This January, my wife and I went to Cancun for the second part of our honeymoon. The sun was great, the water was warm, the drinks were weak, and the food in the hotel zone was pretty ordinary and American. The exception was La Destilleria, where the tequila was fantastic and the food included quesadillas made with squash blossoms and huitlacoche, a black smeary fungus that grows on corn and is also known as corn smut.
I found squash blossoms at the farmer's market last week and decided we should try to reproduce the delicious squash blossom quesadillas we enjoyed six months ago. I can't really call this a true recipe because it's so easy. Call it guidelines. The greater part of the effort is in prepping the blossoms, and that's not even much work.
Squash Blossom or Huitlacoche Quesadillas
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon corn oil or other oil
1 can huitlachoche
Make sure you start with organic blossoms. You don't want to end up eating pesticides with these. To clean the blossoms, cut off the stem and the bottom part of the flower where it's hairy and green. Make sure you get the pointy green leaves along the bottom as well. Reach in from the top and pull out the yellow stamen from the center of the flower.
Be careful. I was watching a fine international film (I think it was the Three Stooges go to the Moon) as I cleaned the blossoms, and was startled when a buzz went through my finger tip. Along with my squash blossoms, I'd purchased a bee!
Once the bee-free blossoms are trimmed and he stamens removed, rinse them once lightly to get off any dirt and dry them carefully with paper towels.
In a non-stick pan, add a tablespoon of oil (corn if you have it), and a minced clove of garlic. Heat until the garlic becomes fragrant and smells delicious. Add the blossoms and sautee over medium heat very briefly - for maybe thirty seconds to a minute - until they wilt. Set aside.
Huitlacoche is a very difficult item to find but if you happen to be in a gourmet or Mexican grocery store, look for it. I spent way too much on a little 3 oz. can of the stuff, mixed with onions. The idea of eating something called "corn smut" may not appeal to you, but its delicious stuff and adds a deep mushroomy flavor to the quesadillas. I've never seen the stuff outside of a can so I can't tell you where else you might find it. To prepare the huitlacoche... open the can.
Make sure there is still a bit of oil in the pan. If it seems like less than a teaspoon, add a small amount more. Place a taco-sized flour tortilla flat in the pan for about 20 seconds until it takes on a very little color on the bottom. Flip the tortilla. Sprinkle chihuahua cheese in the middle and to one side of the tortilla. Next, either spoon a stripe of huitlacoche or drop a couple squash blossoms onto the cheese. Fold the other half over and press down lightly.
Fry for about 30 seconds, flip, and fry for about 30 seconds again. Both sides should be light brown and a little crunchy. If the tortilla is oily, raise the heat for the next one. If the tortilla is dark brown or the oil starts to smoke, drop it down a little.
Put the completed quesadilla on a plate in a 150 degree oven to keep warm while you finish the batch. I usually cut the quesadillas into four triangles and serve as appetizers.
I've also had luck using the same technique with a roasted skinned poblano cut into strips and added to the quesadillas. Experiment.
One note - squash blossoms are too expensive in this country. Certainly every squash blossom harvested now means one less zucchini or squash later. If you read recipes for squash blossom soup or for other dishes that use squash blossoms, you'll see the quantities used are enormous. The little batch of blossoms you see above were $5 at the farmer's market. Ouch. They must be much cheaper in Mexico.
If you enjoy growing zucchini, but get overwhelmed by the harvest each year, using squash blossoms for a recipe like this lets you trim the crop back a bit and still enjoy produce you grew yourself.