Saturday, July 3, 2010

Three Sisters Fritters: Corn, Fava Beans, and Zucchini Blossoms with Tarragon Butter & Cayenne Yogurt Dipping Sauce

What is true "American" food?  This is the question that Casey of 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.

Fresh corn:

Fava Beans:

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!


  1. your receipes are amazing. Happy 4th!

  2. what a beautiful marriage of Americana - the fritters are always a favorite of mine and these just sound extra special with the freshness of the corn and fava beans, love the way you kept the blossoms fresh too (although the bugs would have added protein) and the finishing sauce with the tarragon must have melded it all together - just lovely Trix........Happy 4th to you and Poppa T

  3. I grew up on zucchini flowers...these are breath taking photo's how I love those memories, havent had one of them in years....amazing looking presentation here absolutely beautiful Trix!

  4. Trix, your photos are really artful... and gorgeous. Love the 3 sisters idea of growing things and the result... priceless. I can't wait to make these babies with a little Indian planked salmon on the side!!!

  5. I love your three sisters fritters and wish I could find zucchini blossoms to replicate this at home. Such beautiful delicate flavours!

  6. What a beautiful idea! You keep getting better and better babe!

  7. wow great history on Native Americans and first class presentation

  8. I love the three sisters philosophy. I must try that in my garden next year. Wonderful photos and a great American recipe.

  9. Great photos! And lovely recipe...

  10. Those blossoms are just gorgeous. Clever dish and a refreshing change from what tends to come to mind when thinking of 'American food'!

  11. Oh me, Oh my! Simple and Gorgeous = Simply Gorgeous. Three sisters is such a poetic name for a dish! ;)

  12. A great adaptation of the Three Sisters - the butter and cayenne - what a great pop!

  13. I like your kitchen philosophy, and the results, even more! Very nicely done indeed!

    Happy Fourth :)

  14. I love your interpretation of the American classic. The photos are beautiful!

  15. Beautiful post! I agree, part of American cuisine is taking the traditional and giving it a twist.

  16. Awesome Trix! It looks like you have a really nice market near you. I don't. Well, we have a small one with really nice things (not many things but really nice in terms of what they do have). It's closed for the scorching summer...
    I love squash blossoms, and your fritters look so delicious. I'm hungry!

  17. oh, this looks beautiful, Trix! lovely recipe! i love how you introduced the three sisters! extra points for blending together the Native American and NOLA cuisines. ;) a wonderful way to introduce others to American foods.

  18. what an incredible culinary statement! your plate is perfect! Not only have you captured the purity of those foods, your words and imagery are outstanding.....I can't wait until the zucchini blossoms are in season here.
    Thanks for representing us so well with your beautiful presentation!
    happy fourth

  19. This is an incredible post Trix, love the photos both at the market and in your kitchen. I noticed a few zucchini blossoms in my garden this past week, you've given me both some wonderful inspiration and practical information with your beautiful delicious recipe!

  20. My grandma used to make fried zucchini blossoms and they were so amazing. I would love to come over to your place for some of these fritters!

  21. Great recipe! love the zucchini blossoms, very popular in Italian cuisine! happy 4th to you too!

  22. Trix,

    Gorgeous fritters. Balanced and harmonious combination of flavors. Great job all around. Bravo!


  23. These fritters turned out wonderful and beautifully presented! Where to find these zucchini blossoms? I've never seen them in my I'll be obsessed to find them. Great post!

  24. Wow....fritters look delicious. Would be great for breakfast or lunch. I love those fresh zucchini flowers. They look so beautiful. I have never seen them. Thanks very much for sharing.

  25. Just stunning. I always wanted to try zuchinni blossoms but never saw them in stores or market. Maybe soon I hope

  26. Thanks everyone! As far as finding the zucchini flowers, they're very delicate and you likely won't find them in a shop, as they need to be eaten the same day, or at the latest the day after, they're picked. Try getting to the farmers market as soon as it opens, as they tend to sell out quickly. If you don't see them, find a farmer who sells squash or zucchini and see if this is something they could bring. Good luck!

  27. Trix
    For years I have seen zucchini flowers thrown out and this year i am determined to use them every possible way; love your photos they are a work of art; and love the fact that you are showing me a way to use these flowers and the corn and fava that we get fresh over here; no need for a farmer;s market; it is all at our fingertips.

  28. Great recipe, they look amazing...

  29. Wow, Trix! These look amazing. And you are so right- what could be more American than doing it your own way? I really enjoyed this post.

  30. This process is such a labor of love! I'm thrilled to find a recipe for zucchini blossoms that does not fry them. These fritters look amazing!

  31. Wow, these look beautiful and sound delicious! What a lovely combination of ingredients. I especially love the use of tarragon and yogurt. Thanks!