Sunday, April 7, 2013

Eating Beauty

I had never appreciated daffodils until this year. I had always thought they were okay-looking and not that exciting--my favorite flowers are fluffy, like those ranunculus. Last year the daffodils started daffodiling in February, and all the trees bloomed on the first day of spring. This year, it's almost mid-April, and spring is still just creeping around the edges of things. Six months of winter is plenty. So when the daffodils finally bloomed this week, it was as if thousands of tiny suns began radiating light. And tomorrow is supposed to be 70 degrees! This is after months of freezing temperatures, and an April that's stayed mostly in the 40s and 50s. So in celebration, I decided to make a meal that included edible flowers in as many iterations as possible.

Any good meal begins with the right seasonings. And the right seasonings in this instance was sea salt with edible flowers from Trader Joe's. I love it so, so much. It has a lovely herbal flavor, and the pink salt crystals are such a nice touch.

For my beverage of choice, I brewed a nice hot cup of green tea with jasmine, and added a dollop of honey--which, after all, is just distilled essence of flowers. In this case, wildflowers from Santa Cruz, CA. This jar was gifted to me by a lovely friend with beachside apiary connections. Even my monogrammed mug which I've had for several years has flowers (a gift from another lovely friend). 

Along with dried flower sea salt, I flavored my meal with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. The cross-section of citrus resembles petals...I may be projecting a little in this instance, but I don't think it's unwarranted. 

First course: A salad of baby greens from my very favorite farmer's market stand, dressed with the aforementioned lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and floral sea salt. All the little leaves are so tender and delicious, and I love that includes baby Russian red kale. And! These little Johnny-Jump-Ups and the yellow flowers were included in the mix! I admit I dug around in the bin of lettuces to get a particularly flower-y mix. Also, the flowers are delicious. Sweet and spicy and very green tasting.

My main course: Flower crostini. I got a bunch of what I think is flowering bok choy from the selfsame stand. I steamed it lightly to keep the colors bright, and it's very sweet and yummy. I put it on whole wheat sourdough toast which I smeared with a garlic clove and some aioli, and then topped it with dried flower sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Oh, also, I solved a code. This is something most cooks probably already know, as it's a pretty obvious breakdown of flavors, but I felt all smart when I realized all my very favorite dishes have these components, and to make a dish amazing, you just have to follow this formula. For something to be scrumptious, it needs a fat (in this case, aioli), something acidic (the lemon juice), something spicy (the garlic), and something salty (sea salt). You can mix and match the components (olive oil for aioli, red wine vinegar for lemon juice, red pepper for garlic, parmigiano for the sea salt), but as long as your dish has a balance of these flavors, you're good to go. If you have fresh herbs, too, add them liberally. CODE OF DELICIOUSNESS BROKEN.

My edible flowers with my non-edible flowers. Do not eat daffodils or ranunculus. They are not for eating, especially the daffodils, which will certainly make you sick. But they make for a pretty tableaux! 

I also got some pussy willows from Trader Joe's for $2.49. (I'm sorry if this is turning into a TJ's infomercial, but it's hard to avoid, since Devin works there and it's also awesome).  I saw some pussy willows doing their fuzzy thing on the High Line in Chelsea yesterday, so these are a direct reflection of what's going on outside. And they're so soft!

Group portrait before consumption.

And now for some gratuitous photos of ranunculus. I bought my very first ranunculus from a Trader Joe's in California when I was a sophomore in college--they were a lovely peachy color. I kept them alive as long as I could because I was so enamored of them, floating their heads in bowls of water when their stems gave way. And the rest is history. They're so fluffy I'm gonna die! These especially are enormous. Also, check out the green-centered one! This is actually a thing, so it's not as mutant as I thought it was. Still, super awesome.

Here's to a predicted high of 70 degrees tomorrow. I may just eat my lunch in Bryant Park instead of at my desk at my internship. One can dream.