While we unfortunately weren’t able to actually eat at Oyamel during their Squash Blossom Festival last week, there was no way I was going to miss Chef Joe Raffa’s demo and tasting at the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market Thursday evening. I have been going to Penn Quarter on occasion for years - a former coworker and I used to go out of our way to schedule meetings downtown on Thursday afternoons to take a late lunch at the market. Like just about every other local market, it seems to have grown quite a bit from the humble beginning of about three vendors (I remember cheese, bread and soap in the early days). I had read grumblings about DC market prices being significantly higher than those in the ‘burbs, but didn’t really believe it until we picked up blueberries for the toddler at $6 a pint. That would be twice what we’ve been paying in Alexandria. Yikes! (You city-dwellers might find it worthwhile to venture across the river after all … might I suggest the Old Town market, with the free trolley service from the King Street metro.)
There were a few things at Penn Quarter we don’t have though, like the squash blossoms Sand Hill Farm brought, and the marvelous gelato by Dolcezza. I bought the lemon ricotta flavor, made with my favorite Keswick Creamery ricotta. The lemon was the perfect touch to keep it light yet flavorful. Cibola buffalo is also absent from the Alexandria markets ( though I think they may be down at Kingstowne - Ramona? ) See below for photos from the market.
Chef Raffa dished up a delightful squash blossom soup and watermelon agua fresca (also with squash blossoms). He was also handing out a recipe for goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms, which is how I cooked them up as soon as we got home. (No toddler review of this one, as I greedily ate them all myself! The husband was sick and doesn’t eat goat cheese anyway, his loss.)
Recipe: Flor de Calabaza Rellena de Queso de Cabra con Salsa (Goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms with salsa) by Chef Joe Raffa, Oyamel
1 lb goat cheese
2 jalapenos, seeded and deveined
1/2 c epazote leaves (I didn’t read the recipe at the market to know to buy this - so had to substitute parsley. I would suggest cilantro if you can’t find epazote, but parsley worked as well.)
12 squash blossoms
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
Instructions: (Prepare salsa first, to allow flavors to meld while preparing the squash blossoms. I was missing several ingredients for Raffa’s salsa, so I made a simple one of corn, tomato, red onion, parsley.)
Preheat the over to 350*. Gently rinse the squash blossoms in a bowl of cold water and lightly pat dry with paper towel and set aside. Combine 1 c of the goat cheese, jalapenos and epazote in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer puree to a mixing bowl and mix in remaining goat cheese. Season with salt. Separate into 12 pieces and roll into 2-3 inch long logs. Gently pry open a squash blossom by pulling back on one of the petals and place a cheese log inside. Lightly pinch the blossom closed around the cheese. Repeat. Place the stuffed squash blossoms on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for no more than 5 minutes. The cheese should be warmed through and the blossoms should soften but not brown. Divide the salsa between 4 plates, top each with 3 squash blossoms and drizzle with olive oil. ( Serves 4 - I reduced this for one serving and needed less than 4 oz. of goat cheese to fill my 3 blossoms.
This was by far my favorite meal of the summer. With a simple green salad on the side, it’s rich and creamy yet crisp and refreshing. I loved the jalapeno heat with the sweetness of the squash blossoms. Now I am desperate to get my hands on more squash blossoms to make this again!