The other day at the grocery store I saw the freshest squash blossom flowers, known in Spanish as Flor de Calabaza. I bought a small bunch of the golden blooms, remembering that the classic treatment in Mexico for squash blossoms is as a filling in quesadillas. Quesadillas are flour or corn tortillas with a variety of fillings, including cheese, usually Oaxaca String Cheese. Squash blossom quesadillas are one of Mexico’s gift to the world.
This is another dish for which it is hard to give a recipe. It’s as easy as making a sandwich, and, indeed, this could be called one of the sandwiches of Mexico. Here is the simple recipe: take two tortillas, top one with sautéed vegetables, then with thinly sliced or grated cheese. Place the second tortilla on top, and cook in a hot pan until the cheese is melted. That’s it.
I often make quesadillas using left-over vegetables from dinner the day before — creamed spinach, steamed beet greens, sautéed yellow squash with onion. The vegetable list is endless. The cheese list is close to endless. While the true Mexicano may blanch, there’s no reason that Swiss cheese or cheddar, or any cheese you have on hand, could not be used. When I’m in a quesadilla mood, I have been known to rummage through the fridge, pulling out left-over brown rice, shredded roast chicken breast, fresh spinach leaves, sliced mushrooms. Quesadillas are a good thing to make when you clean out the fridge, akin to making clean-the-fridge soup. If you use squash blossoms, keep in mind that they have a delicate flavor that is easily overwhelmed by more strongly flavored ingredients. For squash blossom quesadillas, the ingredient list is short.
Squash blossoms are common in Mexican markets in the interior of the country, although I don’t see them very often in the coastal area where I live. One day, a man came to our gate selling a bag of beautiful, fresh blossoms. The bag was the size of a small pillow, and I bought all he had for about three dollars. It was a culinary treasure, to be enjoyed in quesadillas, scrambled eggs and stuffed with cheese. The flower color varies from bright yellow to pumpkin orange. If I could bear not to eat them all, they would make an interesting floral arrangement in a vase on the kitchen counter. I’ll have to buy extra next time, just to enjoy them visually.
Squash Blossom Quesadillas
Roast poblano chiles and cut into strips. (Refer to my past post Chiles en Nogada if you need a refresher course on how to roast chiles.) Set aside.
In Mexico, strips of roasted poblano chiles cooked with onion are called rajas.
Sauté chopped squash blossoms with some sliced onion and minced garlic in a bit of olive oil.
Lightly oil a griddle with vegetable oil and heat until medium hot. Place tortillas on griddle; divide squash blossoms, poblano strips and cheese among tortillas.
Top each quesadilla with another tortilla and cook until cheese is melted and tortillas begin to have brown, toasty spots. Cut in halves or quarters, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with fresh salsa. You may want to enjoy your squash blossom quesadillas with a cold, Mexican beer, such as Pacifico or Corona.