Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fried Squash Blossoms / Ras al Hanout

It all started with a penis and a vagina (as most of my stories do).

A friend was telling me how you need to pluck the male stamen (or is it the stigma or style...I don't remember anymore) if you are going to eat the blossom. I asked how you know the difference between the male and female, to which I received a very graphic representation demonstrated by her fist and fingers. Needless to say I rushed to a booth at our Farmers Market that was selling blossoms at 5 cents a piece. This became my off-the-menu special for the day!

I bought 15 of the biggest I could get. They were pretty fresh, but it would have been nice if they were fresher - so into a bit of water and a nap in my walk-in. In the meantime I made a mixture of ricotta, smoked Soho salmon, egg yolk, salt, pepper, and ras-al-hanout.

I first learned about ras-al-hanout from Chef Shevek at Shevek & Co.. This is the place we go when we have a celebration - good food, well executed. Shevek occassionally sources products from us and a couple of years ago as he was transitioning his menu, he needed ras-al-hanout.

From Wiki:

Ras el hanout (Arabic: رأس الحانوت) is a popular blend of herbs and spices that is used across the Middle East and North Africa. The name means "head of the shop" in Arabic, and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer.

There is no definitive set combination of spices that makes up Ras el Hanout. Each shop, company, person would have their own secret combination containing over a dozen spices. Typically they would include cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ground chili peppers (also known as paprika), coriander, cumin, mace, nutmeg, peppercorn, and turmeric.

Some recipes include over one hundred ingredients, some quite unusual, such as ash berries, chufa, Grains of Paradise, orris root, Monk's pepper, cubebs, dried rosebud, and the potentially toxic belladonna and insects such as the beetle known as Spanish fly (however, the sale of Spanish fly was banned in the spice markets of Morocco in the 1990s). Usually all ingredients are toasted and then ground up together. Individual recipes are often improvised.

Ras el hanout is used in pastilla, the Moroccan squab/young pigeon and almond pastie, is sometimes rubbed on meats, and stirred into couscous or rice. It is often believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Shevek also claimed that it often contained opium. Well, I had a source (for ras al hanout, not opium)! So Shevek incorporated it into his menu. Now we carry it in the store and sell it surprisingly fast. Ras al hanout would not be a standard spice in squash blossoms. In fact, they would be the anti-spice in a dish that typically highlights the light, delicate flower. But I spit upon your traditions! And in the end I had a very nice, flavorful filling.

Just enough filling to fit without bursting out during the frying process. I then twirled the petals to close in the filling, and rested the blossoms in my walk-in to set up a bit.

Next it was into the fryer.

Not for long though. Maybe they fried 45 seconds at most.

Not bad for my first attempt. They sold out in the first 15 minutes - every single customer who could, bought them. I had one for myself!


Manggy said...

They sold out in the first 15 minutes - every single customer who could, bought them
And now, you too can reap the benefits of opium in your dishes! Ha ha ha. I hope you realize I'm just joshing you :) I, too, am a spice lover, so we can spit together :) The coating you used looks thicker than I've seen in most other fried blossoms. I take it that it's not a tempura-style batter?

Gfron1 said...

It was tempura style but the recipe I used was not right. I modified but it was still too thick. I would definitely thin it much more, but, even with that the coating isn't as thick as it looks.

Foodycat said...

Welcome to the blogroll!

Your squash blossoms look amazing. What a great variation to add ras el hanout!

warhammer gold said...
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