From Penelope's kitchen: Pacaya Flowers and Yucca Blossoms


My friends Reina and Glenda, who are from Guatemala, introduced me to this delicious, easy to prepare dish, which can be served for lunch or dinner.

Pacaya is the young blossom of a date palm tree and has a slightly bitter taste. The yucca aloe flowers are the delicate petals from the yucca plant that taste like tender artichoke leaves. Both are easily found in most grocery stores (the Goya brand carries them), and since they are in brine, they have a long shelf life, making them an ideal kitchen staple.

In January, my doctor recommended that I remove wheat, dairy and sugar from my diet. While at first it seemed a hard task, it has lead me to explore other ways of finding satisfying, nutritious foods. Pacaya is an excellent source of calcium, protein, Vitamin C, and is also low in cholesterol, fat, sodium and calories. Various parts of the yucca plant have been used for centuries for their health benefits.

I use local Shelter Island eggs for this recipe which have a wonderful aroma and are a sweet contrast to the slight bitter taste of the blossoms and flowers. The Koszalka eggs sold on Stearns Point Road are organic and always delicious.

Beautifully exotic in appearance and delectable, this dish can be prepared for dinner in a hurry and served to guests and to picky children as well.

Serves 6

32 ounce jar pacaya palm blossoms
32 ounce jar yucca aloe flower
2 teaspoons powdered chicken broth
2 teaspoons paprika
6 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons corn or olive oil

Large can tomato sauce (pureed, crushed or homemade)
2 tablespoons corn or olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
3 sprigs cilantro
dash black pepper/salt to taste

Drain blossoms and flower in colander and rinse well. Set palm flowers on a dish towel and sprinkle chicken broth powder and paprika over them. Sprinkle chicken broth powder and paprika over aloe blossoms in colander.

Separate eggs and using egg beater, whip egg whites until light and foamy. Add egg yolks and continue to whip until well integrated. Yolks can be eliminated from this recipe for those wanting to have as little cholesterol as possible. Heat sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil.

Dip palm pacaya blossom into egg batter and add to heated, oiled pan. Continue to add each blossom without crowding pan, turning when lightly browned. When both sides are browned, remove, place on paper towel and let residue of oil drain.

Using your hands or a large spoon, place aloe flowers in egg batter and brown flowers in egg batter in heated pan, adding more oil as needed.

Heat another large sauté pan over medium heat and add oil. When heated, add onion, stir and cook until translucent. Add tomato sauce, mix and bring to boil, then add cilantro leaves and salt/pepper.

Add cooked blossoms and flowers to tomato sauce and cook on gentle simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve with rice, beans or warmed tortillas.