I take pleasure in simple things.
Solitary visits to the Saturday Farmers market, for example.
While I would hardly consider myself an introvert, there are some activities that are best performed solo, and for me – this is definitely one of them. I love trawling the crowded outdoor market, bustling from stand to stand, and allowing my senses to drink in the colours, sights and smells of the week’s fresh produce.
My thoughts entertain me, as I marvel at the Bahraini farmer who, having clearly thought I was a western expat based on my choice of outfit for the day, attempted to lure me to his stall by shouting in broken English “We have Kale!!”
For the record, his ploy worked, and despite the fact that it was grossly overpriced, I bought some – but only after conversing with him in Arabic to attempt to contest his blanket generalization that only westerners ate kale.
Burlap bag in tow, I moved on to the next stall where I laid eyes on something I had only ever seen before at a farmer’s market in Bodrum last summer; fresh zucchini blossoms.
My excitement was tangible as I carefully rifled through the slightly beaten-up blossoms to pick out a few that were sturdy enough to stuff. Imagine my delight when I handed the bag to the attendant at the stall asking “how much?”, only to have him motion with his head and hands as if to say, “no need”. I thanked him graciously and proceeded to walk down the row of stalls with a smile on my face and my mind whirring with inspiration.
Herb and Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
Makes 18-20 flowers
- 20 fresh zucchini blossoms
- 1/2 cup dry quinoa
- 1/2 cup smashed chickpeas
- 1 large tomato, finely diced
- A small handful of fresh dill, parsley and mint, finely chopped (save the stems)
- 1 large onion finely chopped or grated
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup organic vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Start by washing the blossoms very well. They will probably have small bugs and dirt on them, so soaking them in a bowl of cold water and washing each blossom individually is advisable. If possible, try to pick blossoms that are more open so that they’re easier to stuff.
- To make the filling, combine the quinoa, smashed chickpeas, tomato, herbs, garlic, olive oil, tomato paste and seasonings in a large mixing bowl. Tip: to save time you can use a small food processor to help you chop the onions and herbs.
- Using a small spoon (or your bear hands), stuff each blossom with the filling, and squeeze gently to firm up. Careful not to tear the blossoms as you do this.
- Layer a medium sized pot with parsley and other herb stems to create a bed, then carefully arrange the blossoms tightly until the whole bottom of the pan is full.
- Add vegetable stock until just over level with the top of the blossoms, then bring to a boil on medium heat. Careful not to go overboard as the boiling water can disrupt the delicate blossoms. Turn down to a low heat and cover, then cook until quinoa is fluffy and flowers are tender. Mine took around 30 mins.
This recipe is the second coming of my traditional “mahshi” recipe – I thought the addition of smashed chickpeas would add a nice depth of texture, and the fresh mint at the farmers market looked too good not to use.
I was originally contemplating whipping up a cashew ricotta to use as a stuffing, but I was craving something more substantial in terms of texture and flavour. I must say the perfectly fluffed quinoa lends itself well to being parceled in a flavor and herb infused blossom.
Light, nutritionally dense and filling – ideal for a weekend lunch as a warm main dish or a cold side drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and a smattering of fresh herbs.
I just love creating dishes made up exclusively of local fresh produce, and today’s cooking experiment was just that. I’m telling you, it’s the simple things.