Edible flowers make colorful garnishes that update a favorite dish, but they also take center stage in recipes perfect for parties. Get in on this restaurant trend by buying edible flowers at specialty markets, or growing your own chives, nasturtium, borage and more in pots, or tucked between vegetables in a garden. A bonus: In summer, your homegrown blossoms will also attract much-needed pollinators like honeybees and butterflies.
The most common use for edible flowers requires no recipe: Simply garnish your favorite composed salad with fresh blossoms. We kicked up a salad of smoked salmon atop a bed of greens with radish flowers and a sprinkling of potent Szechuan buzz buttons. To add punch to a simple tomato salad with cucumbers and red onion, we added borage and onion flowers.
Check out these recipes and more from our story in Virginia Living magazine. Image by Fred + Elliott photo. Recipes by Chef J Frank.
3 cups nasturtium leaves and stems
1 cup basil leaves
1 cup nasturtium flowers
4 cloves garlic
1 cup walnuts
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ cups olive oil
salt to taste
To make the pesto, wash and dry nasturtium and basil leaves and nasturtium flowers. Lightly toast the walnuts. Coarsely chop nasturtium and basil leaves, nasturtium flowers and garlic. Place chopped items in a food processor and add walnuts and cheese. Pulse until it forms a paste, scraping down the sides. While the processor is running, slowly add the olive oil. Finish pesto with lemon juice. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.
For the shrimp risotto:
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock
juice of one lemon
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and pepper to taste
In a large, deep saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Over medium heat, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add half the garlic, cook 1-2 minutes more, then add rice and mix well. Add 1 cup white wine and cook, stirring often, until almost absorbed. Stirring constantly, add hot chicken stock in batches of ½ cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the chicken stock completely after each addition. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large pan, melt remaining butter and olive oil. Add garlic, lemon juice, and shrimp and cook 3-4 minutes. Add remaining white wine. Season with salt and pepper then add to risotto. For a lighter color and flavor, add about ¼ cup of pesto and blend well (or add more to taste). Cover any leftover pesto with a film of olive oil and store in the refrigerator.
For more ways to use edible flowers, read the story on Virginia Living.
By the time spring and early summer’s warmth arrives, we all want to chill out in the kitchen. It’s time for a break from simmering casseroles and bubbling stockpots turning out rich saucy dinners. But bidding farewell to more complex cooking doesn’t mean abandoning elegance. Chilled soups are the perfect showcase for a kitchen garden’s crisp flavors and bright colors. It’s time to revisit this culinary classic with a few vegan-friendly cold soup recipes inspired by the urban garden.
Vichyssoise, France’s satiny smooth potato-leek soup has long held the standard for posh cold soups. But when Sheila Lukins and Julie Rosso released the Silver Palate cookbook in 1982, their gazpacho recipe revolutionized nouvelle cuisine for home cooks. This earthy, garlicky gazpacho started appearing at gourmet dinner parties, and chefs experimented with other cold fruit-based soups. Traditional and vegan cold soups showed up on menus as refreshing first-course “amuse-bouches” and as palate cleansers.
Today’s cold soups feature hyper-fresh garden-to-table produce, making them very vegan-friendly. Where the long slow winter braise is designed to break down fibers in meat and root vegetables, the short cooking time for a cold soup preserves the color, flavor and texture of a perfectly ripe tomato or pea tendril.
Chilled soup demands the freshest, ripest ingredients, so choose perfect produce and treat it kindly. Foods served cold tend to have a more muted flavor than those served warm, so don’t be afraid to top off these soups with powerful garnishes—fresh herbs, flavored salts, chili paste or a squeeze of lime.
It must be said that not every diner expects a cold soup – vegan or not. It can be a shock to sit down to a bowl of something creamy, and presumably warm, only to be surprised by something cool and tingly. The solution is to create the right expectation up front. We eat with our eyes first, so serve a chilled soup in an appropriate setting that highlights its fresh nature.
Forget the rule that says you need to eat soup from a bowl with a spoon. Instead, try serving a chilled vegan soup in a champagne flute to sip as a sophisticated starter. Pour a dessert soup into a footed compote or antique coupe cocktail glass and scoop it up with tiny demitasse or cream spoons. Surprise guests with gazpacho served in bowls nestled into beds of plated crushed ice. Test a few options beforehand to see which works best.
Colorful vegan cold soups can satisfy a family looking for a quick, light dinner, but can also surprise guests at a sophisticated dinner party or brunch. Our recipes include the beloved gazpacho that started it all—but with a twist; a vivid soup with green watercress and peas; and an Asian-inspired coconut cream and carrot blend. Finish any spring or summer meal with our creamy blackberry dessert soup. As elegant takes on flavorful classics, these soups are sure to keep you cool.
This story was originally written by Phaedra Hise for Virginia Living magazine. Click here for recipes.
I am not a mayonnaise coleslaw person. First, mayo slaw is usually too sweet. Second, it’s gloppy and drippy. Third, the chunks of cabbage are always white and hard as bark nuggets. I grew up eating this cider vinegar coleslaw, my grandmother’s recipe, and it’s everything I love in a coleslaw. The grated cabbage is perfectly al dente, and it’s a blend of tangy and sweet. Try this and you’ll never go back to that gloppy white mess!
Make this recipe a few hours ahead of time to let the coleslaw marinate in the cider vinegar. It can be made the day before, and the coleslaw will keep refrigerated for several days. It is best, however, when eaten within a day or two. This coleslaw recipe will serve an entire cookout or picnic.
3 pounds grated green cabbage (one medium head)
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, grated
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup canola or other mild oil
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1 1/2 tablespoon celery seed
In a very large bowl, mix the cabbage, onion, carrot and bell pepper to create the coleslaw. Combine the oil, cider vinegar, sugar and spices in a microwave safe measuring cup or a small saucepan. Cook on high for a few minutes until the sugar is melted and the dressing is slightly reduced (the kitchen will smell like vinegar!).
Pour the hot dressing over the coleslaw and mix well. Refrigerate until cold, then serve. It will keep for 4-5 days refrigerated.
This is the best coleslaw ever to put on top of Southern pulled pork BBQ sandwiches. Cider vinegar coleslaw is also a great dish to take to picnics or cookouts, and works well as a side dish for any grilled summer dinner.
Maybe you’re excited about your early green tomatoes. Or maybe it’s fall, right before first frost, and the plants have a few green tomatoes left. Or, maybe like us, your summer tomatoes come down with disease right after they set loads of fruit, and you have to rip them all out and burn them. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself with a basket of green tomatoes, then Southern Fried Green Tomatoes is the classic solution.
Southern fried green tomatoes were created to take advantage of summer’s most favored vegetable, even if it’s not ripe. They are soft inside with a crispy cornmeal coating. Iggy keeps his simple with a pinch of cayenne and garlic, and drizzles of tangy Buttermilk Crema. These are thick and meaty, robust enough to anchor a summer vegetable plate. Serve them with tangy sides like a green bean salad, or watermelon and feta
Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
Personalize these by mixing your favorite spice blend into the cornmeal mixture. Don’t be tempted to cook them in a deep fryer, the movement of the oil tends to shake off the batter. Fried green tomatoes are best when cooked in a cast iron skillet. Serves 4.
4 medium green (unripe) tomatoes
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour, divided in half
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
Corn or canola oil for cooking
Garden fresh herbs for garnish
For the Buttermilk Crema
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
splash hot sauce (optional)
Make the crema by combining all ingredients (can be made a day ahead).
Cut off the stem end of the tomatoes, then cut tomatoes into 1/4″ slices. Set aside. Whisk eggs and buttermilk together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Blend together cornmeal, 1/4 cup of the flour, cayenne, salt and garlic and put into a shallow bowl or dish. Put remaining 1/4 cup flour in a separate shallow bowl or dish.
In a large cast iron skillet, add 1/4″ to 1/2″ of cooking oil and heat to 350 degrees. Line up the flour, egg mixture and cornmeal. Dredge each tomato slice first in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the cornmeal, and immediately add to the skillet. Do not crowd the pan or the temperature will drop. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side – until they are golden brown. Remove to a rack to drain and serve immediately.
Overlap 3-4 tomato slices on each plate and drizzle with Buttermilk Crema. Garnish with chives, basil or micro arugula. Serve Southern Fried Green tomatoes as hot as possible, although they’re not bad room temperature. You can make fried green tomato BLTs with any leftovers.
Homemade ricotta is much softer and smoother than the grocery store brands. Since Chef Iggy has started making it every week or so, we’ve found lots of new uses for it – from a pasta garnish to desserts. The texture of homemade ricotta is close to yogurt, and we often substitute it for Greek yogurt in recipes.
It’s the easiest cheese to make. Try it yourself and you’ll never go back to the hard, rubbery stuff from the grocery store.
As you drain the ricotta, the watery whey separates out. Whey has a mild tangy flavor similar to buttermilk, but the texture isn’t as thick. Don’t let it go to waste! Save the whey and use it to cook collards, or marinate pork or chicken. We even use it in baking.
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
In a medium saucepan, simmer the milk and cream until they almost reach boil. Add salt, lemon juice and vinegar, then stir. Remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes to curdle.
Ladle the curd mixture into a fine strainer (a chinois or a cheesecloth-lined colander) and let sit over a bowl for 5-10 minutes to drain off the whey.
Use homemade ricotta any way you would store-bought ricotta. It is delicious layered in lasagna, and has enough moisture content that you can use dried noodles. A spoonful makes a creamy topping for pasta bolognese or our sweet potato gnocchi. Dab ricotta on pizza, or spread it on bruschetta and top with fresh tomatoes and basil. Or add sugar, shaved chocolate and vanilla to stuff into cannoli.
Are you craving the fresh taste of garden tomatoes in winter? This tomato fennel soup is a creative and flavorful way to use frozen or canned tomatoes. When you’re tired of tomato sauce, make this hearty soup for a warming winter lunch or dinner. This recipe can work with either paste tomatoes or sandwich/slicing tomatoes (see note below about processing). Do not use cherry tomatoes, as they are too much work to skin and seed, and they produce too little pulp.
We love this recipe because it’s tasty, and only takes about half an hour to make.
Cream of Tomato Fennel Soup Recipe
Use your frozen garden tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes for this hearty soup. Or you can use canned crushed tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes. If fresh, cut an X in the bottom of each tomato and blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds. Let them cool and slip off the skins. Cut open and remove the seeds by squeezing the tomatoes into a strainer (save the liquid for the soup). Chop the tomatoes finely. Serves 8.
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
½ bulb fennel, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
6 cups crushed tomatoes (skinless, seedless, chopped)
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
2 cups heavy cream
Chopped fennel fronds and olive oil for garnish
In a large saucepan, saute the onion, celery, fennel and garlic over medium heat until the vegetable soften and start to smell good. Add salt and pepper, tomato and wine. If it’s too thick add a little water. Simmer until the flavors come together, maybe half an hour. Tomato fennel soup can be made ahead and reheated.
Taste and correct the seasoning. Garnish with a sprinkling of fennel tips and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich, or a slice of crusty sourdough bread.
Need help deciding which tomatoes to grow? Check out our article comparing determinates to indeterminates.
Called “Kimchi-jjigae” in Korean, this spicy kimchi stew will clear out your sinuses without setting your mouth on fire. The broth tastes similar to hot and sour soup, with the same mouth-watering vinegar-ish flavor. Soft pork belly is the perfect counterpoint to the tangy kimchi, amping up the rich flavor. Got a snow day ahead of you? Make this hearty stew and stay warm.
“Kimchi” is a verb – basically it’s Korean for “to pickle.” For this stew, we make our own kimchi cabbage (you can adapt this sauerkraut recipe). If you buy kimchi, look for kimchi’d cabbage, Napa cabbage or bok choi.
Feel free to tweak this to your taste – it’s delicious with tofu in addition to (or instead of) the pork belly. Use tofu and vegetable stock for a vegetarian meal. Serves 8.
1 pound uncured pork belly, cut into half-inch cubes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, crushed or minced
1 tablespooon fresh ginger, grated
1 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons gochujang (Korean spice paste – we use this brand)
4 cups beef or chicken stock
1 cup kimchi, with liquid, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon cooking oil
Sliced scallion for garnish
Mix together the soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Pour the mixture over the pork pieces and marinate while finishing prep, 5-10 minutes.
Heat a medium saucepan on med-high heat and add the cooking oil. Sauté pork belly for a few minutes, just to crisp up the outside of the pieces and render a bit of the fat.
Add chopped onion and gochujong. Stir and simmer the mixture, blending in the gochujong well, until the onions soften. Stir in the stock and kimchi. Bring back up to simmer and cook the stew gently for half an hour.
Garnish each bowl with a generous handful of fresh scallions (we like to slice those on the diagonal so they look pretty). This stew stands up pretty well on its own for lunch or a light dinner. If you want to add a side, it would go well with scallion pancakes or maybe a hearty sourdough bread.
Chef Edna Lewis is having a bit of a moment – finally. And we can still learn a lot about Southern cooking from her. Top Chef recently paid homage to the Virginia-born chef when contestants had to cook a dish inspired by her Southern recipes.
Growing up in the South, I knew of the great Edna Lewis. We were a foodie family. My grandmother was a Julia Child devotee, and my father had all the trendy Southern cookbooks. Edna Lewis defined the Southern cooking food movement in the 1970s, inspiring chefs like Nathalie Dupree and Lee Bailey to spread the Southern cuisine gospel (one of the first baking recipes I ever made was Lee Bailey’s beaten biscuits).
Her book, The Taste of Country Cooking: 30th Anniversary Edition was recently re-released on its 30th anniversary. When I cracked it open, I rediscovered a wonderful thing about an Edna Lewis recipe: She cooks by feel.
Chef Edna Lewis isn’t really from the Julia Child school of cooking. Julia made it her life’s work to completely codify all those lovely French recipes. She wanted exact measurements and times. When her writing partner, Simone Beck, would say something like, “Blanch the green beans in boiling water,” Julia would roll her eyes and start taking notes. What sized pot? How much water? How many minutes?
She recognized and respected that generations of French chefs were pretty much cooking by osmosis. French cooks grew up feeling the pastry dough, not measuring it. They cooked from the senses – feeling, tasting, smelling and looking. They baked the cookies until they smelled done, cooked the fish until it felt firm, simmered the sauce until it tasted rich and browned the chicken until it had just the right caramelized color.
Julia changed all that.
Julia Child put numbers on everything. This helped American cooks like herself, who hadn’t grown up in kitchens redolent with thyme and butter. With numbers like hers, anyone could cook like an experienced French chef.
I say this as someone who adores Julia Child. I grew up watching her television show with my grandmother. It was a sacrosanct hour, during a time without recording technology. No matter what we were doing or who was visiting, everything in the household stopped and we had a snack in the den with Julia. She taught my grandmother, who taught my father, who taught me. Julia showed Americans that we could actually make and enjoy good, fresh food.
But, back to Edna.
Last summer, our annual food festival in Richmond, Virginia, held a luncheon to honor Edna Lewis in the 100th year of her birth. Several chefs came together to prepare some of her key recipes, and we watched a moving documentary about Miss Lewis’s background. The food was stunning. I filled my plate with buttermilk biscuits, lima beans with cream, brisket, chicken and dumplings, slow-cooked green beans, braised cabbage with kale and sweet potato pie. After I put down my fork, I picked up my phone and ordered the 30th anniversary edition of The Taste of Country Cooking.
When it arrived a few days later, I recognized the cover from my childhood. But I had forgotten about the recipes. Inside, Edna Lewis cooks just the way that all great chefs do: By feel. Rediscovering this, after Julia, was a revelation.
Lewis’s recipes usually include precise measurements for ingredients, but when it comes to directions, she serves up a paragraph or two of some storytelling. For example, she describes in detail how biscuit dough should feel, “the dough will be very soft in the beginning but will stiffen in 2 or 3 minutes.” Chef Lewis emphasizes feel, giving us times just as a guideline, not a rule. Our senses define the rules.
The book also includes a sense of place and history. Lewis links each dish to a part of her childhood, spent gardening, fishing, raising animals and putting food by. Her respect and love for ingredients seeps into every recipe. You find yourself making friends with your collard greens, understanding where they came from, how they like to be cooked, how they should smell and look.
Lewis isn’t the only chef to cook by feel. In fact, all great chefs do. And home cooks who aspire to be great need to learn the technique. Anyone who cooks by feel can take a loosely defined list of ingredients and cook from it. Someone who cooks by feel can recreate Grandmother’s corn pudding just by knowing what’s in it – proportions optional.
I have seen this, repeatedly, from the chefs I’ve interviewed for stories. Skilled chefs speak “food” the way others speak English. And we home cooks can learn from that.
The recipes that Chef Iggy puts on Kitchen Plot have an element of cooking by feel. Times and temperatures are secondary once you understand an ingredient and where you are going with it. Try it yourself. Read the instructions, lay out your mise en place, and then have at it. Smell the sizzle, look at the browning, feel the smoothness or roughness. Put these senses in your physical memory, and you’ll never need to write a step-by-step recipe again.
Miss Lewis would be so proud.
Visit Amazon to order your copy of The Taste of Country Cooking: 30th Anniversary Edition
Shrimp and grits originated in South Carolina, but this dish is beloved throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic. In South Carolina, shrimp season is closed from mid-December through the end of April, so this is a spring/summer dinner.
Chef Iggy makes shrimp and grits with 21-24 count shrimp, which means there are 21-24 shrimp per pound. So two pounds of shrimp means about 12 shrimp per person. You can serve larger shrimp – if so, leave the tails on for a convenient handle.
We make these shrimp and grits with grits ground from heirloom Bloody Butcher corn. The grits have a reddish color and toothy texture that modern grits don’t always have. For the best flavor and “grits-ness,” look for stone-ground varieties of grits from local mills. If you can’t find it locally, you can also mail order from Woodson’s Mill in rural Roseland, Virginia.
This recipe serves 4.
1 cup stone ground grits
4 cups water
2 cups whole milk, or combination of skim milk and cream
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
8 ounces Tasso ham or Andouille sausage, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, divided
1/4 white wine
1 tablespooon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 clove garlic, minced
2 pounds shrimp, 21-25 count, shells removed
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley or chili threads for garnish
Bring 4c water to boil in a large saucepan. Sprinkle in the grits and stir briskly with a whisk to break up any lumps. When water is simmering again, turn heat to low. Cook slowly over low heat, stirring frequently, until the grits are thickened to the consistency of cooked oatmeal. This can take half an hour or more – don’t rush it.
Once the grits are thick, add the milk one cup at a time, stirring. This is basically like making risotto, in that you want the grits to absorb the extra liquid slowly.
After all the grits are added and have thickened again, taste them and add quite a bit of salt (up to 2 teaspoons). It might seem like a lot but grits are bland.
If the grits are still hard in the center, add a bit more water and cook slowly. Cook until they are soft and creamy – an hour or more in total time. When they are done, turn off the heat and cover the pan. The grits can sit for up to half an hour. Just add more water and reheat if they get too thick while sitting.
For the shrimp: In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and add the sausage or ham. Cook until warmed and then add onions, pepper and celery. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until the vegetables have softened.
Deglaze the pan with the 1/4 cup wine, and then add 1 cup water. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly. Then add the cornstarch/water liquid and stir. Turn off heat and hold to serve.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil and garlic, then sautée briefly. Add shrimp with a pinch of salt and stir or toss until pink.
Spoon warm grits into a shallow bowl or soup plate. Top with 10-12 shrimp, then sauce with the gravy. Make sure each plate gets plenty of ham and vegetables. Garnish with chili threads or fresh parsley.
The perfect Southern side dish for shrimp and grits is a cooked green, like braised kale or sautéed spinach.
Rosemary makes these butter cookies memorable. The piney crispness of the rosemary combined with a sugary butter dough creates a savory/sweet tea cookie that works for an afternoon snack or a light dessert. Give these cookies as a holiday hostess gift.
A word about rosemary: Do not use dried rosemary in these cookies! In fact, don’t use dried rosemary anywhere, except perhaps in a floral wreath or tablescape. Grow rosemary and keep it all year! Plants will winter over in warmer gardening zones, and they thrive indoors in colder climates. Dried rosemary has a dusty flavor and the texture of pointy dried pine needles. If you can’t find fresh rosemary and you still want to make herbal butter cookies, try these thyme and cornmeal tea cookies instead.
If you can’t find sanding sugar, then skip the final step before baking. Sanding sugar is a coarse, clear sugar that doesn’t melt in the oven. It gives finished cookies a bit of sparkle and sugary crunch. Regular sugar will just melt into the cookie, which isn’t worth the trouble of sprinkling it on top.
This recipe makes about 5 dozen cookies.
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sanding sugar to finish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, rosemary and salt. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and mix well at medium speed. On low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Divide dough in half. On a floured board, roll each half into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll up each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (dough can be made ahead and held overnight).
Slice each log into 1/4″ thick cookies and lay them on the cookie sheet about an inch apart. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of sanding sugar.
Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes, turning the cookie sheets halfway through cooking. Cool and store in airtight container. Cookies will keep for 1-2 weeks.
These cookies make a memorable hostess or holiday gift from the garden. Package them as a stack in cellophane or a pretty tin lined with wax paper. Tie the package with ribbon and a sprig of rosemary to hint at these butter cookies’ herbaceous nature.