Squash blossoms, pancetta, cheese…
There are two big themes that seem to run through my cooking ever since I “grew up”. The first is the realization that I actually like foods that I always swore I hated when I was younger, and the second is the discovery of many foods I never knew about as a child.
Well, that isn’t exactly true. Several of these foods – like Brussels sprouts, for example – I had heard of quite often. Every children’s book talks about kids who refuse to eat their Brussels sprouts. But they seemed a kind of fairy-tale invention… in the same way that curds and whey or Turkish delight did. These were foods that, to my younger self, didn’t really exist in the real world (or, at the very least, my idea of what they actually were when I read about them in stories greatly differed from what they are in real life. I always thought curds and whey was something like oatmeal…)
But it’s these “fairy tale” foods, or the foods that I’d never even heard about until several years into food blogging, that hold the biggest fascination for me. Like Brussels sprouts. (I never had them as a child, and have loved them ever since I first tried them as an adult.) Or zucchini blossoms… why didn’t anyone ever tell me that you could eat flowers?!
I love the vibrant colors of the squash blossoms
Just as with my first encounter with Brussels sprouts, it took a year or two for me to build up the courage to actually buy them. I’ve never cooked these flowers… what if I do something wrong, or buy them and make a disaster of them, or…
But last week at the farmer’s market, I saw them for the first time at one of my usual stands… and on a spontaneous whim, they somehow ended up coming home with me. But now what?
Thank goodness for Twitter. It’s a lifesaver, in times like these. The very awesome Gaby Dalkin rescued me with the idea to put them on pizza (and she even had a recipe on her blog that I could check out!)
Oh my… yum. I had some flatbreads in the freezer from the hummus stand at the farmer’s market that my mom had told me were great for pizza, so I pulled those out, spread them with a little olive oil, mozzarella cheese, pancetta, and these squash blossoms. So good. The squash blossoms have a very delicate flavor, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with strong cheeses or other toppings… but this was perfect.
Quick and delicious!
Very closely based on the Squash Blossom and Pancetta Pizza recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking. If you want real pizza, follow her recipe… mine uses a pre-made flatbread, so the cooking times and temperatures are different.
- 1 8″ flatbread
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
- 2 squash blossoms
- 1/2 oz pancetta
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Saute the pancetta in a skillet until it gets browned and crispy.
- Brush the flatbread with olive oil. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese.
- Cut off the bottom of the blossoms and clean out the insides, then tear them into large pieces.
- Top the pizza with the pancetta and blossoms.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
I was an early adopter, when it came to Harry Potter. My grandparents got me the first book when I was in middle school. I loved it, of course.
I then proceeded to dress up as Draco Malfoy that Halloween. Complete with cape and Nimbus 2000. (My little sister dressed up as Harry Potter. No, you don’t get to see pictures.)
Not a single person at my school had any clue who I was. (Once a dork, always a dork…)
Luscious brown sugar cupcakes…
Flash forward a decade, and Harry Potter is all the rage. And… I’m just not feeling it. Yeah, I know, I know. But somewhere between the 4th and 5th books, I just fell out of love with it.
(I haven’t seen the movies, either… just bits of the first one. But I’ve never been much of a movie person.)
Decadent butterscotch sauce…
My sister, on the other hand, is still a huge Harry Potter fan. So when she and her girlfriend (also a huge Harry Potter fan) came home for a few days before the school year started, I pulled this recipe out of my long list of bookmarked recipes (I’d been saving it up for them).
I’m not sure exactly what I had been expecting, but holy cow these are good. Sweet, but not too sweet, as some butterscotch-flavored desserts can be. Moist, especially after I accidentally poured in an entire cup of buttermilk instead of just half a cup. And ohmygod that buttercream frosting… in the past I hadn’t been much of a fan of the buttercream frostings I’ve made, but I’m a believer now.
And the best butterscotch buttercream frosting ever.
Slightly altered from The Pastry Affair’s Butterbeer Cupcakes, which were adapted from the Butterbeer Cupcakes on Amy Bites.
Brown Sugar Cupcake
- 2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 3 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp butter flavoring
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup cream soda
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the vanilla extract and butter flavoring.
- Fold in one third of the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, then another third of the flour mixture, then the cream soda, and then the remaining flour.
- Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cupcakes are golden-brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
- 11 oz (1 package) butterscotch chips
- 1 cup heavy cream
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butterscotch chips into the heavy cream, stirring until smooth. (Or heat in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring in between.) Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup butterscotch ganache (recipe above)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp butter flavoring
- Pinch of salt
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the butterscotch ganache, vanilla, butter flavoring, and salt. Beat in the powdered sugar for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour the butterscotch ganache into a plastic squeeze bottle. Push the tip of the bottle into the cupcake and fill each cupcake with butterscotch ganache until it starts to overflow. (I made 3-4 holes in each cupcake.)
- Fill a pastry bag with the buttercream and pipe onto the top of each cupcake. Drizzle with more butterscotch ganache, if desired. (You will most likely have left-over butterscotch ganache – this can be used as a topping for ice cream, or it’s an excellent excuse to make another batch of these cupcakes.)
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Our lovely hosts
It’s a good combination.
Painting our nails
I got to go to the Homefries U Back To School Weekend.
Pretty much summer camp for grown-ups.
Coffee and breakfast breads
There was lots of good food, of course.
And cameras. We may not have all been food bloggers, but we were definitely all camera people. (Which was awesome, because there was a very cool photography session with Michael Friedman.)
And peppered brown sugar bacon. Oooohhhh, that bacon.
Tracy making candied bacon
(I’d make it at home, except there’s a definite danger of the entire batch disappearing before anyone else gets to try it.)
All gathered around
We hung out around the gorgeous house (and laughed until we nearly cried), we lounged by the pool…
But we’ll leave the swimsuit pictures out of this.
Making breakfast pizza
Did I mention the amazing food?
Joy and Tracy doing their thing
We got to see Joy and Tracy be their awesome, wonderful selves.
Behind the scenes
And we totally got behind-the-scenes access to how Joy photographs her blog posts.
Sprinkle the arugula…
(And then got to eat the results when she was done!)
More amazing food. Early in the morning and later in the day we would eat outside, and then retreat to the cooler house when it got too hot outside.
(It was too hot outside)
And there were friendship bracelets.
Er… friendship anklets. Awesome either way.
(Or in my case, anklet.)
We got to learn about sparkling wines and gin…
Learning about gin
Too bad I don’t drink. But it was still tons of fun… and a pretty cool experience since I’d never have tried any of it otherwise.
A delicious pasta dinner, with garlic bread to die for.
We were all laughing so hard on the shuttle ride back to the hotel after the second day, you’d never know we were all completely exhausted.
*snap snap snap*
Day three was a short day. But still fun!
Tracy teaching us all about spices
Tracy gave a neat little lesson about spices (I think I just fell in love with smoked paprika.)
But we were all really waiting for the doughnuts that Joy was frying up.
Ohmygod those doughnuts.
Ohmygod, that entire weekend. When I got there (late, thanks to bad timing and awful traffic), I was terrified – I didn’t know a single person who was going to be there. When I left, I had made so many new friends. We bonded over food (of course), same names (there were two other Al(l)isons there!), and dance (who knew there were so many other food bloggers/Joy the Baker fans who are dancers? Unexpected, but totally awesome.)
So much awesome.