Joseph of Saratoga Apple with his favorite customer
Crop of the Day from Butternut Ridge Farms in Argyle
Squash Blossoms in Their Natural State
Squash Blossoms Bathed in Chickpea Batter and Sizzling in Olive Oil
OK, farmers markets really don’t need defending, I just love an excuse to emulate one of my favorite authors: http://www.michaelpollan.com/indefense.php .
This is my weekly ritual May through pumpkin harvest (at which time I plunge into seasonal mourning). It could be Queensbury, Troy, Saratoga, Glens Falls…and when I’m feeling pastoral, the Cambridge Farmers Market. Doesn’t matter. They’re all good. I just pick the nearest one and GO.
From the crowded stone mazes of Jerusalem’s Old City (where I came upon a cache of sweet-smelling zataar to bury deep in my suitcase for the flight home) to the edge of a pine forest on Route 73 near Saranac Lake, I’ve never met an open-air market I didn’t like.
What do I like most about them? Quite simply, that nothing has been shipped at a distance. Just picked, blended, chopped or stirred only hours before the market officially opens for business. Oh yes, and the vendors at these markets have a tendency to look you in the eye and smile – love that!
As Jeffrey from Sweet Spring Farm in Cossayuna gathers my usual two packages of White Lily, his signature soft-rind goat cheese, he reminds me that as soon as the last leaf has fallen in November, he’s off to Brazil for the winter.
Stevie Stevens doesn’t need a sales pitch for his bumper crop of deep-emerald broccoli (so full of flavor, it would be an official crime to boil it). His strawberries sell out within the hour. Next door, his sister-in-law, Debbie Stevens, has just put out a tray of the most gorgeous white onions I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Before I reach the shining rows of cherries from Saratoga Apple’s table, Joseph is already flashing a grin as he extends a stemmed ruby gem for me to try before I buy.
The table from Kilpatrick Family Farm in Granville is laden with scallions, lettuce, early tomatoes, and radishes. I ignore them all and head for a bin of squash blossoms. Elated, I sift through the pile for the sturdiest ones I can find, fantasizing how, in less than two hours, they’ll be bathed in a chickpea batter and sautéing in olive oil. These squash blossoms are stellar: the color of fresh egg yolks and as big as tiger lilies. Before I count out eight of them, three people stop me and ask what to do with them.
“It’s easy,” I assure their puzzled faces. “And so much better than French fries.’
Fried Squash Blossoms
8 squash blossoms * 1 cup flour (I’m partial to chickpea or rice because it’s gluten-free) 1 can seltzer ½ teaspoon sea salt ¼ teaspoon baking soda Grapeseed or olive oil (not extra-virgin) for frying
* I don’t rinse the blossoms because they’re extremely fragile and absorb a lot of water. Instead, I shake them for insects. And of course, humanely deposit any I find on the porch.
Note: A non-stick pan works best for this recipe. Despite generous amounts of oil, I could not keep the blossom from sticking to a cast-iron pan)
Place frying pan on medium heat and add enough oil so that it’s about a quarter-inch deep.
While oil is heating, place flour, salt, and baking soda in mixing bowl. Using a wire whisk, blend in enough seltzer to make a frothy batter. Consistency should compare with a thin cream soup.
Coat each blossom with batter, rolling it around so all sides are covered, let excess drip into bowl for a few seconds and then place in pan (oil should be hot enough that they sizzle).
Depending on the size of your pan, you’ll probably have to fry in batches. Cook for three minutes on each side until crispy. Place on a baking sheet in a warm oven until all blossoms are done.
Serve with mescaline salad from your nearest farm and a wedge of White Lily.