Twenty-four is too few for squash blossom canh, a clear soup that Mom used to make when I was little. The flower is the only thing of a pumpkin plant (squash blossom in Vietnam is pumpkin blossom) that I didn’t mind eating (I hate pumpkin). The flowers perish too quickly that American grocery stores almost never carry them(*). That scarcity, I can only guess, also raises them to the exotic level that makes the modern American restaurants include the word in their menu around this time of the year (summer squash blossom season) and feature a mere 3-5 flowers on a plate amidst the more common vegetables like zucchini and cauliflower. The craze has been around for at least a decade, Carolyn Jung said, and I don’t see it wilt away anytime soon.
Although I dislike the place at first because it’s always too crowded, Berkeley Bowl gradually grew on me. It started when I realized, after many years away from Vietnam and living just a bit inconveniently far from the Asian markets, that I haven’t seen certain grocery items for ever, for example, woodear mushroom (nấm mộc nhĩ) and straw mushroom (nấm rơm). Then one day I ran into them at Berkeley Bowl. I was like, oh? they have that here?! It’s a great moment. One where you reunite with old friends, and if we should speak in grand terms, it reminds me to appreciate growing up in Vietnam and in my family, the lack of either component would have resulted in a much, much poorer experience with food.
Sometimes that great feeling clouds my better judgment. You know, when people dig out a picture of their middle school gang from a notebook, buck teeth and silly hair or whatever, they feel compelled to put it on Facebook. When I saw the squash blossoms at Berkeley Bowl, I felt compelled to get them home. Not that I knew what to do with them or had time to cook them.
Mom suggested stuffing them with ground pork. I’ve had them stuffed with cheese and batter-fried. But it’s summer. Peaches are in season. This something I make with squash blossoms should taste light and fresh like the flowers it bears.
Bouquet Nectarine Gyoza
– Squash blossoms (the male blossoms, because they’re big enough to stuff)
– medium firm white tofu
– gyoza skin (wrappers)
– 1 yellow nectarine, diced (If you use peach, peel off the skin because peach has fuzz)
– sugar, salt, pepper to taste
– a steamer
Rinse the squash blossoms under cold water, peel off the dark green spikes at the base. Also break off the stem, if there’s any.
Mash the tofu by hand while mixing it with the diced nectarine. Add salt, sugar and pepper to taste.
Gently stuff the nectarine-tofu mix into the squash blossom.
Wrap a gyoza skin outside the blossom, leaving at least the top half of the petals exposed.
Steam until the gyoza skin turns translucent (5-10 minutes). The flower petals will wilt but still retain their color and the bottom half should still be a tad crunchy.
Take out and let cool.
UPDATE: pan-fried these to make them taste better (albeit less healthy :-D)
(*) Every website I’ve looked claims that squash blossoms can only stay fresh in the fridge up to 2 days under precise condition. Well, what you see in the picture “pre-steamed gyoza” are squash blossoms after 8 days in the fridge.