Friday, October 9, 2009

Yes, Euell, Many Flowers Are Edible

Sharmagne Leland St.-John was one of my very first good Internet pals. I had been working at AOL for a few months and begun exploring the many message boards. In the Royalty section, I noticed many posts referring to a person named "Sharm," but never saw her posting. She seemed to evoke tempestuous feelings in others as to a man, they either loved her or reviled her. I began to wonder whether this mythical being, who no one could stop talking about, was real or legend. It wasn't long before people started accusing me of being her.

One day, after a year or so, she returned to the boards. Amazed, I emailed her and said I was so glad to see that she existed because so many posters thought I was she. That was the beginning of a great friendship.

Today Sharmagne and I are colleagues on a poetry site and yes, we've met in real life. She never fails to amaze me with her endless creativity, schmoozing ability, and generosity. Not to mention the occasional hilarious hot-headed outburst. Rock on soul sistah!
Recipes courtesy of Sharmagne Leland-St. John

Rose Petal Bread

This unusual recipe dates back to Medieval times and is perfect for serving at an outdoor luncheon.

2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
6 tablespoons honey
7 cups unbleached white or whole wheat flour
1 2/3 tablespoons coarse salt
6 whole eggs plus one egg yolk
1 cup currants, softened in warm water
6 tablespoons melted butter
Butter for greasing bowls and cookie sheet
1 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped rose petals * (1 - 2 dozen red roses)
Several drops of red food color

Pour 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; sprinkle with the packages of yeast. Stir in the honey and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the remaining warm water and 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour. Beat by hand with a wooden spoon about 200 strokes. Cover with a damp cloth, put in a warm place and let the dough rise for 35 to 45 minutes or until doubled.

Punch the dough down and beat in the salt, melted butter and 5 whole eggs and the one yolk. Stir in the softened currants.

With a pestle and mortar, crush the rosemary, basil, cinnamon and the rose petals to make a paste. Add the herb mixture to the dough in the bowl and knead it, blending well. The bread should be a delicate rose hue. If the color from the petals isn't strong enough, use the red food color sparingly.

Using a spoon, beat in the remaining flour. Knead the dough until it comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Lightly flour a bread board or a slab of marble and turn the dough out onto it. Knead until smooth or elastic, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add small amounts of flour if the dough becomes too sticky to handle.

Place the dough in a buttered bowl. Cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about 50 minutes).

Punch the dough down. Cover it and let it rest again until it has doubled in bulk. (30 minutes)

Again punch the dough down. Turn it onto a floured surface and let it rest for 5 minutes. Shape the dough into one or two free form twists or coils. Place on a buttered cookie sheet, cover lightly with a towel and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled again. (25 minutes)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the loaf or loaves with the remaining whole egg, lightly beaten.

Bake for about 50 minutes until nicely browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped lightly with the knuckles. Place the bread on a wire rack to cool.

*Use ONLY rose petals which are free from pesticides. These may be purchased from a florist or home grown in an organic garden.


Nasturtium Salad

Harvest the nasturtium leaves flowers. The medium leaves and flowers are best. You may also find these in most gourmet markets.

40 Nasturtium leaves
20 Nasturtium flowers
2 heads of Butter lettuce
3 hard cooked eggs peeled and sliced into rounds

In the bottom of a large salad bowl prepare the dressing, stirring well to
dissolve the salt.

3 teaspoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons nasturtium vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 or 3 pinches white pepper

Wash the leaves, flowers, and lettuce. Spin in a salad spinner until dry. Set the flowers aside.

Tear the butter lettuce into bite sized pieces. Put the nasturtium and lettuce leaves into the bowl, add egg rounds and toss until all the leaves are coated. Sprinkle the flowers on top. Toss again just before serving.

Nasturtium Vinegar
Harvest and wash at least 20 nasturtium flowers. Boil a jar or decorative bottle until sterilized. Fill the jar or bottle with the nasturtium flowers and pour rice vinegar over them. Seal and put in a cool dark place for 3 weeks.

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