Spring has sprung and the flowers are in full bloom! What better way to celebrate than with a floral-themed picnic in the park?
In addition to being gorgeous to look at, flowers can be a source of inspiration and flavor in the kitchen. For this month’s 24, 24, 24 event, I created a multi-course picnic dinner inspired by — and including — flowers. On the menu: Orange Blossom Brioche with Pate and Orange-Balsamic Marmalade, Green Salad with Flower Petals and Lemon-Poppy Vinaigrette, Tuna-Strawberry-Rose Maki, and Lavender Creme Brûlée. The biggest hits were definitely the brioche and the creme brûlée — yummy!
Hunting down flowers to use in my dishes was a little more difficult than I anticipated. It’s still a little early in the season for the farmer’s markets to have any, and even though many common flowers are edible (dandelion, chrysanthemum, pansy, etc), you don’t want to just go and pick them or buy a bouquet because they’ll be full of nasty chemicals. Make sure that any flowers you intend to eat are sold as being edible or grow them yourself without any chemicals or pesticides.
Anyway, I was having trouble finding exactly what I wanted, so I had to make do with using only one type of fresh flower (I’m honestly not even sure what they were, since they weren’t labeled other than “edible flowers” anyone know?) as well as dried rose buds, dried lavender, and a bottle of orange blossom water. Dried flowers have a more concentrated flavor and tend to be more “floral” tasting, so it’s best to use them in applications where the flavor is infused into another ingredient. Fresh flowers have a more subtle flavor that’s less like eating perfume — they’re a little bitter and almost peppery. I like to balance them out with something sweet or rich.
- Orange Blossom Brioche with Orange Marmalade, Pate (Slice the brioche and toast under the broiler)
- Baby Lettuce Mix tossed with Flower Petals and Sliced Strawberries, Lemon-Poppy Vinaigrette
- Tuna-Strawberry-Rose Maki (Cook the sushi rice with dried roses in the water, seared tuna, and sliced strawberries rolled in nori. I really wanted to use salted cherry blossoms in this, but unfortunately couldn’t source them in time for the event.)
- Lavender Creme Brûlée