Well, I'll admit it might be weird for many people, but the fact is I get excited about the farmers market. (About other stuff too, sure. But today I feel like telling you about the market).
Every time I leave home with a list in mind, so that I won't buy too much food, and every time I come back with more than I had planned. Everything is so fresh and pretty, it's hard to resist.
The down side is that I may end up not being able to manage that much produce, and some times food spoils.
Now, follow me: with the Autumn arriving, there's plenty of tasty fruits showing up again in the stalls, the flowers (which generally fade when the heat is intense) are on sale again.
When available, I usually get some poppies and Calla lilies, but the last time I went there, the flowers available where nasturtiums and zucchini flowers: beauties that go to the plate.
Of course, I had to experiment the zucchini flowers, with all of that pretty color. I just didn't know what to do with them.
The lady who sold them guaranteed I could find many recipes on internet besides the classic fried flowers (which are not too appealing for me).
She suggested risotto. Oh well, I came up with a risotto of my own.
Starting from the beginning: I never cook risotto, and it's not really common that I eat rice at home. Anyway, I always have some brown rice around.
I had to pull a trick to simulate the texture of arborio rice, which is the most indicated one for risottos. I will tell you the difference:
arborio is a medium grain kind of rice, soft, with the capacity to absorb plenty of liquid, and which releases plenty of starch while cooking. This starch is responsible for turning risottos creamy (along with the great amounts of fat usually used in this dish, such as cream, butter and cheese). Here I have used long brown rice, which is not all that soft, absorbs less liquid, and does not release that much starch. So, in order to achieve a creamy texture, I added some chia seeds to the rice while it cooked, and a little more liquid I would use if I was a making a regular fluffy rice.
1 1/2 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon chia seeds (use flaxseeds, if you prefer)
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon vegetable oil (I used sunflower. Any one with neutral flavour will be ok)
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
1 handful of chopped bell peppers (I used a local variety of tiny bell peppers named Cambuci, and took about 6. It would be the same to use one small bell pepper)
2 bunches of zucchini flowers, including stalks
Olive oil, as needed
Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
I put the rice, chia, sesame and oil in a large pan and toasted them over high heat, until the grains started to brown up a little, and make a soft cracking sound.
I added water, a little more than what was enough to cover them, lower the heat do medium-low and let cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
While the rice cooked, I peeled and minced the garlic and onion, and put them so sauté in another pan.
I washed the bell peppers and the flowers (putting them under gentle running water is enough). I trimmed the stems, seeds and white veins in the peppers, then roughly chopped them and added to the sauté.
I roughly chopped the flowers and their stalks too, and let sauté along with the other ingredients until tender, then removed from the heat.
I added the sauté to the cooked rice, salted and seasoned with about 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (it's just a pinch, really. This one is very intense). I stirred it all and served immediately, along with a green salad.
To be honest, I thought the filling/rice ratio was a little off the ideal.
Next time, I will use a little less rice to the same amount of filling.
Yields 4 servings.
What about you, how do you cook with zucchini flowers?