Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Stop and smell - er- eat the flowers STUFFED ZUCCHINI FLOWERS

This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 27 August 2007.

Summer is not over yet, so there’s still time to stop and eat the flowers. That’s right – some flowers are just as lovely on the palate as on the nose. Just imagine, if they look pretty in the garden, how charming flowers can be in a salad, sprinkled on strawberry shortcake or stirred into a sauce.

Take, for instance, those little carnations called pinks. Recently, I made devilled eggs for a backyard party and topped each one with a pretty pink. It turned an ordinary appetizer into a conversation piece. I also throw pinks into green salads, along with tiny tangerine marigolds, peppery nasturtiums and beautiful blue borage flowers. Perhaps the radishes and arugula in your garden are past their prime? You can get a second harvest from them – a harvest of flowers. In fact, the flowers of many herbs and vegetables are edible, such as the flowers of basil, scarlet runner beans and summer squash.

A couple of summers ago, I ventured into the Nesbit Forest south of Prince Albert to pick wild rose petals with Marie Symes-Grehan, who turns them into lovely pink jellies and syrups. We picked the rose petals in the morning, after the dew had lifted, dropping them into soft cotton bags and later, we sorted out the leaves and broken petals on Marie’s big kitchen table. That evening, she made a batch of jelly full of suspended pink petals. Marie sells her syrups and conserves under the label Lily Plain Summer, which are particularly popular at the Granville Island Market in Vancouver. (http://www.lilyplain.com/).

Rose petals have a long tradition in Middle Eastern cuisine for flavouring syrups and pastries. Edible flowers were also popular in Victorian times but fell out of favour until now, when they’re making a comeback on swank dinner tables from London to L.A. The list of edible flowers includes some popular garden varieties such as pansies, day lilies, roses and tulips, this latter described on one website as tasting of “sweet lettuce, fresh baby peas.” A word of caution: Not all flowers taste good and some are not good for you. Please do your own research before experimenting with edible flowers, and never eat a flower from a flower shop or one that may have been sprayed with a chemical.

My favourite culinary flower is the zucchini. In Mediterranean cuisine, they may be stuffed and deep-fried, laid decoratively on top of a quiche or stirred into risotto. Pick them in the morning when they’re open so it’s easier to remove the stamen or pistil inside the flower. Sometimes, I pick baby zucchini when the flower is still attached and cook them together. This also cuts down on the number of giant zucchini to contend with later. As always, I try as much as possible, to set my table with the foods of Saskatchewan and that includes flowers – both in a vase and on my plate.

1 slice good dry bread
1 cup milk
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Fat 1/2 cup water
Scant 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 zucchini flowers
Canola oil

Cut the crusts off the bread and tear it into small pieces. Cover the bread with milk and soak 30 minutes. Drain and discard the milk, squeeze out the bread and mix it with the basil and cheese.
Meanwhile, stir together the water, flour, baking powder and salt. Add more water if needed to reach the consistency of a thin pancake batter. Let sit 30 minutes.
Carefully spoon a bit of the bread mixture into each flower. Twist the tips of the flower to close.
Heat the oil on medium high. Use enough oil so the flowers will float and not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the oil is shimmering, roll the flowers in the batter, drain excess and drop into the oil. Do this in batches so the flowers don’t stick together. Brown on both sides and remove to a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy.

1 comment:

Term papers said...

That’s right. some flowers are just as lovely on the palate as on the nose. Just imagine, if they look pretty in the garden, how charming flowers can be in a salad, sprinkled on strawberry shortcake or stirred into a sauce. Well I'll be try in a summer.