All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013
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I love me some squash blossoms. They are just so pretty & elegant and the fact they are seasonal & so hard to come by makes them all that much more exotic & satisfying to use. They have only the slightest hint of flavor, though. Less even than my latest other favorite ingredient – saffron. Saffron is also rare – in fact – I believe it is the most expensive spice in the world when priced by the pound. Saffron is also pretty & delicate & elegantly flavored. So, I thought, why not marry the two in a recipe? This pesto is as easy as any other, assuming you have some kind of food processor or blender. I didn’t use garlic as I thought it might overwhelm the other flavors and, as it turned out, I found that the Parmesan I used ended up being the most powerful taste. Still, this is a pretty & easy & quite yummy. And it is a great way to use squash blossoms that might no longer be in the peak of their glory (as in – been in the fridge a few days). Like these:
I added cauliflower to the dish because 1) it, too, has a lovely & delicate flavor and 2) it lightens up a pasta dish with all its bulky, veggie goodness. Feel free to leave it out or even to use only cauliflower & leave out the pasta. Also – I used whole wheat spaghetti but any pasta (or risotto) would work.
1/2 pound dry pasta
1/2 head cauliflower – cut into florets
15 (or so) squash blossoms (plus extra chopped up for garnish)
1/4 cup almonds (about 30) or other nut (pine nut, walnut, pecan)
3 TBS saffron liquid (or a generous pinch steeped in 3 TBS warm water)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional) – (I used more but I feel I overdid it.)
Remove the pistils from the centers of the squash blossoms & then wash them. Separate a few to chop as garnish.
Toast the nuts in a dry pan for about 2-3 minutes or until they are fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Blend the blossoms, nuts, saffron water, & cheese in a food processor or blender. Add the crushed red pepper (if using). Drizzle in the olive oil. You might need to scrape the sides of the work bowl a few times.
Cook the pasta according to directions – adding the cauliflower florets for the last 5 minutes. Drain & toss with the pesto. Garnish with chopped squash blossoms and/or chopped basil or parsley or a tad more crushed red pepper or Parmesan.