How best to introduce the topic of edible flowers? We think this: “Happiness held is the seed; happiness shared is the flower.” – Unknown
And how best to describe the universality of this resurging trend? Well, not too long ago we were visiting a friend in the hospital, and there, on his plate of hospital food, was an edible flower amongst the salad greens – which included arugula, ’cause this was a cool hospital. Seriously. The bits of color came from bicolored pansies, we found out. You can read more about this healthcare [wonder if it’s covered by the AFA…] trend at http://modernfarmer.com/2014/12/farm-hospital-bed/\, and in the meantime, here’s more about the history of and the current use of gorgeous edibles in our everyday noshing.
A little sleuthing reveals that using flowers for meal ingredients and as garnish goes back millennia, Millennials. And it’s absolutely no coincidence that the Roman goddess of flowers was one Flora [we spell ours as did the Old French, F.L.E.U.R.]; so we attacked this topic with relish. [Make us stop before we pun again…]
At any rate, ancient Romans used flowers in their cookery, as did the Chinese, many Middle Eastern countries and India. Victorian times were the big boom for flowers, when HRM Victoria sat on the throne and Emily Dickinson waxed poetic about what bloomed in her gardens. And then the fad more or less withered for a while.
Within the last several years, however, there’s been this revival of flowers on the plate, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Go to http://whatscookingamerica.net/EdibleFlowers/EdibleFlowersMain.htm for some good insight and a list of common flowers and blooming herbs you can eat.
Then, as you read how flowers add flavor and health-restorative properties to salads and other dishes, feast your eyes upon this: Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta. Oh my goodness.
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Squash-Blossoms-Stuffed-with-Ricotta-354966 is the link, and here is the recipe:
Squash Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta
For the Tomato Sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 Tbs olive oil
1 ½ lb plum tomatoes, finely chopped
½ c water
½ tsp sugar
For the Squash Blossoms
1 c whole-milk ricotta (preferably fresh)
1 large egg yolk
¼ c finely chopped mint
2/3 c grated Parmigiana-Reggiano, divided
12 to 16 large zucchini squash blossoms
½ c plus 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
¾ c cup chilled seltzer or club soda
About 3 c vegetable oil for frying
Equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
Make tomato sauce:
Cook garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a 2-qt saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until garlic is golden, about 30 seconds.
Add tomatoes, water, sugar, and ½ tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
Prepare squash blossoms:
Stir together ricotta, yolk, mint, 1/3 c parmesan, and 1/8 tsp each of salt and pepper.
Carefully open each blossom and fill with about 2 rounded tsp ricotta filling, gently twisting end of blossom to enclose filling. (You may have filling left over.)
Whisk together flour, remaining 1/3 c parmesan, ¼ tsp salt, and seltzer in a small bowl.
Heat 1/2 inch oil to 375°F in a 10-inch heavy skillet.
Meanwhile, dip half of blossoms in batter to thinly coat.
Fry coated blossoms, turning once, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes total.
Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain. Coat and fry remaining blossoms. (Return oil to 375°F between batches.) Season with salt. Serve with tomato sauce.