Eating, Gardening, & Living in Bulgaria posed recently when she challenged food bloggers to come up with a dish that typifies American cuisine for the 4th of July. ("American" here is referring to the United States, not Mexico or Canada.) Normally, if you ask me about this, I'll tell you that New Orleans is the home of true American cuisine, in that it is a complete system of cooking with a real melting pot of influences: Native American, African, French, Spanish, Caribbean - and doubtless many more.
But for this challenge, I thought I'd expand my thinking, and so I decided to make a dish that referenced the "Three Sisters" approach to agriculture. This is a traditional Native American agricultural practice of planting corn, climbing beans, and squash together. The three crops naturally benefit from one another: the corn provides a structure for the climbing beans, the beans give the soil nitrogen, and the squash spreads along the ground and helps to prevent weeds. It's a perfect system, with no chemicals required.
But, being a modern North American, naturally I had to do my own thing. After all, what's more "American" than breaking the rules? So, instead of a more traditional kidney or navy bean in my fritters, I used favas, and instead of using actual squash, I used zucchini blossoms. Finding inspiration at the farmers market was easy.
Garlic bulbs (these were shot after the market, in my kitchen):
And those beautiful zucchini blossoms, the only reason to get up at 7 am on a Sunday:
For the fritters, I used a corn fritter recipe at Simply Recipes for my basic template, and then took it in my own direction.
Three Sisters Fritters
2 ears fresh corn
1 pint fava beans
1 bulb fresh garlic
1 1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
1/4 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp lemon juice
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
Canola or other high smoke point oil
Boil the corn in water to which you've added a tbsp sugar for 10-11 minutes. Remove the kernels with a knife. Meanwhile shell and blanch the fava beans, as I outline here. Allow to cool.
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt). Next add your liquid ingredients and combine thoroughly; finally add the corn, beans, garlic, and onions.
In a skillet over medium high heat, add enough oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil shimmers (don't let it smoke!) add heaping tablespoons of the fritter mixture, working in batches.
Flip in about 4 minutes. They should be nice and brown:
Remove and allow to drain on paper towels.
To prepare the zucchini blossoms, remove the pistil:
Check inside for bugs and critters, and very gently rinse and pat dry. I sauteed mine on a low heat in tarragon butter - 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh, chopped tarragon mixed with 4 tablespoons of salted creamed butter:
You can refrigerate the extra in some wax paper - it's great on fresh corn:
I know that zucchini blossoms are often stuffed, dipped in batter, and fried, but I really wanted to be able to taste their delicate sweetness, so I opted instead to lightly saute them. The trick here is to do it on low heat, and take them out of the pan just as they've wilted, so that you don't destroy the flavor of the tarragon:
For my dipping sauce - which was amazing on fritter sandwiches the next day - I simply combined 3/4 cup Greek yogurt, one small bulb of fresh garlic, 3 tbsp fresh tarragon, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. The heat of the cayenne and slight sourness of the yogurt worked really well with the sweet crunchy corn and slight punk of the fava beans. I could seriously have eaten my weight in these fritters!
And there you have it - American cuisine, my way. Happy 4th of July!