Saturday, April 21, 2007

For the delight of it

I am always stopping and smelling the roses....In one of many daydreams I fancy myself a farmer of edible flowers and herbs. Maybe because at harvest time I am not breaking my back hauling 15 pound watermelons from the fields or, maybe because most of these plants grow upright a gentle tilt on my part is all it takes to capture them. Though in truth, it is their seductive allure, both visually and aromatically that has me standing in acres of redolent tender plants.

An herb or flower immediately adds to a dish -- the peppery bite of a nasturtium blossom is quite a surprise; the rose acts like a siren on my plate with its come-thither stance; or, lemon verbena's one-two lemony punch.

Beware that not all herbs and flowers are treated equally. I insist on on organically processed accompaniments, and you should never use flowers grown for decorative purposes. The latter have been sprayed with pesticides and color retainers which render them rather harmful.

Beyond that never fear to throw a fist-ful of herbs in a dish or simply glorify a salad with their presence.

Since flowers are so difficult to come by, and in the cooler climes we wait till springs nudging rays to enjoy them -- preserve them. I like to bury rose petals, johnny jump-ups and hibiscus in layers of sugar to be use in some later confection or iced-tea. Bury nasturtium, arugula and borage in layers of salt. Stuff any herb or flower into a bottle of vinegar to make a wonderfully scented addition to a dressing. Also, remeber that any herb leaf you eat its flower is also edible.

Not to take food off a bee's plate, but go ahead and eat a flower.

Carrot Salad – yields 6 to 8 servings
1/2 teaspoon lavender blossoms, bruised
1/2 teaspoon dried rose petals, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice (white or red wine vinegar could be used)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
4 large carrots - peeled & grated
1 small red onion, - diced
4 scallions – roots discard and minced
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup pine nuts -toasted
1/4 cup cilantro - rough chop
1/4 cup Italian parsley - rough chop
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the lavender, rose, cayenne, coriander, fennel seed and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Make the vinaigrette by combining the mustard, orange juice, lemon juice, spice mix, and slowly whisk in the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In a medium size bowl, combine the carrots, onion, scallions, currants, pine nuts, cilantro, and parsley. Toss with the vinaigrette. Chill, if desired and serve.

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