For the past twenty-five years, I’ve been buying herbs from Fresh Herbs of Houston, which was founded by a Vietnamese woman named Pat, who came here back in the 1970s, and has been farming in Texas for many years. A decade ago, she asked me what special ingredients I might want for my menu and I answered flor de calabaza (squash blossoms). Pat has been growing squash blossoms for my restaurants ever since, and during the long summer season I buy more than a thousand of her blossoms each week. So, we two immigrants help each other.
In Mexico, especially in Puebla and Oaxaca, squash blossoms are a way of life. I put them in tamales and sauces, serve them the traditional way with blue corn and tortillas, and make them the star of this salad.
12 cherry tomatoes
3 cups (60 g) purslane florets 1 cup (60 g) frisée
10 squash blossoms, stems removed
8 zucchini ribbons (cut with a vegetable peeler or on a mandoline)
1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced
1 small beet, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (110 g) fresh goat cheese, rolled into small balls
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook, swirling occasionally, for about 2 minutes or until the skins blister. Remove from the heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, toss together the purslane florets, frisée, 6 of the squash blossoms, the zucchini ribbons, watermelon radish, and beet.
In a small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, lime juice, and salt. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat. Transfer the salad to a platter, garnish with the roasted tomatoes, goat cheese balls, and the remaining squash blossoms. Serve immediately.
More about A Place at the Table: The book is produced in collaboration with the Vilcek Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of immigrant contributions in America and fostering appreciation of the arts and sciences. The publication of the book follows the Vilcek Foundation's prestigious 2019 chef awards this spring, which only happen every 5 years. The winner of the Vilcek Prize in Culinary Arts this year was just announced and it was Marcus Samuelsson.
Recipe excerpted from A Place at the Table: New American Recipes from the Nation's Top Foreign-Born Chefs (Prestel, Sept 24, 2019, $40/hardcover) by Gabrielle Langholtz, Rick Kinsel.
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