Sal­ads & side dishes

Head into your gar­den and pick spray-free, ed­i­ble blooms for a side dish extraordinaire.

NZ Gardener - 365 Days of Flowers - - Edible Flowers -

Zuc­chini, or cour­gette, blos­soms are served as a side dish in Mex­ico and around the Mediter­ranean where they are of­ten stuffed with rice. In Italy and France they are stuffed with cheese, then bat­tered and deep-fried. The flow­ers have a mild zuc­chini flavour.

CHEESE- STUFFED COUR­GETTE FLOW­ERS Serves 4

Pick: 8 cour­gette flow­ers, trim off most of the stalk and re­move any pis­tils. Wipe with a clean wet cloth if they look earthy, but don’t wash them. Make bat­ter: Mix cup flour, 1 tea­spoon salt and 1 scant cup soda water. Whisk un­til smooth and the froth has re­duced. Make stuff­ing: cup, plus 1 ta­ble­spoon ri­cotta, 2 ta­ble­spoons grated parme­san, 1 small egg, 2 ta­ble­spoons each Ital­ian pars­ley and mint, finely chopped, and 1 ta­ble­spoon le­mon zest. Beat all to­gether un­til mixed and light. Fill: Open each flower care­fully then us­ing a pip­ing bag or a pointed tea­spoon, fill with the cheese mix­ture. Twist the ends of the flow­ers to stop leak­age. Heat: About cup canola oil or av­o­cado oil in a deep pan. Dip flow­ers one at a time into bat­ter, then lower into hot oil and fry turn­ing once, un­til bat­ter is crispy. Keep warm in the oven (sit on brown pa­per to drain) un­til all are done.

FLOW­ERS IN SAL­ADS

Ed­i­ble flow­ers lend sub­tle flavour­ing, but their big­gest as­set is their colour. Make a sim­ple salad us­ing mul­ti­ple blooms and a light vinai­grette – not too thick or it will weigh down the flow­ers. Add your dress­ing at the last minute so that the petals do not be­come sat­u­rated and stick to­gether. For a sim­ple dress­ing, mix tea­spoon pa­prika, 1 ta­ble­spoon red wine vine­gar, 1 tea­spoon mus­tard, pinch sugar and 3 ta­ble­spoons olive oil. Sea­son with salt and pep­per.

HERBAL TREATS

Most herb flow­ers are de­li­cious to eat, their flavour of­ten re­sem­bling a milder and sweeter ver­sion of their leaves. The flow­ers of basil, dill, fen­nel, rose­mary and sage are all fine-tast­ing – per­fect for sub­tle flavour­ing or gar­nish­ing. The pink blos­soms of chives are de­li­cious too. Like gar­lic and other mem­bers of the al­lium fam­ily, the blos­soms of chives ( Al­lium schoeno­pra­sum) have an oniony flavour. Mix with cream cheese and slather onto crispy bread.

Ed­i­ble flow­ers are grown more for their colour than for their taste, but that doesn’t mean they taste bad. Quite the op­po­site.

HEIR­LOOM TOMATO QUINOA SALAD Serves 4-6

The chimichurri recipe makes more than needed for this salad, but it will keep in the fridge for a cou­ple of days.

For the chimichurri

• 2 packed cups flat-leafed pars­ley

• cup oregano, finely chopped

• 1 clove gar­lic, finely chopped

• 1 tea­spoon le­mon juice

• 100ml olive oil Finely chop herbs and gar­lic, then mix with the le­mon juice and olive oil.

For the salad

• 200g quinoa (red, white or a mix)

• 40ml ponzu sauce (avail­able at Ja­panese food stores and some su­per­mar­kets)

• 1 ta­ble­spoon Ja­panese may­on­naise

• 1 tea­spoon finely grated le­mon zest

• 1 tea­spoon le­mon juice

• 2 tea­spoons grape­seed oil

• 250g mixed colour heir­loom

toma­toes, halved

• 250g cooked baby beet­root,

cut into small wedges

• ripe av­o­cado, peeled, stoned, chopped

• Ed­i­ble flow­ers and mi­cro­greens

Put the quinoa in a saucepan with 2 cups water, bring to the boil then re­duce the heat to medium-low, cover and sim­mer un­til the quinoa is ten­der and the water has been ab­sorbed – 10 to 15 min­utes. Set aside to cool.

Once the quinoa is cool, trans­fer to a serv­ing bowl and mix with the ponzu, may­on­naise, le­mon zest and juice, and grape­seed oil. Gently fold through the toma­toes, beet­root and av­o­cado. Sea­son to taste with sea salt and driz­zle with some of the chimichurri.

Gar­nish with ed­i­ble flow­ers and mi­cro­greens if de­sired.

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