Violas, hollyhock confetti, scented Pelargoniums, rosemary flowers, dianthus, bachelor's button, borage, nasturtium, and pineapple sage are all edible flowers organically grown.
When Jeff and I moved into town, we left behind a wake of friends who shared meals with us for years. Although we're only separated by 35 miles, it is a long and slow road back-up the famed Highway 1 toward Big Sur, but stopping in Cambria, my homeplace for so many years.
We travel so much during the year that it is difficult to meet new friends and forge meaningful friendships. So, when our friends Andy and Jeanie asked us to join the Monday Night Neighborhood Potluck group we were interested, but tentative.
Jeff and I both made something special to carry to the dinner. When we walked into the home and climbed the stairs to the kitchen, we were greeted by smiling faces, outstretched hands, and open hearts. Hosts Tom and Eve Neuhaus own Sweet Earth Organic (and Fair Trade) Chocolates in downtown San Luis Obispo. Eve is an author and Tom is a professor at Cal Poly and travels to Africa to help better the plight of tribespeople.
We set our offerings amongst the other dishes and casseroles, soup pots and baskets, and got into line with 24 others–a vast continuum of ages from local students to a famed photographer in his 90s. A long, wide dining table held us easily. We sat, talked, laughed, heard poetry, and began to weave together friendships.
Five years later and we still look forward to reuniting with friends every couple of weeks. This neighborhood potluck forces me to come out of my studio and interact with others, others so interesting and full of life that they infuse me with their spirits and love.
Jeff and I look forward to creating something tasty, beautiful, and simple for each gathering. This past week, he made my mother's enchilada casserole, and I (who didn't want to come in from my burgeoning garden) seized the chance to pick edible flowers and concoct one of my delicious homemade cheeses, so simple and adaptable that you'll embrace it for your own gatherings.
Spread the washed and edible flowers on your "palette" to dry. Remove any green parts, stems, leaves, etc. My list of favorite edibles includes: borage (wow, what a gorgeous blue star), nasturtium, viola, violets, scented pelargonium flowers, sage flowers, dianthus, chive blossoms, garlic chive blossoms, tulbaghia blooms, bachelor buttons, arugula blooms, runner bean blossoms, and mustard flowers. KNOW what you're eating and NEVER experiment with an unknown flower. Always use organic flowers.
Sometimes I make my own yogurt, but on short notice, I bought organic yogurt for the process.
Stir flowers into yogurt.
Some people use cheesecloth to drip their cheeses, but I love these conical pre-made strainers, which are available in cooking and health food stores. I've had mine for over 10 years, and they've got many more miles to go. I hand wash them in hot, soapy water and rinse and dry between using.
Tabs on the sides hold the strainer above the crock, which allows for dripping. Whey drips into the crock, and the whey can be used for making homemade ricotta.
Pour stirred yogurt and flowers into the strainer. Cover lightly with plastic wrap (keep it suspended above the yogurt so it doesn't stick), and set crock and strainer in your refrigerator to drip for two days. (You can determine whether you want it to drip one or two days, depending on the consistency you desire)
Slice a day old baguette.
Thin slices so they're like chips. Woops, this slice is probably too thick.
Toss slices with olive oil (make sure you use quality extra virgin olive oil). If the oil is bad, this will taste nasty...you don't want that.
Spread slices on a parchment lined cookie or jelly sheet.
Lightly sprinkle the crisps with sea salt before baking. I prefer Malden; to me the delicate crystals are like snowflakes. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 9 minutes, just until crisp. Remove from the oven and set them on a cooling rack.
On the day you remove the cheese from the refrigerator, pick and clean some more fresh blossoms. I picked calendula, nasturtium, rosemary flowers, dianthus, borage, and the red tubular flowers of pineapple sage. (Pineapple sage flowers are lovely sprinkled on vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet.)
Remove the ball of cheese from the refrigerator. The crock will have a few inches of whey inside it. Don't waste the whey! Use it for other cooking projects. Sprinkle the outside of the cheese with your new supply of fresh flowers.
I used a basket tray as my serving piece. Flower cheese in the center surrounded by the baked "chips" of baguette. I decorated the edges of the tray with the leaves of scented Pelargoniums so that whenever a sleeve or hand brushed across them the sweet aromas of flowers would infuse the air.
Ten minutes after arriving at the Monday night potluck. You can make this as a savory cheese, too. For my savory cheeses, I use herbs and decorate the exterior of the cheese with flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary flowers, cilantro, and tarragon. Yummy.
Hollyhock flowers are one of my favorite edibles. I cut the blossoms into confetti, and I also stuff the blooms (remove center) with my homemade flower cheese. The individual stuffed flowers are gorgeous and tasty.
Sending wishes for warm evenings with friends and family. Happy Valentine's Day!
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