Ah… to add the taste of sweet, spice, mint, floral or citrus to a meal. To sprinkle flavor on top of a finished dish, tweaking the final result, enhancing that last dimension of texture, color and taste is divine. No, this isn’t a fanciful description of the virtues of freshly-cracked black pepper, fragrant Herbes de Provence or robust ground cumin. In fact, there’s no need to reach for the spice rack at all; simply reach for the flower pot Edible flowers of all varieties can be found in many innovative kitchens across the country, adding a touch of elegance and a surprising balance of texture, fragrance, color and flavor to many dishes, both sweet and savory.
What’s even better is the wide variety of choices: tulip petals taste of cucumbers and fresh sweet peas, nasturtiums lend a peppery watercress flavor, and lilacs evoke pungent lemon. While carnations are surprisingly sweet, young dandelions taste of honey, and miniature pansies leave a tinge of wintergreen on your palate.
Start off simply with quick and easy way to make sugared flower petals. Brush a thin layer of egg white all over the petal and gently toss in a bowl of granulated sugar and allow petals to dry on a rack or nonstick surface for a few minutes. Voila! You have a gorgeous garnish for a dessert, the perfect accent to your champagne cocktail or a surprisingly tasty snack. If you’re looking for a way to amp up your weekend omelet, add a few petals of violet to the mix and proceed as normal. Or, simply, toss a few lilac or carnation petals into your next salad.
As fun as edible flowers are, it’s imperative that cooks either grow their own organically or choose flowers that have not been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides. Do not eat flowers from florists, nurseries or garden centers. Also, while many flowers are edible, some are toxic. Cooks should be aware of what they are putting in their dishes by doing some research. If you have any safety concerns – skip it till you can learn more – there’s always the backup spice rack.
Heirloom tomatoes 4 medium; sliced
Fresh buffalo mozzarella 1 lb; thinly sliced
Balsamic vinegar 1 cup
Fresh rosemary sprigs 2
Butter 2 Tbsp
1. Slice the tomatoes and cheese 1/4" thick. Arrange the slices of tomato and cheese on a serving platter.
To make the rosemary balsamic reduction:
1. Place 1 cup of balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
2. Add the rosemary and boil gently till reduced to about ¼ cup.
3. Remove from heat, add 2 Tbsp butter and mix to combine. Remove rosemary springs and drizzle over tomatoes and mozzarella.
4. Garnish with edible flowers, a nice crack of black pepper and sprinkling of sea salt. Serve with extra reduction on the side.
Meyer Lemon Crème
Meyer lemons juice 1/2 cup
Meyer lemon zest from 3 small meyer lemons
Tangelo zest from ½ medium tangelo
Granulated sugar ½ cup
Whole egg 1
Egg yolk 1
Butter 4 Tbsp / 2 oz / 56 g; cut into small, even pieces
Heavy whipping cream ½ cup / 4 oz / 115 g
Beurre Noisette Shortbread Crumble
Confectioner's sugar ¼ cup
All-purpose flour ¾ cup
Unsalted butter 6 Tbsp
Thinly sliced almonds 1/4 cup; toasted
To make the Meyer Lemon Crème:
1. Zest the lemons and juice through a sieve. Whisk together zests, juice, sugar and eggs in a heatproof bowl set over a bain marie. Stir constantly until thickened; 10-15 minutes.
Test to see if it’s finished by drawing a line with your finger across a wooden spoon; if the line stays and no liquid slips down the curd is finished.
2. Remove the bowl carefully from heat and stir in the butter till completely melted.
3. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any curdled egg yolk and zest. Chill completely.
4. When curd is completely chilled. Beat the heavy whipping cream to a soft peak and gently fold into the lemon curd. Cover and chill until ready to use.
To make the Beurre Noisette Shortbread Crumble:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat till browned but not burnt; stirring frequently. Allow to cool slightly.
3. In the meantime, finely grind the cooled, toasted almonds in a food processor.
4. Sift together the confectioner’s sugar, flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and almonds and mix just until combined.
5. Evenly spread the dough about 1/4 inch thick on a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake until the top and bottom are lightly browned about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely then crumble with your fingers to the desired consistency.
1. Spoon the Meyer lemon cream into a small bowl or plate, sprinkle shortbread crumble generously on top. Dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar and decorate with edible flowers such as such as pansies, nasturtiums and/or geraniums.
* The Meyer lemon curd will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week. Once you incorporate the heavy cream serve it the same day.
* Orange zest may be substituted for the tangelo