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Taste-Testing Squash Blossoms at Hugo's

One of the best ways to celebrate the summer season is by cooking beautiful fruit and vegetables, especially squash blossoms.

Often found at local farmer's markets, squash blossoms are the edible flowers from zucchini and summer squash, and they are only available for a short period of time during the summer.

Not only are these bright orange/yellow flowers beautiful to look at, they make versatile cooking ingredients -- as evidenced by Hugo's squash blossom menu. Chef Hugo Ortega uses squash blossoms in everything from soups, salads and ceviches to quesadillas, enchiladas and tostadas. This story continues on the next page.

The day we were there, there were two squash blossom appetizer specials available: flores de calabaza rellenas (goat cheese-stuffed squash blossoms) and quesadillas de flor de calabaza (quesadillas stuffed with squash blossoms).

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The flowers stuffed with goat cheese are simply gorgeous. Each is grilled, creating a charred exterior and smoky flavor. The goat cheese is warm, creamy and mixed with a combination of sautéed onions, corn and scallions. As you bite into the crunchy, crispy flower, you're hit with an explosion of smooth and rich goat cheese filling. The sliced radish garnish with crumbled cheese adds an extra refreshing touch to the dish.

For a heavier, yet still light, appetizer, I recommend the squash blossoms quesadillas. Hugo's fills three blue corn tortillas with sautéed squash blossoms, Chihuahua cheese and sweet diced onions. The softened flowers still have an excellent crunch, despite being smashed and wilted. Make the perfect bite by dunking the quesadilla filled with stringy cheese and the squash blossom filling into the spicy, thick red salsa.

I hope the shrimp and squash blossom tostadas or chile relleno (stuffed with blossoms, Chihuahua cheese, squash and corn) are available during my next visit.

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