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Spring blossoms into culinary delights
Finally, there are signs of new growth in the valley, with fields turning golden and trees budding out and with the promise of tasty new foods, including maple blossoms and dandelions.
Very soon, there will be asparagus, fresh salad greens, and rhubarb too. Did you know that maple flowers from local trees are quite sweet and edible and can be used in a variety of recipes? Like squash blossoms, the racemes of big leaf maple trees can be transformed into a surprising culinary confections from salads to casseroles and especially, into delightful fritters.
The taste of maple blossoms is subtle: slightly nutty with a hint of sweetness. The recipe below is very tempura-like; thin, drippy, and puffs up around the blossom upon hitting the hot oil. This makes for a light, chewy, beignet-like fritter that’s perfect for breakfast, as a dessert course, or as an adornment to pudding or crème brûlée. It’s best to serve right away while hot and crispy, but I know some people even enjoy them cold.
My dandelion recipe today uses tender new greens, cooked with chopped onion, minced garlic, chile pepper, then topped with grated parmesan cheese. Be sure to pick dandelions that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals.
Now, is also the time to check our deep freezers for fruits and rhubarb not used during the winter so we can use it up before the new crop arrives. I have a tasty recipe that will make up two bumbleberry pies that will suit this cause well. Enjoy.
Maple blossom fritters
2 - 4 cups blossoms
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp corn starch
2 cups ice water
Maple syrup, optional
Check blossoms for insects. Dunk in sink full of water and swish rines well but carefully as they are delicate. Sift together flour, baking powder, and corn starch in a large bowl. Stir in ice water. Heat one inch of vegetable oil in a large saucepan on medium-high until a drop of water crackles and pops. Dredge blossoms in batter, allow excess to drip off, and carefully place in hot oil. Don’t crowd the pan. Fry until lightly browned all over. Remove to paper towels. Serve immediately while hot with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup if desired.
1 pound dandelion greens
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole small dried hot chile pepper, seeds removed, crushed
1/4 cup cooking oil
Salt and pepper
Discard dandelion green roots; wash greens well in salted water. Cut leaves into two-inch pieces. Cook greens uncovered in small amount of salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Sauté onion, garlic, and chile pepper in oil. Drain greens; add to onion garlic mixture. Taste dandelion greens and season with salt and pepper. Serve dandelion greens with grated parmesan cheese. Serves four.
5- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shortening
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon vinegar
4 cups apples - peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups white sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons tapioca
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk together three-quarters of a cup water, egg, and vinegar. Stir into flour until mixture forms a ball. Divide dough into four balls. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for four hours, or overnight. Roll out dough portions to fit a nine-inch pie pan. Place bottom crusts in two pie pans. Set aside top crusts.
In a large bowl, combine apples, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and lemon juice. Mix together 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cup flour, and tapioca; gently toss with fruit mixture. Divide into 2 pastry lined pie pans. Cover with top crusts; trim and crimp edges. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoons water). Cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to vent. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until filling is bubbly in centre and top is golden brown.
Frozen asparagus risotto with bacon
15 asparagus spears (frozen and defrosted)
3 tbsps butter
1/2 cup onion (minced)
1/4 lb bacon (chopped into small pieces)
1 cup white wine
2 cups arborio rice (or carnaroli)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 qts. (8 cups) chicken broth (hot, your’s or canned that’s thinned with water)
1/2 cup parmigiano (grated)
Take a deep breath and say, “Risotta-making is not difficult.” Cut asparagus into three-quarter-inch pieces. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, saute the onion and bacon in two tablespoons butter for three minutes over medium heat.
Increase to high heat, add wine and reduce to half (about three minutes). Add rice, salt and pepper and continue stirring on high for one minute. Add two cups of the hot chicken stock, cover the pan and turn off the heat.
Go off and do something else as It can now sit there until roughly 10 to 15 minutes before dinner is served. While back preparinf dinner, reheat the broth and crank up the heat on the rice. Stir, stir, stir, adding a cup of hot broth every time it starts to look a bit dry. Sample a bit: does it seem a bit chewy but almost ready?
If so, add the asparagus and stir until heated through, about two minutes. Sample again. Ready? Remove from heat and add one tablespoon of butter and cheese. Enjoy.