Another Sunday Market in La Cruz and another bunch of squash blossoms too beautiful to eat. I could have looked at their vase on the kitchen counter all week, but eat them we did when I made squash blossom quesadillas for lunch, using fresh corn tortillas, queso fresco from the Sunday market, poblano chile strips and epazote leaves.
Squash — calabaza — were cultivated in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, and then spread throughout the world with the arrival of the Spanish. Classic Mesoamerican clay pots mimic large squash in design, and are still seen in contemporary Mexican art work. We have a beautiful copper pot from Santa Clara del Cobre, hammered into a calabaza form.
Before chopping up the flowers, I inhaled their aroma. They smelled of squash, pumpkin and earth, like a garden. The colorful flowers add a delicate flavor that is easily overpowered, so go light on the onion and garlic. Use whatever cheese you have on hand, but the classic cheese for quesadillas is string cheese from Oaxaca. Today I used fresh cheese from the market, but other possibilities include Muenster, Monterey Jack, or even cheddar.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small bunches squash blossoms, all but 1″of stem removed, chopped; enough to measure 2 cups
- 1/4 cup onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt to taste
- 1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled and cut into strips
- 6 oz. cheese, thinly sliced
- 8 epazote leaves (optional)
- 8 corn tortillas
- Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add onion and cook for 3 minutes, or until translucent.
- Add squash blossoms and garlic, and cook until blossoms are wilted.
- Remove from heat and salt to taste.
- Heat an oiled griddle over medium heat. Place four tortillas on griddle and evenly divide squash blossom mixture among them. Add strips of poblano chile, thinly sliced cheese, and two epazote leaves to each quesadilla. Cover each one with a second tortilla.
- Cook about 3 minutes per side, or until brown, toasty spots appear on the tortillas and the cheese melts.
- Cut into halves or quarters and serve hot. (Cold left-overs are delicious.)
North of the border, flour tortillas are often used for quesadillas, but corn tortillas are more common in Mexico.
This may be heresy to a Mexican cook, but building quesadillas in my kitchen is like making a sandwich: anything goes. I have made great quesadillas with left-over brown rice, steamed greens, a bit of steak from last night’s dinner, whatever cheese is on hand, even cottage cheese.
Epazote (Teloxys ambrosioides), also known as Mexican Tea or Wormseed, is a bitter herb used to season black beans, quesadillas and empanadas. A few months ago, I found it in a Mexican market in Minneapolis, and I hear it is becoming more common in U.S. supermarkets that cater to a Hispanic clientele. A native of Mexico, it is not eaten raw, and may be an acquired taste. There is no substitute.
A bit of etymology: calabaza is from the Persian word kharbuz, meaning melon, and the French word calabase, later calabash, is of Spanish origin.