When I was really little my mom made this beautiful cake. It was white and tall and covered in violets. It blew my tiny mind to find out that you could eat flowers, real flowers. I waited impatiently through the meal, just bursting at the seams to eat what I imagined, would be the most magical food in the world. When I was finally served a piece of the cake I immediately plucked one of the violets off and popped it in my mouth, and instantly regretted it. It was shockingly bitter and I was severely disappointed–flowers were, in fact, not a magical form of candy. That first impression has left an indelible mark on my culinary psyche–now whenever I see flowers used in a sweet dish I promptly think: that looks beautiful but probably tastes like shit. (Totally unfair, I know. Candied flowers are probably delicious. I imagine the contrast of bitter and sweet is perfect in some desserts, clearly a taste combination my young palate didn’t appreciate).
Today a thought occurred to me, that honestly I should have realized years ago: while aesthetically flowers may immediately make you dream of fairy-like desserts, gustatorially they are actually perfect for savory dishes. That said, edible flowers are rare and expensive so they can’t just go into any dish–they deserve something festive and decadent. Well, it just so happens that this is the perfect time of year for such a meal. This wheat berry stew is relatively easy to make, however it is an extravagant dish–showcasing the delicate fruity flavor of chanterelles and the bitter beauty of edible flowers. Sure, the ingredients aren’t cheap but this is something you make as a once-a-year splurge. And yes, you are reading the instructions right, you throw out the chanterelles once you have used them to scent the broth–the ultimate in decadence. (Ok, sure, maybe it is because this recipe calls for dried mushrooms which always have a kind of gross texture, even when reconstituted properly. I’m going to pretend it is because I am a fancy lady who can just part with chanterelles willy-nilly, even though they are often worth their weight in gold).
Wheat Berry Stew with Edible Flowers
2 tbsps. olive oil
4 leaves fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp. dried chanterelles
1/2 tsp. white peppercorns
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tsps. Meyer lemon juice
1 tbsps. sake
pinch of salt
5 leaves fresh lacinato kale, torn into 3 inch pieces
1 tsp. mustard seed
1 cup cooked wheat berries
seeds from 1/4 of a pomegranate
2 heaping tbsps. lactose free or vegan sour cream
edible flowers, for garnish
To Prepare the Stew: Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sage leaves and fry, two minutes on each side. Discard the sage leaves. Add 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth, peppercorns, salt, chanterelles, sake and lemon juice to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cook for 5 minutes. Strain the broth into a bowl and return to the pan. Add the kale, remaining broth, wheat berries, mustard seeds and pomegranate seeds to the pan and heat over medium heat until the remaining ingredients are heated through. Divide into two bowls, top with the sour cream and garnish with the fresh flowers. Makes 2 servings.