Flower recipes from Eastern Sicily

This blog was inspired by reading a book by Fabio Morreale about phytoalimurgy where he shared his passion and patience, like a very farmer, to collect plants, herbs and secret hints to use them. There is information that can only be known by talking and meeting the locals, and this is called: research for the authentic. I also thank Asia, my friend and colleague who gave it to me, and a special thanks to my two warrior best friends: Mariangela and my mum, for their priceless and precious cooking advice. All this between March and June 2020.

The use of edible flowers and petals was already popular in Roman culinary preparations. Flowers are very delicate and like delicate manuality and thoughts.  Edible wild flowers are to be collected early in the morning, after the dew has nourished them, and to be freed of the pollen by a light shaking. I keep them whole in the refrigerator and remove petals right before using them.
From a nutritional perspective edible flowers contain very little fats and many nutritional factors such as minerals, proteins and vitamins (A,C P). Flowers like and akin to violets, chrysanthemums and carnations, for example, have a good content of potassium. Their color depends on flavonoids and carotenoids which are antioxidant molecules. And much more.
Never forget the link between Nature and the Sky above us, and so the astral connections of flowers to the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn can reveal interesting aspects of our personality too. It is not unusual, in fact, to prefer one color or one flavour instead of another, like bees do. Flowers tell us where we come from and where we are going on our magic journey, and to all of us Mother Nature has dedicated a FLOWER, just listen to it.

OUR RECIPES

1. Pasta with cuttlefish black ink and borage flower

The recipe for the black ink sauce includes tomato sauce, white onion or leek, olive oil, salt, pieces of cuttlefish, and its black ink bag. I definitely suggest spaghetti n.5.
I chose the borage flower for the engaging violet color of its petals and the black of its lip that matches the sauce, and for its sweetness.

2. Risotto with red shrimp from Riposto, shallot leaves, poppy seeds and mallow flower

Wash and shell shrimps making sure you remove the dark filament out of the body. Cut the long leaves in small pieces and wash well. Poppy seeds enhance the crunchy taste of a good quality rice. The rice type I prefer is Carnaroli.
The mallow flower is delicate and balances the possible light asperities of colors and tastes.

 

3. Egg Roulade of shallot leaves and dandelion flower 

Cut shallot leaves into pieces and blanch. Beat 6 eggs for a regular (34x24cm or 13x9in) pan with a little salt. Add the blanched leaves, the nettle leaves and the dandelion flowers. Mix well. Pour into the pan over parchment paper. Oven cook for 20 minutes, make sure the texture stays tender. Take out of the oven. Put a layer of cheese slices and cold cuts, also with vegetarian preferences, and roll tight helped by the parchment paper. Close like a candy and let it rest for 3 hours. It has to get cool.
Cut into slices and serve decorated with dandelion flowers that match the kind of bitter taste of the other ingredients.

 

4. Nasturtium flower and leaf pesto. 

Wash flowers and leaves of nasturtium. Add pine cones, grated aged pecorino cheese, a little salt and extra virgin olive oil. Use a mixer to obtain a homogeneous pesto to be used with bruschetta or pasta. Decorate the dish with a flower.
Nasturtium is more acidic than the more popular basil, but its bitterness makes the pesto very intriguing, let us say intense, like Sicilians sometimes.

 

5. Battered fritters with yellow mums 

Yellow mums are common daisies or chrysanthemums. The petals are tempting to be cooked and fried. After removing the petals, wash and let them rest in rum for at least one hour. In the meanwhile prepare the batter with 3 yolks and 100gr sugar cane, add 200 gr whole spelt wheat together with 1/4 liter oat milk. After mixing add stiff egg whites. Let the batter rest for 40 minutes in the fridge. After the petals have rested in rum, add to the batter. Warm rice oil or seed oil and fry the fritters on both sides until they turn golden. Serve warm.

 

6. Batter-fried wild carrot flowers 

Flowers of this wild tuber are more edible than the taproot. They have a distinguished sign: a sterile black flower at the center of the corolla. Cut the stems leaving only 2cm to help handle it. After washing let them dry. Once ready, immerse into batter you can prepare following your favourite recipe for it. My recipe is very simple: water and flour mixed until the mixture is the right density. I let the batter rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before use. Then I turn the fire on and when the temperature of the olive oil is good for frying I dip the flowers into the batter and fry until they turn golden.
Serve warm and if you like, add some drops of lemon juice.

7. Fried maccoand wild pea flowers

As learnt from my friend Elvira: “in the past, food meant nutrition above all, more than pleasure”, so, not only nothing went wasted but it was recycled, and prepared in a way to be carried at work easy, so most of the farmers’ recipes were based on dry food or fried food. Macco is one of them. Macco is a fava bean cream obtained from peeling fava beans of their two skins, then put to cook in a saucepan with wild fennel at very low fire until it becomes a dense cream. Usually it is served hot with croutons. But the leftover was the best part! My grandma, in fact, used to make pasta with it, pour the pasta in a rectangular baking tray, 2 cm high, and let it become cold. The day after she cut it into cubes and FRY!
It was perfect for breakfast too.

8. Sicilian whole wheat tagliatelle with zucchini flowers, fried zucchini, mint and salty ricotta cheese. 

This is a recipe that pays homage to the unbeatable Italian tradition for homemade pasta, which makes the houses all over the world feel Italian for a meal and is a trait d’union of all culinary cultures. When the pasta is ready, drain it, pour in a saucepan and add the round-cut fried zucchini, the fried and fresh mint, the zucchini flowers cut julienne, and grated ricotta cheese for the final creamy sauteing without forgetting a touch of extra virgin olive oil.
For garlic-lovers, like me, when frying the zucchini add some whole garlic cloves that you can remove after.

 

9. Elder or locust flowers with red tuna tartare 

The tiny elder or locust tree flowers have the perfect sweet taste that matches that of raw Mediterranean red tuna. Held at -20°C before making tartare of course, and besides flowers add pink or black pepper, salt and olive oil. Mix well and let the tartare rest for 1 hour at least before serving.

 

10. Marigold, mallow, lemon balm, and mint for an exceptional infusion.  

Place the flowers into shade and after a couple of days petals will dry and separate spontaneously. While time passes, let’s learn about their properties.

MarigoldCalendula officinalis, whose name derives from Latin Calendae that Romans used to indicate the first day of the month. This plant, in fact, blooms once a month and lasts all summer. It helps strengthen the immune system, reduce headache and sleep problems, depurate blood for its antiseptic and antiviral properties. It has very good anti inflammatory and healing properties.
For its color very similar to saffron it was used to color food when saffron was not available or too expensive.

Mallow, Malva sylvestris – from Greek malakos that means soft, for its emollient property deriving from its mucilages. In the past it was used to cool off hot passions. Mallow is a good anti inflammatory for the bronchi, stomach and throat.

Lemon balm – Melissa officinalis. Its Greek name means “friend of bees” since the lemon smell attracts bees to make honey, sacred to them, who used to offer it to the Gods before a mission together with milk and wine. In ancient populations the name Melissa indicated wise and virtuous women, and Priestesses were called Melisse because during initiation rituals they washed their hands and mouth with honey to purify their actions and words. During Middleage the lemon balm was considered a medicinal herb and Arabs used its essential oil to strengthen the heart and brain. Lemon balm water made by French Carmelites became a very popular liquor against physical and nervous pain.

Still today lemon balm infusions are appreciated for their soothing effect.

Mint, Mentha piperita. Mintha was a nymph, one of the beautiful goddesses of Greek mythology, that Proserpine transformed into grass for jealousy. It is a good analgesic, antiseptic, tonic, and eupeptic. Its smell boosts psychophysical strength and will, and favours optimism. In ancient times it was used during healing and purification rituals. It is a luck charm for trade.

Back to our recipe, once all flowers and leaves are dried up, put into a cup or teapot and pour hot water on it, cover, and let it rest for 10 minutes at least. Filter and drink warm.

For more details concerning the preparations do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time, that makes life possible.