Friday, April 16, 2010
Eat Your Flowers
In Chicago I don't declare it Springtime until I can see full-fledged leaves unfurling on the occasional tree. That being said, I think we've finally arrived to that time here. I thought it might be a good opportunity, then, to do a little four-part series on flowers in food. This is mostly just an excuse for me to buy roses for myself, perhaps, and to take pictures loaded with petal colors. What can I say? I'm a girl.
I'm not going to tell you what all of the recipes for this series are going to be, but I can tell you that they will include all of the flowers seen in the below photo, with each focusing on one or two in particular: Hibiscus, Violet, Rose, and Lavender were chosen to be the main players. Two of the dishes, including this first one, are savory. The other two are desserts.
This first dish feels a little like an exception when you look at the pictures since I went a little wild buying a confetti pack of edible flowers of a dozen varieties to sprinkle on the finished salad. The focus is supposed to be on the hibiscus flower vinaigrette, but I will admit that in the plated finish it's the look of a sea of wildflowers on the greens that steal the eye away from the deep plum-colored dressing.
Still, when it comes to flavor, the hibiscus' role reigns supreme. There is a wonderful tart, fruitiness to these flowers that makes their tea perfect for dressing a salad, which is how I did it - by making a tea out of the dried flowers. I found the flowers in a Persian shop near my home, but you could also use dry tea blends or hibiscus juice, even, which is available in health food stores, etc. Just adjust things like honey or vinegar according to your tastes.
If you'd like to use the flowers, which are great for all kinds of things, like this amazing jam from Sanjana at KO Rasoi, here is a good source for them at a decent price.
I served this dressing over fresh organic mesclun mix with goat cheese croquettes (just goat cheese mixed with fresh chives and dredged in egg/flour mixture before a quick pan-fry) and mixed edible flowers. The flowers should be labeled "edible" in florists or found in the fresh herb section of the grocers, and are grown without harmful pesticides. If bought in packs, they often include certain varieties of chive flowers, marigolds, nasturtiums, etc. They all have their own flavors that range from "nutty" to "citrusy", but tend to be subtle in flavor.
Next week I'll share another fun recipe including flowers, I hope you'll stop by!
Recipe: Hibiscus Flower Vinaigrette
What you need to get...
1/2 cup hibiscus flowers
8 oz boiling water (to make a strong hibiscus tea)
3/4 cups olive oil
2 tablespoons thin-sliced shallots
Small handful of fresh tarragon, chopped
Small nob of fresh ginger, grated or minced very fine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (red wine vinegar also works - if using balsamic, omit honey)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher/sea salt
What to do with it all...
Add your boiling water to your hibiscus flowers and allow to steep for 10 mins. Remove flowers and allow tea to cool to room temperature.
In a medium non metal bowl, combine the rest of your ingredients except the olive oil and allow them to "mingle" while the tea cools. Once tea is cooled, whisk in. Whisk in olive oil, adding in a steady stream until incorporated. Store in refrigerator for at least an hour before use.
Makes 2 cups of dressing