Lunch at the Round Table

In the early years, bankers, farmers, salesmen and businessmen met at the Cup N’ Saucer, a downtown coffee shop in my hometown of Los Banos. They joined each other mainly at Lunch at the ‘Round Table’, a large round table on the right as you entered. After the Cup and Saucer closed, they found other dining ‘conference’ tables, Tiny’s, Denny’s and at my ristorante and delicatessen, La Familglia. They sat in the back at the antique poker table. This was a farmer’s exchange, farmers, fertilizer salesman, trucker, packers, they were all there: Joe Vajretti, Shawn Moosekian, Bugs Haumea, Peter LoBue, Tony Mogolio, Ralph Palazzo, and more.

My interest was to feed them. Favorite meals were perfectly cooked roast beef, served room temp with thick sliced vine-ripened tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and topped with chopped capers, onions and anchovies; on the side, good crusty bread. 

All of us welcomed the season’s freshest pick. We could never get enough of one favorite,   squash flowers. One day my Dad commented to Peter LoBue, “Peter, why don’t you plant a row of pumpkins so Nancy has squash flowers to prepare?” Peter responded, “OK, Papa Joe, I’ll see what I can do.” I grew up with Peter; he’s always been a big thinker. Shortly thereafter, at lunch at the Round Table Peter announced that he had planted 13 acres of pumpkins! I would have squash blossoms and he would have the pumpkins for sale 

 The Recipe:  Fior d’ Italia  Squash Blossoms

Mornings are the best time to pick because the flowers are wide open. Every day I traveled with my dog Lester to the pumpkin patch. While Lester romped in the field, I picked squash blossoms. To pick them doesn’t require much skill; just to know the ones with the stamen are the males. They will not produce fruit.  I would pick the flower at its stem including the green webbed bell shaped base. Once picked, I placed them upside down and side by side in a basket. For me, to come away from the field with forty blossoms is a victory for my farmer’s lunch. Off to the deli I would go.

To prepare, remove the stamen, peel away the base of the flower, gently rinse the inside and outside with water and place upside down in a large colander. At this point the flowers can be placed in the refrigerator covered with a damp cloth. 

For the crepe batter, we use Mom’s sweet crepe batter eliminating the sugar for a savory rendition. For the filling, I tried several types of cheese; my favorite is the original Jack cheese.

To prepare the flowers, open the flower and fill with a piece of Jack cheese. Reserve them on a damp towel. We eliminated frying and adopted the griddle. Preheat the griddle and brush with vegetable oil. Dip the filled flowers in the batter, lay on the griddle. If the batter is too thick, thin with milk. The look of the stuffed squash blossom is to see the flowers lightly coated so the veins are visible. Cook until the color and consistency of a cooked pancake or crepe.  Flip over and cook on the other side.  Serve as a hors d’oeuvre, side dish, vegetable or at brunch.

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