Asian Seafood, Edible Flowers, Cooking with Tea, Cast Iron, Braising, Italian Food
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Sweet and Sour Whole Fish
Special Lobster (oil blanched in an XO sauce)
Fried, Garlic Smelt
Not all flowers are edible, but the ones I recommend are safe, tasty and easily grown in Southern California. Just be sure to eat only flowers that are grown organically (you don't want to eat anything containing pesticides), and that you eat only the petals.
Top Blossoms Commonly Available:Midwinter Confetti
1. Apple blossoms
2. Basil (taste will vary according to the species)
9. Daylily (braised, sauted or stir-fried these taste asparagusy)
17. Lemon flowers
23. Orange flowers
24. Pink (Dianthus)
27. Redbud blossoms
29. Sage, both common and pineapple
30. Scarlet runner bean
32. Violas (including violets and Johnny Jump-Ups)
Dry the savory blossoms of sage, basil, chives, thyme, rosemary, and oregano as a sprinkling for pasta dishes, and soups. They add not only color, but also a zippy taste.
Rainbow Topping (from Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots)
Save all the extra flowers from your borage, nasturtium, Johnny-Jump-Ups, calendula and radish plants. Rinse, then spread them on paper towels to dry. Place them in a tin or jar and use them as a rainbow-colored salad topping.
Dry pineapple sage (sweet tasting), apple, and plum blossoms, honeysuckle, lemon and orange blossoms, rose petals, flowers of scented pelargoniums (sometimes called scented geraniums) as an additive to black teas, to top custards and ice creams, or to mix in cakes and muffins.
Pasta Prima Flora
Collect borage, calendula, sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, nasturtium, rocket, or chives and top a platter of fresh pasta.
Find a nice sugar bowl or jar and pour in a layer of granulated sugar, add a layer of fresh rose petals (the more fragrant the rose the more tasty the sugar) and alternate layers of sugar and roses until jar is filled. Let ingredients sit for a month to intensify flavor.
Splurge on fine vinegars (not the acidic white) when making your own floral blend. I like to use champagne vinegar, which I infuse with herb flowers for a savory salad or sweet flowers for fruit salads or salads containing pears, apples, or berries. Chive flowers make a pungent and lightly colored vinegar that tastes great on chicken.
Infuse a handful of rose petals (trim off any white or green at base of petals) in a bottle of champagne vinegar. Cap and store in a pantry for two weeks. Strain petals from the vinegar and pour back into bottle or decant into a fancy container.
Fourth of July Potato Salad
- 2 lbs small new potatoes
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- Blooms of borage, basil and pineapple sage or bergamot mint
In a small bowl whisk together seasoned rice wine vinegar with white pepper and salt to taste. Slowly add about 5 to 6 tablespoons of olive oil until blended, and toss with potatoes.
Add red bergamot (or red pineapple sage blossoms), blue borage and white basil blooms for the patriotic and beautiful red, white and blue garnish. Serve immediately.
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 Tablespoon double-acting baking powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/4 cup calendula petals
- 2 Tablespoon crystallized ginger
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 eggs, beaten lightly
- 1/3 cup Meyer lemon olive oil
- 2 Tablespoon melted sweet butter
Sift together the dry ingredients, combine in a bowl and add half and half, water, oil, and melted butter. Mix until just blended. Add ginger pieces, lemon zest and calendula petals and mix thoroughly.
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15 to 18 minutes until muffins are slightly golden on edges. These will be light and slightly lemony and flecked with strands of calendula petals.
Anne Willan is a cooking teacher at LaVarenne Cooking School and the author, most recently, of Good Food No Fuss: 150 Recipes and Ideas for Easy to Cook Dishes.
Tea Leaf Chicken and Vegetable Broth
We're all accustomed to dried herb leaves in our soups and stews, so this brilliant vegetable consomm- flavored with tea leaves is only one step further. Cooking takes only 10 minutes, making this an ideal simple supper for serving with crusty bread. Any large-leaved tea from China or Japan, whether green or Oolong-style, is appropriate. This tea leaf broth is based on a recipe from La Cuisine au Th-, a charming book (in French) by Mariage Fr-res, published by Hachette.
- 1/2 cup (about 1/4 oz) large-leaf green tea
- 1 boneless, skinless large chicken breast
- 1 quart chicken stock (or 2 14-oz cans)
- Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
- 2 medium potatoes, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 medium parsnip, thinly sliced
- 8-10 snow peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
2. Bring stock to a boil in a soup pot with lemon zest and a little salt and pepper. Add carrot, potato and parsnip and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in chicken and snow peas and continue simmering until chicken and vegetables are just tender, 2-3 minutes more. Stir in tea leaves and liquid, taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.
Smoky Tea-Poached Pears
You can add spices such as cinnamon or allspice to these pears, but I find the simple combination of pears, tea and lemon very refreshing. Let them stand overnight if you can as the flavor will mellow. Serve them with a spiced cookie or a slice of pound cake.
- 2 Tablespoons smoky-leaf tea such as Lapsang Souchong, or 6 tea bags
- Pared zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup sugar, more if needed
- 4-6 large pears (about 2 lb)
2. Peel pears, quarter and core them. Add them to tea syrup as soon as peeled, so they do not discolor. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Poach fruit just below boiling until tender when pierced with point of a knife, 5-12 minutes depending on ripeness of the pears.
3. Let pears cool to lukewarm in syrup, then transfer to a serving bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard tea bag, squeezing liquid into syrup. Taste syrup, adding sugar if needed, then boil until concentrated and slightly thickened, 8-12 minutes. Add lemon juice, strain syrup over pears and let cool. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Green Tea Financiers
Makes 3 dozen small cakes
A flavoring of green tea adds herbal perfume and intriguing color to financier almond cakes, while melting the butter and toasting it to nut brown intensifies flavor. Molds for financiers are traditionally boat-shaped, but shell-shaped Madeleine molds or mini-muffin tins do fine too.
- 1 cup butter, more for molds
- 3/4 cup blanched almonds, ground
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons powdered green tea
- 7 egg whites (1 cup), whisked just until frothy
- 36 small metal molds (traditionally barquette shaped)
2. For batter: Thoroughly mix the almonds, flour, powdered sugar, and green tea. Put the mixture in a heavy-based saucepan. Add egg whites to the almond mixture and stir very well, using a whisk. Set the saucepan over low heat and warm it, stirring constantly, until the mixture is just warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, including brown particles. Cover tightly and chill about 12 hours.
3. Heat oven to 425-F. Spoon about 1 tablespoon batter into each mold - they should be filled nearly to the top. Bake in oven 10-12 minutes until the financiers are golden brown, risen and firm when lightly pressed with a fingertip. (Timing will vary with size of molds.) Unmold financiers onto a rack and leave to cool. They can be kept up to a week in an airtight container.
Jean-Pierre Bosc is the chef at Mimosa, 8009 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, Calif. 90048; 323-655-8895
Lemon Crepe, Suzette Sauce
- 6 eggs
- 10 ozs flour
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 2 ozs sugar
- 2 ozs melted butter
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 3 yolks
- Grated zest of one lemon
- 6 lemon juice
- 3 1/2 ozs sugar
- 6 ozs cold butter, cut in small pieces
- Grated zest of one orange
- 3 cups orange juice
- 3 ozs sugar
- 1/2 cup Grand Marnier liquor
- 4 ozs cold butter, cut in small pieces
To serve, warm up the crepe on a pastry sheet pan in the oven, add 1 spoon full of lemon cream on each crepe, fold in 2 and plate. Spoon over some hot suzette sauce and serve.
Whole Chicken En Cocotte
Makes 2 to 4 servings
- 1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs, spinal column cut off and butterflied)
- 2 medium Spanish onions, cut in quarters
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut in big chucks
- 2 celery stalks, cut in big chucks
- 8 cloves of garlic, skin on
- 1 Tablespoon of chopped rosemary
- 3+3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
On the burner heat up a Staub cast iron cocotte with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, season the chicken on both side with salt, pepper and rosemary and sear the chicken skin side down. Bake for 10 minutes without the lid. Remove the grease from the cocotte, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up, and add the wine. Replace lid and bake for another 15 minutes.
Piero Selvaggio is the owner of Valentino restaurant, 3115 Pico Blvd, West Los Angeles; 310-829-4313
Los Angeles Celebrates St. Francis' Big Red on Sunday, May 2 (5-8pm)
More than 20 acclaimed Los Angeles restaurants gather for a culinary extravaganza to benefit the American Institute of Wine and Food at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Century City.
Tickets may be purchased for $100 ($90 for AIWF members) by calling (818) 902-3724 or online at www.aiwf.org/la.
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