Sunday, April 30, 2006

Flower Power - Weekend Herb Blogging

Some days ago, I bought some squash blossoms, but for various reasons, never got a chance to use them as part of a dinner until Saturday.

Then, at our farmer’s market on Saturday morning, we stumbled across some other edible flowers. Both Arugula (Rocket) and Daiukon Radish blossoms were available for sale. Huge bunches of the blossoms on long stems, enough for a life time, for a buck.

Aside from the squash blossoms, which are fairly common, I’ve never really eaten a lot of flowers. Until I tried the Arugula blossoms, I was not really sure why anyone would want to.

Anyways, the theme for , sponsored by , was set.

The squash blossoms are good, but I have to be honest and say that I may like them as much for the stuffing (I always seem to stuff them), as for any flavor of the actual flower. I’m sort of chagrined to say that I never even really considered the question. The squash blossoms get stuffed, cooked, and eaten. And all in all they’re good. But I could not really say what the flower part contributed to the experience except as packaging for the stuffing.

So when we saw the Arugula and Daikon blossoms, we asked what they were. But I didn’t really take a lot of notice. This didn’t bother the guy at that stand – John. He’s got a lot of energy and ‘personality’. When he wants you to give something a try, well, you eventually give it a try!

And the Arugula blossoms especially – WOW! Like concentrated Arugula pills that explode that peppery nutty flavor in your mouth. Man – I cannot imagine why these things are not more popular. I am not sure I would eat a salad just made of these, but sprinkled onto almost anything would add that great arugula punch, as well as a being an attractive garnish. Omelets, soups, salads, sandwiches, maybe even in sauces, I can see a lot of applications.

The Daikon radish blossoms were fairly mild in comparison, if more ‘dainty’ and ganishy looking. I couldn’t really generate a strong feeling either way on the taste, but I can see them being a nice garnish to a number of things.

Researching arugula and daikon blossoms was not very informative. There are Web sites listing that fact that they can be eaten, but not really going into any detail as to why one would do so, or what value they might have. Most of the sites did stress that many flowers are poisonous, and pesticides can be a real problem. Since the vast majority of flowers are used strictly for decoration in a vase, looks are everything and the pesticides are apparently poured on in massive quantities.

But our farmer’s market is organic for the most part, and these blossoms were specifically designated for eating, so I didn’t worry too much.

Anyways, I don’t have a lot of facts to share this time. It seems edible flowers are a generally underrepresented component of dining. Not really sure why.

But – how to use them?

The squash blossoms concept was already set. Stuffed with goat cheese and herbs, and battered with a tempura batter and deep fried. Despite the fat involved in deep frying, even the bikini wearers around here toss these things down with abandon. They rationalize to themselves that Tempura, being of Japanese origin, is not as heavy as ‘regular’ fried food. Hey, works for me!

I figured the easiest way to get a feel for the taste of the other flowers was just to use the blossoms in a salad. So we put together an arranged salad, sort of a variation of a Niçiose. Using baby arugula as the base, and with arrangements of some vegetables, eggs, olives, etc., that we had on hand. With the flowers mixed into the arugula, and also sprinkled around the rim of the salad for decoration.

After making most of the salad, I was battering up the squash blossoms and just ready to fry them up when I figured – why not batter up some arugula blossoms and daikon blossoms as well? I have tons of batter, and way too many blossoms.

So we tried it. Clipped a few stems of each, and dipped them in the batter. Despite the fact that Tempura batter is fairly thin, it glopped up the blossoms, and I figured it was another experiment gone wrong. But when I dropped them into the hot oil – they POPPED back into a nicely defined flower shape. Like magic! Just a few seconds frying, and they were done.

They looked fantastic lying there on the paper towels. But when I picked them up, they were so fragile they didn’t have the strength to hold up all that crisp batter, so they tended to break very easily. None the less, we arranged some as best we could in top of the salad.

The arugula blossom tempura – that was really good, as the sharp peppery and nutty flavor came through under the crisp shell of tempura batter. A really interesting and easy to make little appetizer, and quite pretty to look at.

The flowers in the salad was fun. The daikon was mostly for looks, but the arugula blossoms really added a lot of flavor. I am really sold on the arugula blossoms, and hope I can find them on a regular basis.

For the squash blossom tempura, I use a recipe from Wolfgang Puck I found on the Food Network Web site. The tempura batter could be used for anything, including prawns. Sometimes I make it with a tomato sauce (per the recipe), sometimes not. I think some other sauces, like blood orange, etc., would work as well.

The salad is just and arranged salad with a Dijon red wine vinaigrette, so I didn’t include a recipe. This time, we used tomatoes, olives, radishes, fennel bulb, jicama, potatoes, eggs, green bell pepper, carrots, and tuna, on top of baby arugula and the blossoms.

(Are we done with the FREAKIN FLOWER PICTURES yet, or what???!!!)

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Blogger gattina said...

after I read through your post, my taste buds feel like tickled by the peppery taste from arugula blossom. And what a nice try on making it as tempula. My experience of eating flowers has only limited in adding them into Chinese tea... now I wish I could find the flowers you mentioned.

6:38 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Gattina, thanks for the comment! The arugula blossoms were an unexpected, and powerful surprise. I’ve never seen them before either. Since you only need a few of the tiny blossoms to add flavor, it might be possible to grow some in a small pot. I’m going to give that a try.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous sher said...

That was all simply beautiful. And I sure would love to taste the tempura.

6:47 PM  
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