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Flower Salad - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Flower Salad
I made this for a friend's birthday today. It was a huge hit. I was surprised by how far the flower petals went. I thought a couple handfuls of them would get pretty lost in a big carton of spring mix, but they did not -- the colors really jumped out and the salad looked beautiful. :D One friend said, "It's like a party in my mouth!"


"Flower Salad"


Salad Ingredients:
1 carton spring mix salad greens
1 cucumber, sliced
1/2 pint blueberries
at least 1 cup of mixed flower petals
at least 1/2 cup of mixed fresh herb leaves

Dressing Ingredients:
6 tablespoons full-flavored extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Hawaiian jade green bamboo salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sweet basil flakes
1/4 teaspoon sweet marjoram flakes


Directions:

Make the salad in layers and do not toss it. If you toss a salad, the ingredients sort themselves by size and weight.

Into a large salad bowl, place a couple handfuls of spring mix, enough to cover the bottom. Add a scoop of cucumber slices, a scoop of blueberries, sprinkle on a few herbs and a goodly amount of flower petals. Put on another handful or two of spring mix, then add the toppings again. Continue until you run out of ingredients. Make sure the last layer consists of toppings, with the flower petals on top for maximum visual appeal.

Make the salad dressing by pouring the ingredients into a small wide-mouthed bottle or jar. Add 6 tablespoons full-flavored extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon Hawaiian jade green bamboo salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon sweet basil flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon sweet marjoram flakes. Shake vigorously for several minutes to combine, and keep shaking until it no longer separates when you set it down.

Do not just dump the dressing over the salad, or it will get soggy. Instead, put the bottle on the table with a tablespoon to scoop with. About a tablespoon is the right amount of dressing for serving of salad that you can pick up with tongs. If you are using multiple tongloads of salad, pour one tablespoon of dressing on top and then go back for more if you run out of dressing farther down the pile.


Notes:

Spring mix can contain a wide range of baby greens. Typically most of it is red and green lettuces, some spinach, and a few other things for variety. It should have an interesting mix of colors and shapes with a relatively mild flavor. It goes great with any mild-flavored flower petals (which is most of them) and you can include a few bolder ones as accents if you wish.

If you prefer zesty flavors such as mesclun mix, be aware they will overwhelm most flower petals. However, some flowers have bold spicy flavors such as peppery nasturtiums, bitter dandelion, or oniony chives; these stand up quite well to mesclun.

Cucumber is a healthy vegetable with plenty of vitamins, especially if you leave the green peel on it. Slice it finely, or slice thicker and then chop the slices, to avoid having big chunks of of peel. I usually put cucumber in salads, but you can include a variety of mild vegetables if you wish. Strong flavors will overwhelm the delicate ingredients in this recipe.

Blueberries are a superfood with low calories, high nutrients, and a sweet fruity taste. They add a pop of flavor to light, sweet salads in spring or summer. You could also substitute any other mild, sweet fruit such as strawberries or raspberries.

Edible flowers come in many kinds and colors. They are very popular in salads. A little bit goes a surprisingly long way as they add vivid color and texture. Most flowers don't actually taste like much though -- just sort of leafy. A few are more distinctive. Nasturtiums are peppery, kind of like a bell pepper. Borage flowers taste like cucumber. Chive flowers taste oniony or garlicky, which doesn't work in a sweet fruity salad but works great in a garden salad or spicy mesclun mix. For this flower salad I used a lot of dianthus (pinks) and marigolds, some violas, a few snapdragons and nasturtiums. Snapdragons are spectacular but kind of a nuisance to clean (you have to take the stamens out). One large double marigold will yield dozens of petals, while each pink or viola yields only five. When picking petals, pinch and pull gently -- if you do it right, the whole petals will separate. Don't put the green base in your salads as it is not good on most types of flowers. Be aware that it takes time; I spent a good 10-15 minutes gathering these. Try for a mix of several different colors and fluff them together. If you are gathering on a breezy day, use a deep bowl and keep it covered as best you can to avoid losing petals, as they are very light. Occasionally you may find flower petals for sale, but they are often expensive; it is easy to grow your own as many popular flowers (though not all) are edible. Make sure the flowers you gather have no noxious chemicals on them and don't come from near a road.

Most leafy green herbs will work fine in a salad. I like to add a handful or two to salad blends in season for extra flavor. Basil is the best. I included a lot of basil but also sage, rosemary, flat parsley, cilantro, dill, apple mint, pineapple mint, variegated marjoram, and quite a bit of salad burnet as it has lots of small leaves that are easy to strip off the stems. Basically I just went out to the herb garden and grabbed small leaves to toss together. Expect to spend some time; I was running late so I only spent about 5 minutes, and longer would've been better. If you don't garden, look at the store for a mixed packet of fresh green herbs, in with the single-herb packets. Often you'll find stewing herbs such as sage, rosemary, and thyme; get that and a pack of basil.

Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing and is better than other types of olive oil. When you put olive oil in a dressing, you want the full-flavored kind, not the "light" flavorless kind. It should be golden or green and have an interesting flavor -- it can be nutty, sweet, tangy, fruity, etc. I use a mid-range olive oil that costs around $12-15. I can definitely taste the difference between that and $3 olive oil. I cannot taste the difference between that and $30 olive oil. Buy what you can appreciate. Don't scrimp. The ingredients determine the quality of the end result.

Honey comes in many types. I used wildflower honey from a friend's family apiary. You want a medium-to-light one for this recipe. Lemon blossom or linden honey would be great, but don't go darker than clover. Honey serves as an emulsifier, but you don't need much. I only used a ratio of 1 tablespoon honey to 2 tablespoons acid (apple cider vinegar and lemon juice) and 6 tablespoons oil, and it came out perfect.

Apple cider vinegar has a light, sweet-tart, very fruity taste. Try to find an organic live culture with the mother intact.

Jade green bamboo salt comes from Hawaii. (Don't confuse it with the Korean purple bamboo salt.) It has a pale green color and faint leafy flavor that goes well with herbs or green vegetables. If you can't find it, substitute sea salt or plain table salt.

Calorie counts for main ingredients in the vinaigrette: olive oil is 120 calories per tablespoon, honey is 64, apple cider vinegar is 3.1, and lemon juice is 3. So that's around 106 calories/tablespoon for the salad dressing, and I literally put a tablespoon with it because the jar wouldn't pour well. It's toward the high end of average; some are massively higher, but there are plenty of lower ones you could use with this salad mix. You probably want a light tangy or fruity dressing rather than a heavy or spicy one for these ingredients.

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