Pumpkin Blossoms Stuffed with Lobster and Corn, with Chile-Peach Glaze
This post was an entry in the Paper Chef competition, a fun web event modeled on the Iron Chef competitions on the Food Network: a group of "secret ingredients" is announced on the first Friday of each month and participants must submit a recipe using those ingredients within a time limit, usually 72 hours. Unlike most other web food events, it's an actual competition, with a winner and losers: usually the winner of the previous month's Paper Chef picks the next one to display the coveted "Paper Chef Winner" badge.
This month's secret ingredients were announced on Friday, August 5th, and they are dried hot chiles, peaches, edible flowers and a "wild card" ingredient: anything produced locally, in honor of the August Eat Local Challenge.
The biggest challenge for this edition of Paper Chef was finding a good edible flower to use as a starting point. Maine, while producing abundant and wonderful corn, tomatoes, strawberries, squash, and greens in its short growing season, is not really known for its creative cooks, and I doubt I've ever seen an edible flower at a farm stand around here. A call to the Wild Iris Herb Garden resulted in an opportunity to leave a message on a machine (Lucy's usually there only by appointment in July and August) so I wasn't sure I could get what I needed from her within the time limit.
Of course, I'm surrounded by flowers of all sorts in the summer here, and I quickly determined that hollyhocks and daylilies, two of the most abundant flower crops in my garden, can be used in cooking. However, in my research I also came across various warnings that one must know precisely which variety of hollyhock or lily is going into your pot, since all are not edible, so I took the timid route and decided to find a flower sold for consumption. I hate poisoning my friends and family.
I briefly considered my all-time favorite vegetable, broccoli, since it's the hands-down champion edible flower of them all, but as adventurous as I think I am I couldn't get to a dish that combined peaches and broccoli, though I'm going to work on this.
The solution came in the form of an old friend: the wonderful twice-weekly farmers' market in Copley Square in Boston, which I used to visit faithfully at each session when I worked across the street in the Hancock Tower. I had a business meeting in town on Friday morning and afterwards stopped by the market, where I found big beautiful bunches of orange pumpkin blossoms at the Atlas Farm booth, and I picked up some fresh artesanal goat cheese from Crystal Brook Farm (Sterling, MA 978-422-6646 - no web site). I had hoped to find some nice Massachusetts peaches but it turns out that the harvest for those doesn't start for another ten days.
For the local product on the ingredients list there was only one choice for me: the great Homarus americanus, the American Lobster, which, while enjoyed on tables all over the world, is produced almost entirely by the hardworking men and women of our Maine lobster fleet, some of whom dock their boats about 400 yards from my stove. For me, the other great local product, no matter where you are in the U.S., is fresh corn just picked from the field. When the corn is in I have to have a dose every couple of days, with a fresh garden tomato or two, to fortify myself against the coming snows of winter.
Pumpkin blossoms, local Maine corn from my favorite farm stand, lobster from my local purveyor -- it seemed these might develop into a dish of pleasant importance. The cheese I decided could go with the lobster and corn in a stuffing for the pumpkin blossoms, and, with a few New Mexico chiles on hand (as always) and some Southern import peaches from Golden Harvest, I was ready to go to work.
16 pumpkin blossoms, stems trimmed to 1/4" and stamen removed
1/4 lb lobster meat, chopped to about the size of corn kernels
2 oz fresh scallops
1 ear cooked corn, kernels removed
1 egg white
3 oz plain unripened goat cheese
3 T fresh oregano, minced
6 T panko flakes
salt, hot sauce to taste
1/4 C corn starch
1/4 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C water
canola or other vegetable oil for frying
Inspect for insects and rinse the blossoms. Wrap in a damp towel for ten minutes. In food processor, purée the egg white and scallops to a smooth paste, then crumble and add the cheese and pulse a couple of times. Mix the lobster, the corn kernels, the scallop/cheese paste, the oregano and the panko flakes. Season to taste. Use a cookie press or pastry cone with a wide opening to loosely stuff the blossoms.
Mix the whole eggs and water to make a smooth egg wash. Mix the flour, corn starch and 1/2 tsp. salt. Dip the blossoms in the egg wash, then in the flour mixture and shake off excess. In a heavy medium pot about 1/2 full of the canola oil, fry the blossoms in 370º oil in small batches, turning occasionally, about 8 - 10 minutes or until browned. Drain briefly on a rack, spinkle with salt and keep warm on a rack in a 200º oven while the subsequent batches are cooked.
3 ripe peaches, peeled
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C water
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 1 T cool water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 New Mexico dried chile (about 1/8 oz)
1/4 tsp salt
Chop two of the peaches. Roast the chile over a flame until dried and starting to blacken, then remove seeds and chop. Simmer the chopped peaches and the chopped chile in a small heavy saucepan with the sugar and 1/4 C water, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture, the lemon juice, the salt and the vinegar and cook another minute or so to thicken. Allow to cool to room temperature. Slice the third peach and serve it on the side with the glaze, or, if you wish, chop it and mix it with the cooled glaze.