Meet the Region’s Farmers And Learn to Make Fried Zuccchini Blossoms from Gaia’s Breath Farm

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Doesn’t food always taste better when you know who raised it? And these days, getting to know your farmers has been getting easier and easier.

Since 2000, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets has grown 150 percent in more than a decade, from 2,863 in 2000 to 7,175 this year. With more than 30 markets in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, all you have to do is walk up to a booth and offer your hand.

In honor of National Farmers Market Week this week, we’ve decided to help with those introductions — and they’ll come with a bonus of recipes, too.

In this new occasional column, we’ll introduce you to farmers and producers, and give one of their recipes using something you can buy that week at their market.

We’ll start with Mark Santoro of Gaia’s Breath Farm from Jordanville, N.Y., between the Catskills and Adirondacks in Herkimer County (it’s between Cooperstown and Utica).

Santoro organically and biodynamically farms 265 acres, raising 35 varieties of vegetables and fruits, as well as livestock, including lamb, beef, veal, pork and poultry.

The farm is named for Gaia, the Greek earth goddess, and Santoro says he uses biodynamic farming methods because they “incorporate spirituality and metaphysics to enhance the vitality of crops.” He started his journey to farming as a philosophy major at Purchase College, where he began to question the nature of our food system and asked the question: “Where are we going to get the highest quality food to keep us healthy?”

Although an accident left Santoro a quadraplegic in the early 1980s, with help from his partner and family, he found his answer when he purchased an old dairy farm. Santoro’s sister, Tara, pictured at left, represents the farm Tuesdays at the PepsiCo Market in Purchase, and you’ll also find his stand in Irvington on?Wednesdays, and Larchmont and South Salem on Saturdays.

Where to find Gaia’s Breath Farm Zucchini blossoms

Farmers Market at PepsiCo: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. all year. 800 Anderson Hill Road. 845-520-6502. On Facebook: Farmers Market@ PepsiCo.

Irvington: 3:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through October, in the back lot of the Main Street School (101 Main St.). 914-478-8068. irvingtonfarmersmarket.net

Larchmont: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 17. Metro-North parking deck No. 3 off Chatsworth Avenue (near 1 Railroad Way). 914-923-4837. communitymarkets.biz.

South Salem: Gossett’s Farm Market, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays year-round. 1202 Route 35 (at Gossett Brothers Nursery), 914-763-3001. www.gossettnursery.com.

Here’s a link to all the area farmers market.

A recipe for Gaia’s Breath Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, after the jump.

Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

12 zucchini blossoms

For the filling
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
4 basil leaves, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper

For the batter
3/4 cup flour
1 cup club soda, chilled
Pinch of salt

To prepare the flowers, clean out dirt or insects from the inside of flowers and remove the stamen.

Gently rinse them one at a time and pat dry on towels, being careful not to damage the delicate petals. Cut any long stems to 1 inch.

Put vegetable oil in a heavy-bottom cast iron frying pan — about 1 inch deep. Heat oil to 360-365 degrees on a candy thermometer.

In a bowl, combine ricotta, chives, parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Using a teaspoon, gently place a small amount of filling inside each flower and twist the ends of the flower closed. Place the filled flowers on a plate.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, club soda and salt together. Add more club soda if necessary to form a thin, crepe-like batter.

When the oil is hot enough, dip a blossom in the batter and coat completely. Let the excess batter drain and place in the hot oil. Be careful not to burn yourself; the oil will spatter.

Repeat with each blossom. Work in small batches of 3-4 blossoms at a time, no more, or the oil temperature will drop too low and the blossoms will be soggy, not crisp.

Let each blossom fry for 30-60 seconds and then turn with tongs or a small wire strainer. Fry on the other side until golden in color.

Remove, let drain and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Season with additional salt while still hot.

Continue until all blossoms have been fried. Serve immediately.

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About Author

Liz Johnson is content strategist for The Journal News and lohud.com, and the founding editor of lohudfood, formerly know as Small Bites. As food editor, she won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.

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