Marx Foods, the fine food retailer that sponsored a lamb recipe contest back in March, selected me to participate in another one of their contests! The challenge this time was for each of us to use three types of Marx Food’s edible flowers in styling beautiful food. The edible flowers sent to me were nasturtiums, pansies and a micro flower blend containing a combination of marigolds, sun daisies, dianthus, white mums, bachelor’s buttons and starflowers. The flowers were gorgeous on their own, but once I started making dishes to incorporate them, both for flavor and visual appeal, it wasn’t hard to see the draw. Edible flowers make ordinary food beautiful and beautiful food extraordinary. Today, I’m going to show you how any course — from cocktail hour through dessert – can be made colorful and tasty with the addition of edible flowers.
Cocktail hour was practically made for edible flowers. The pansies from Marx Foods are sweet and have a slight grassy flavor. Their wide, flat petals also make ideal as a cocktail garnish, since they float gorgeously in liquids. For my pansy-infused cocktail hour, I mixed margaritas in salt-rimmed cocktail glasses last weekend for some friends of ours, floating a couple of purple pansies as a finish. The pansies have a slight minty flavor that complemented the margaritas and drew oohs and ahhs from our dinner guests.
An appetizer course can also incorporate edible flowers, like this roasted beet, ricotta and spinach/arugula salad sprinkled with nasturtiums. Peppery and just slightly bitter, these bright orange blossoms kick up the intensity of an otherwise mild salad. To make this salad, I slow roasted some organic beets in the oven until their skins slowly peeled off, like a winter coat in March. After I roasted the beets and peeled them, I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper with a spinach and arugula salad blend before liberally plopping dabs of my goat milk ricotta all over the plate. The result was a creamy and earthy salad blend punctuated with peppery bites of nasturtium in between.
The relatively rugged nature of pansies also make them ideal ingredients for heartier dishes, like this beef stew over grits with grated Pecorino cheese. While my beef stew simmered, I mixed in a few pansies in lieu of the usual onion and garlic to add lightness to the stew. The pansies mellowed out the acidity of the tomato-based sauce and made my stew, normally a winter dish, fit right in with the other spring-themed courses.
The micro flowers were my favorite. These tiny and delicate flowers, some which were no larger than my fingernail, could be a versatile addition to almost any dish. Their flavor is mild, and, for lack of a better description, they’re just plain adorable. I dusted mine with powdered sugar and set them carefully atop some lemon pudding cakes. Have you ever had a pudding cake? If you haven’t, you’re totally missing out. The cakes are partially cooked slowly in small ramekins so that, when removed from the ramekin, the bottom part is cooked just so, like a warm custard. The rest of the cake is fluffy, with a moist crumb. These lemon cakes, which I made using a blend of fresh Mayer lemon and regular lemons, came out fragrant, tart and absolutely magical.
After I sprinkled a few micro flowers onto my cakes while they were still warm, I wondered whether how else the micro flowers might accentuate a beautiful, simple cake. I inverted the cakes onto a plate and created a high dome of them, resting ever so gently on top of my custard.
I loved this lemon pudding cake recipe so much that I’m sharing it below. Before we get to that, though, I’m going to need your vote again! This time, Marx Foods is running the contest through their Instagram account, @marxfoods. Click “like” (the little heart at the bottom) to cast your vote! Spread the word to your friends and family — as always, I’m so humbled and grateful for your support. Thanks!
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup skim milk
- 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Marx Foods edible micro flowers, for garnish
- 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
- tools: two medium-sized mixing bowls, one large bowl, a small roasting pan to fit all 4 ramekins, hot water, tongs/slotted spoon, cooling rack
- Preheat the oven to 350°. On a stove, pour about 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce water to simmer.
- Lightly grease 4 ramekins (approximately 4.5" in diameter) and set aside.
- Prepare two medium bowls. In the first, whisk the sugar with the flour. In a second bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.
- In a large bowl with high sides, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer them to the roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake the pudding cakes for 35-40 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs and a slotted spoon, gently transfer the ramekins to the cooling rack. Cool for 20 minutes.
- Lightly sprinkle powdered sugar over micro flowers. Place gently on cooled cakes and dust with more powdered sugar. Alternatively, unmold the cakes by running a sharp knife around the edge and inverting the ramekin onto a small plate. Pile micro flowers on top.
Marx Foods Edible Micro Flowers
The recipe I posted above was inspired by this Food & Wine recipe for lemon pudding cakes