This year was a particularly rough winter.
If you don't live in Seattle, you might be thinking, "aren't all of your winters rough?". The truth, though, is that they're not. Sure, they can be dark, and there's no shortage of rain. But fall is so lovely, and spring is so magical, that winter here tends to feel more like a cozy interlude. A time to organize your house, teach yourself a new hobby, and maybe sneak a trip to somewhere sunny. This year it seemed like fall was only a minute, and then it rained for five months straight. I'm not kidding, apparently we even broke records. So this year, when spring started poking out its flower-covered head, you could practically hear the collective shriek across the city.
If you've never been to Seattle in the spring, I highly recommend it. It can be dicey, rain-wise, but for about a month, the city is literally bathed in blossoms. The colors, the smells, the marshmallow-like quality of it all — it's something special. So April is a great month in Seattle, and this year we decided to celebrate it with our third ever "We Heart Washington" dinner, where we seek out some of the fun ingredients unique to us:
Big leaf maple blossom fritter with chile salt
Bruleed Dinah’s camembert with syrah poached rhubarb and black pepper crackers
Wild boar rillette with five-spice glaze and watercress on Honoré sourdough
Ballard honey-roasted root vegetables with lemony bread crumbs
Cascadia Creamery Glacier Blue cheese and pickled fiddleheads
Reuben’s rye beer and chile-braised oxtail
Charred spring onion and green garlic farrotto
Wild greens and foraged spring blossoms
Pickled cucumber and first-of-the-season radishes
Honey graham cake, rhubarb-vanilla syrup, and candied ginger
With the never-ending dreariness of this year's winter, we jumped into our first spring menu with gusto. There aren't a lot of spring vegetables in April, so we decided to hit the streets for inspiration, and I dare say these fried maple blossoms stole the show. I don't think any of us had actually eaten a maple blossom before, so there was a lot of giddiness about the prospect. They're surprisingly simple to make — just dip freshly-picked blossoms (preferably from your neighbor's tree) in a thin batter and fry away. A little maple syrup, lemon juice, and chile salt later, and you've got just about the springiest dish for miles.
- Chile salt:
- 1 teaspoon smoked ancho chile powder, or more to taste
- Zest of 1 lemon, dried on a paper towel to remove moisture
- 1/4 cup flakey finishing salt (we LOVE Jacobsen!)
- Fritter batter:
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup cold carbonated water, or more as needed
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- As many Big leaf maple blossoms as you can find
- High heat oil, 2-inches deep
- Lemon, to taste
- Maple syrup, to taste
Make the chile salt:
Toss all of the ingredients together and set aside.
Make the batter:
Place the egg yolk in a large bowl. Mix the yolk with the carbonated water.
Sift the flours, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Add all at once to the egg mixture and gently whisk just until smooth. Mix the batter just before cooking, so that the flour particles have limited time to absorb moisture.- In a medium saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees. One at a time, gently dip the blossoms into the batter until they are completely covered. Drop into the oil and fry until golden brown. The batter should be thin and delicate, so if your fritters look like corn dogs, add another 1-2 tablespoons of carbonated water to thin it out.
Once fried, transfer the blossoms to a wire rack or paper towel to cool down. When ready to eat, drizzle with lemon juice, maple syrup, and the chile salt. Eat immediately.