Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Bountiful Bouquet of Inspiration {Book Review}

*Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary, advance copy of this book - Cooking with Flowers by Miche Baker -  from the publishers for the purpose of reviewing it. All opinions are my own.*

The beginning of my fascination with flowers.
At the Keukenhof Garden. 1976.
In another lifetime, I worked as a florist. I loved that job. I created beautiful arrangements, my clothes smelled like flowers, and I never had any empty vases in my house. These days, I only push petals on special occasions but I still love anything to do with flowers.

So, when Eric at Quirk Books asked me if I would be interested in previewing and reviewing Cooking with Flowers by Miche Baker of Mali B Sweets, I couldn't say 'yes' fast enough. As soon as it arrived, excitement washed over me as I giddily tore open the envelope. I thumbed through the pages, enthralled by the dizzying array of Miche's recipes and entranced by photographs by Miuna Jun. I was dazzled; I longed to stick a fork right into the book!

Marigolds on the cutting board.
From Gourmet Sweet Botanicals.
I lined up some apple blossoms, jasmine, roses, and cherry blossoms from my friend's garden - thanks, Jenn! And I ordered nasturtiums, pansies, marigolds, and orchids from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals. Wherever you get your flowers, just double check that they are edible and organically grown.

I ended up making about a dozen of Miche's recipes. Some I made (almost) exactly as she presented them. Others I adapted, using her recipes as a jumping off point.

On the sweet side of things, I made a Kiwi and Rose Cream Trifle and Crêpes with Sweet William Petals. And for my savories, we created a Dandelion Pesto-Dianthus Pizza, Marigold Frittata, and a Spring Salad with Jasmine Blooms.

The recipe that won my flower-loving heart - hands down! - was her Thai Orchid Beef Salad. I made several adaptations. I didn't have any beef in my fridge, but I had a few salmon filets. So, I went with those. I lined the plates with Little Gems lettuce leaves. It almost looked like the picture in the book...the dendrobium orchids are ridiculously photogenic. This was delightful and I will be making it again soon.

Thai Orchid Salmon Salad
inspired by Miche Baker's Thai Orchid Beef Salad

salmon filets for as many people as you are serving
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
splash of olive oil
soy sauce
Little Gems lettuce leaves
1/2 C fresh, chopped cilantro
3 chives, chopped
6-8 dendrobium orchids

3 T fermented fish sauce
3 T Meyer lemon juice
1 T organic honey
1/2 t Thai chili paste

Saute the onions in a large, flat bottom pan that will be able to accommodate all of your salmon. Once the onions are softened, but not browned, lay your salmon filets in the pan. Cook until they are opaque half-way up from the pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and continue to cook - until the fish is firm to the touch.

To serve - lay the lettuce leaves on the plate, top with salmon, garnish with cilantro, chives, and dendrobium petals. Sprinkle with chopped chives and drizzle with dressing.

As a florist, I looked to make bouquets that had interesting elements. I gravitated towards a variety of colors and textures. Think fuzzy kangaroo paws and voluptuous, frilly peonies.

As a cook, I look at my dishes and plates the same way, creating and plating in a way that is tantalizing to both the palate and the eye. Miche's book is inspiring and will be used often in my kitchen. In fact, I plan to make a coconut rice pudding with micro orchids for dessert tonight...after we have nasturtium, corn, and black bean quesadillas for dinner!

If you want to learn more about creating delectable dishes with edible flowers, Cooking with Flowers by Miche Baker is a must. It's a bountiful bouquet of culinary inspiration!

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