Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lemon Tarragon Pate Stuffed Squash Blossoms

as featured at The Green Owl Cafe for Raw night

 If you've never eaten squash blossoms, you are in for a treat.  These little beauties are a nice light appetizer in mid summer when the squash plants are profusely blooming. The perfect filling the the blossoms is a raw nut pate.  Now there are many ways to flavor a raw nut pate, and once you make it you will just know how to do it without a recipe, and flavor to your hearts content.  I thought the combination  of Tarragon and Lemon would be nice cool appetizer for a warm evening.

Lemon Tarragon Pate Stuffed Squash Blossoms
1 1/2 C raw almonds, soaked, peeled
3/4 C raw cashews, soaked
3/4 C sunflower seeds
Juice of one or two lemons
zest of about half a lemon
at least 4-5 stems full of tarragon
1-3 T nama shoyu
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil 
(depending if you like salty or not, I used closer to 2T)
black pepper, pinch or two 
1 rib of celery, minced
2-3 T minced sweet yellow onion

After almonds are soaked, the skins should easily peel off.  All you really need to do is just give each almond a gentle squeeze, and it will just pop out of its skin.  However, I have had some bad luck lately with the skins NOT peeling off nicely.  I wondered if these almonds are from a different supply or something, but then I remembered about the California law that passed a couple years ago now that all almonds labeled as raw being sold to grocery stores would have to be steam pasteurized.  So I called the CoOp where I bought them and had them check where the almonds came from, and sure enough they came from California.  I think I will order them directly from the farm next time to ensure they are indeed raw.
To get the skins off the almonds this time, I actually had to take a fresh clean scrub pad and scratch off one edge of the skin and peel it from there.  I actually gave up after a while and left the skins on some of the almonds.  There is nothing wrong with the skins, in fact, studies have shown that antioxidants in the skins and Vitamin E in almonds actually work as a pretty good team of health quest crusaders.  So eating them together as a whole food is the way nature intended, but for some recipes, they work better to be separated first.  The almonds are a very light creamy color, almost white.  SO in recipes where color matters you may want to peel them, like for a Raw Macaroon Cake recipe (I'll add that one here sometime, I promise!) Also, the texture of the skins is more fibrous, and may contrast  the smooth texture you may want for dips and sauces with almonds, and yes, pate too.  I usually add in fine diced celery and onion or other crisp veggies to my pate so a few skin bits here and there are not too big of a contrast.  Also, depending on the food processing appliance you are using, some machines just have a harder time grinding up the skins and you get big chunks of skin in your mix.
I ran all of my soaked nuts through the Champion Juicer with the homogenizing plate on.  But if you have a good blender like a VitaMix or a Blendtec you can simply just use the blender.  Add the lemon juice and zest, and the nama shoyu and olive oil to the nuts in the blender along with the tarragon and pepper, and blend until mostly smooth. Then add in the minced celery and onion by hand.  You could also reserve some of the tarragon and mince with a knife and stir it in by hand to give a little color bits in the pate.  This simple pate can be flavored in a variety of ways, its great with lime, cilantro and some cumin and cayenne.  Try it with parsley, lemon, nama shoyu with fine minced carrot, onion and celery.  Garlic and basil with lemon and balsamic vinegar and fine diced soaked sun dried tomatoes for a Mediterranean flavor. Its also really good with umiboshi plum vinegar and dill with sweet onion and garlic.  Or try it with a bit of chopped dried fruit, like cranberries or apricots, and some cardamom, that would be really good with walnuts.  Get creative with your flavor combinations, you'll be surprised at how many ways to make pate.  Try filling endive boats for an appetizer, or fill celery sticks, or make romaine tacos by filling whole romaine lettuce leaves with Mexican pate, topped with shredded yellow squash and fresh pico de gallo and avocado. There are so many possibilities, just let your taste buds run away with your imagination!  You can also play with the ratio and combinations of the nuts.  Sometimes I like to use pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds alone, or walnuts also work great in combination with other nuts.  Macadamia and walnuts are extra oily, so make sure they are in combination with other nuts and seeds to balance out the greasiness.  As always, taste as you go, start out conservative, and add more to your liking.  Its really hard to make something less salty and less lemony, vinegary, etc., but its easy to lightly flavor your pate, and add a bit more of whatever you think it needs.

With Squash blossoms so plenty right now, they make pretty and tasty treats that will be sure to impress for your next summer get together.  
Both summer and winter squash blossoms are edible flowers, raw or cooked.  Harvest only the male blossoms unless the goal is to reduce production.  Male blossoms are easily distinguished from the female blossoms. The stem of the male blossom is thin and trim. The stem of the female blossom is very thick. At the base of the female flower below the petals is a small bulge, which is the developing squash.  Always leave a few male blossoms on the vine for pollination purposes.   There are always many more male flowers than female.   
Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut squash blossoms at midday when the petals are open, leaving one inch of stem. Gently rinse in a pan of cool water and store in ice water in the refrigerator until ready to use. The flowers can be stored for a few hours or up to 1 or 2 days.
They are easy to fill, just use a regular spoon and gently scoop some pate into the blossom until it seems full, but not bursting out.  Arrange nicely on a pretty plate, maybe decorate with a few more edible flowers, and voila!  All there is left to do is share and enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment