Early summer has presented us with many bounties. Greens, certainly, and now, for the first time this season, squash flowers appeared at the farmers’ market. So here’s a couple of recipes to get you cooking.
The first is one I’ve been dying to try out. Sharon Schwartz recommended it from the cookbook Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger, but I didn’t want to publish it until the flowers were available.
If you’ve been wandering the farmers’ markets the last few weeks you’ve also seen lots of spring greens, including some you’ve probably never heard of.
Here’s a simple recipe that I’ve been using that works for all of them. It’s fast, and even Mark – who is not known for his love of vegetables – loves it.
Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup ricotta, fresh if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
12 – 16 fresh zucchini flowers
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
1 tbsp. minced fresh basiL
- If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.
- Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag (you can also use a disposable sturdy plastic bag and simply cut the tip off the end). Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Placed the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and place the pan over the highest heat. When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the flowers are hot, stemed by the moisture of the ricotta. Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper, sea salt, minced basil, and the remaining oil.
Spring Greens & Garlic
The amounts are approximate, depending on how many you are feeding and how much garlic you like. The general rule with greens is make lots, and then double it. When they steam and cook, they shrink tremendously.
Greens – chard, collard, spinach, kale, bok choy, beet greens, dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, etc.
Garlic, smashed and minced
Onions, or shallots, or, if you’re lucky enough to find them, garlic scapes, sliced thin
Kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Hot pepper flakes (optional)
- Clean and wash the greens but you don’t completely dry.
- With flat-leafed greens (like collards), lay several leaves on top of each other, then roll them together, kind of like a cigar. Then cut the greens at an angle, at 1 inch intervals. For spinach and smaller greens, just tear into bite-size pieces.
- Now here’s where opinions differ. Some people like to steam the greens in a skillet, gradually adding water and/or stock. That’s fine. But I’m a little lazy. So I steam them, putting the tougher greens or stalks towards the bottom, and the more tender ones at the top (won’t need as much steaming). Just for a few minutes, to soften them, then remove the lid and let them breath.
- While the greens are steaming, start warming a skillet. Add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic and onions, but being careful not to burn. Turn the heat down and let the garlic/onion mixture gently cook.
- Add a bit more olive oil and let it warm up. Then add in the greens, gently tossing. Season with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes, if you like, and then serve.