several years ago, stuffed with cheese, a light tempura batter and deep fried. Loved them. We don’t eat a lot of fried food so when I saw a recipe for steamed crab-stuffed blossoms in Eric Ripert’s Avec Eric cookbook , I knew I had to try it.  Inspired by the recipe, in addition to the lobster mushrooms I added fromage blanc, adjusted the measurements and changed the sauce into a cream sauce. If you are sitting there reading this and thinking, sounds yummy and rich, you would be the winner. It is a beautifully melded recipe that is rich and decadent.  It makes a perfect summer first course for 4 or 6 people. And they are delicious with a glass of  nice, cold Sauv Blanc. 

Crab-Stuffed Squash Blossoms w/Mustard Sauce
makes 12
1/4 c lobster mushrooms {or cremini if you can’t find fresh lobster mushrooms}, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
12 large zucchini blossoms
¼ lb fresh crabmeat
2 tbsp crème fraîche
3 tbsp fromage blanc
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp chives, finely sliced + divided
fine sea salt
white pepper
hot paprika
1 tbsp water
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
1 tbsp heavy whipping cream
In a small saute pan, cook mushrooms in olive oil over medium-low heat until soft, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a small plate and spread out to cool.  Set aside.
Working very gently, remove the  stamens from each of the blossoms.  In a bowl, combine the crabmeat, crème fraîche, fromage blanc, lemon zest and juice, mushrooms and 2 tbsp of the chives.   Add salt, pepper and paprika to taste.
Using a pastry bag, or small spoon, fill each blossom ¾ full with stuffing.  Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the bottom 1-2″ thick.  The blossoms will be steamed so you want to make sure the water is the right height and is not tall enough to cover the bottom of the steamer insert. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare the sauce.  
In a small saucepan, bring the 1 tbsp of water to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and working in 1 tbsp batches, add the butter whisking continuously to emulsify.  Whisk in the mustard and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the whipping cream and remove from heat.  Continue whisking sauce for 2 minutes – it will turn into a nice thick sauce.  Cover to keep warm.
Place blossoms in a steamer basket and put into the large pot over the boiling water.  Cover and steam for 4-5 minutes until heated all the way through.  Remove from the steamer and divide among plates – 2 or 3 blossoms per plate.  Add the remaining chives to the sauce and stir.  Spoon sauce over the blossoms and serve immediately. 
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