HOW TO :: DRYING EDIBLE FLOWER PETALS

Mid-summer is a beautiful time of year in the garden - most plants are producing flowers and fruit adding to the visual texture of a working productive garden. Harvesting and drying flower heads (or herbs) is a satisfying project and the perfect way to extend your harvest. Plus, taking flower heads from plants will prevent prolific re-seeding, which is often the goal. If you've ever let your bronze fennel go to seed before removing the yellow fennel blossoms, you know what I'm talking about. (Note to self: dig out bronze fennel this summer.)

In all of my gardens, I plant flowers in order to attract pollinators and add to the list of plants. Many of these blossoms may be harvested and stored for winter indulgence. Lavender, chamomile, thyme flowers, chives and more may all be harvested and dried for future use. To dry out flower heads, choose a warm, dry place. Molds, bacteria, and yeast all thrive in moisture and can ruin herb-saving projects, so keep drying herbs free from excess moisture. Run you hand along the length of the plants stem, and pop off the flower head, leaving the stem behind. To dry, I lay my flower heads out on a fine mesh drying rack that my friend Patric made for me. You can also lay them out on a clean sheet pan, just make sure to turn them often, so air circulates around the buds and they dry completely.

Use dried chamomile in granola, dessert crisps & even cocktails. All recipes are linked here!

Wall Street Journal - In My Kitchen

wall street journal pic In honor of the article published this weekend in the awesome Wall Street Journal, where I compare chefs abuse of bacon to showing off cleavage, I tap out this little excerpt from my first book, Urban Pantry from the "Stocking the Pantry" Section.

BACON. I keep a pound of slab bacon in my freezer and cut off little bits at a time for cooking. It's great in a pot of beans or lentils.

Bacon! An absolute must in the pantry!

Special thanks to writer Charlotte Druckman for coming to my home, sitting at my table and talking up a storm. And, of course, uber-photographer Della Chen. Check out her projects via Eater.

Chamomile Cordial

This morning I am a guest on Terri Trespicio's show on Martha Stewart Radio - Whole Living. I love coming on the show. Terri is a firecracker and I always have fun. Today we are talking about homemade holiday food gifts and cordials are one of my absolute favorites to make and give. Cordials are essentially sweetened syrups infused with herbs, spice or plants. They are simple to make and offer a wide range of flavors and essences to anyone willing to experiment. Cordials offer a perfect solution for a non-alcoholic ‘cocktail’ that is nothing short of grown up. For this syrup, you can use either fresh or dried chamomile flower heads. Chamomile is a dainty little white flower that has a tendency to prosper and spread amongst garden beds, cracks in the sidewalk and anywhere else it can take hold. Known for its medicinal properties (and ability to soothe), the sweet flavor from the flower heads also makes for a gentle summer drink. Add some syrup to some fizzy water and serve over crushed ice. If you want to go for gold, add a splash of cognac - its gentle flavor won’t overpower the floral note. This syrup is also delicious brushed onto a simple yellow or buttermilk cake.

CHAMOMILE CORDIAL

by Amy Pennington Makes about 2 cups | start to finish: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers (or 1 tablespoon fresh chamomile flower heads) 2 cups boiled water 1/4 cup honey

Add chamomile flowers to muslin steeping bag or fine mesh tea strainer. (Chamomile seeds are quite small and thin, so be sure to use fine mesh so they don’t escape and float in your syrup.) Steep in boiled water until liquid is stained yellow and perfumed, about 20 minutes. Press any reserved liquid out from the muslin bag and discard the solids. Add the honey, and stir until dissolved. Keep in the refrigerator until cool.

Once cooled, completely, add crushed ice to a glass. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the chamomile cordial and top with equal parts seltzer water. Garnish with a thin slice of cucumber to fancy it up. If you like, add a float of cognac and serve immediately.

Store cordial in a clean jar or bottle, covered, in the fridge where it will last for several weeks.