My mother is the gardener in the family. My brother and I have made feeble attempts at getting things to grow, but… We watch in awe as every year she takes the third of an acre surrounding their home–left bereft and gray by fall and winter–and transforms it into a paradise of fruit, veg, flowers and herbs.
On a recent visit, as I was plucking this and that and putting the ingredients together in my head, I thought I might do a series of posts on recipes inspired by and created with the ingredients from Mom’s garden.
I love edible flowers. They are such a simple way to add drama to a dish. The following is an easy but bold salad full of bright colors and strong flavors. Bitter arugula, peppery nasturtium flowers, pungent Italian sheep’s milk feta, and a dressing packed with herbs.
About the cheese…
I was strolling through my favorite Rainbow Grocery when I saw the label “Italian feta” and thought, “That’s… not quite right.” Greek, of course. French, absolutely. Bulgarian, why not? Italian? Dunno. Tried a sample and, man, was it good. It’s drier than other fetas, a bit yellower, something… I have never seen it before. Don’t know if I’ll see it again. Pretty sure most of you won’t see it in your local grocery. If you do, try it. If not, use a sheep or goat’s milk feta from another region. I tend to stay away from most cow’s milk fetas because I simply haven’t found a good one, and the flavor tends to be too mild. For this salad, you want something to stand up to the other ingredients in the bowl.
Peppery Flower Salad with Herb Dressing (serves about 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main dish)
1/4 lb. (115g) arugula (rocket) greens
Nasturtium flowers–they should come from the grocery store or an organic garden–no pesticides, please–use as many as you like, I used about a dozen
Borage flowers (optional)–not as easy to come by unless you grow them. They have a nice cucumber-like flavor.
2-3 oz. (60-90g) Italian sheep’s milk feta, cubed. Greek or French feta is fine.
Wash the greens and flowers and dry them thoroughly. Toss together and sprinkle the cheese over the top.
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsps. or 30ml)
4 Tbsps. (60ml) good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsps. (30ml) chopped fresh herbs–I used basil and parsley, but some other tasty options would be tarragon, oregano or mint
Pinch of salt
Whisk it all together. Adjust the olive oil and salt to taste. And before you pick up that pepper mill, consider the already peppery flavor of the flowers and proceed accordingly.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve. Don’t overdress the salad. Pop any remaining dressing in a jar, and store in the fridge.