Seasonal produce gets me in the mood for creating something delicious in the kitchen. Lately I’ve been all about everything green and fresh, so a jaunt through the sunny bounty of vegetables and fruits in the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market was my idea of heaven. I’ve also been on the lookout for edible flowers to add a bouquet of visual beauty and aromatic taste to dishes as a special garnish.
Borage flowers in particular are such a brilliant blue, they remind me of Florentine artist Botticelli’s egg tempera painting Allegory of Spring or La Primavera. In the Renaissance Italian painting, flowers are strewn everywhere. Aphrodite is elegantly standing beneath the umbrella of orange trees while her cupid flutters above with his bow and arrow, about to penetrate a lover with that springtime fever. Flora, the Roman Goddess of Spring, flowers and fertility, scatters flowers upon the grass. Zephyr, the wind, impregnates Flora with his breath, and she begins fertilizing the spring season with her flowers of love.
Since edible flowers are rarely found in supermarkets, I suggest going to your local farmers’ market and asking a greens purveyor if they have any. Occasionally here in Los Angeles I find that a few farmers carry borage flowers, along with chive flowers and other edibles like nasturtiums, marigolds and violets. Once I discovered, while photographing a breakfast bowl under my flowering orange tree, that orange blossoms taste as beautiful as they smell. The petals fell into the coconut yogurt I was photographing the bowlful and it mingled perfectly with the blueberries and honey.
Adding edible flowers to salads, breakfast bowls and other dishes can inspire your senses. I made a salad using my homemade strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. It tasted so lively and juicy! The sweetness of balsamic awakens my senses.
Creating salads feels a lot like painting to me because the plate becomes the palette. Blending colors, textures, flavors—- there’s a variety of ways to make a harmony of beautiful lettuces, greens, and anything else you desire, into your salad bowl.
I made this salad using mixed greens and these beautiful leaves of kale I found at the farmers’ market, then added steamed French lentils, chopped snap peas and juicy slivers of strawberries. Since balsamic loves strawberry, it makes a beautiful vinaigrette dressing. When you put this strawberry balsamic into your salad mixing bowl with your greens you get the most glorious celebration of springtime. Then scatter your edible flowers like Flora and experience the beauty.
Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 cup fresh strawberries, tops cut
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic creme (crema di balsamico)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (I strain the strawberry balsamic through a mesh sieve to catch the seeds, but it’s up to you.) Drizzle and toss your salad the vinaigrette. You can keep the rest in a sealed container in the fridge.