The best food you will ever cook is simple, yet somehow special. It should only involve basic techniques, ingredients at their peak of freshness and a touch of whimsy. Don’t wait to plan a dinner party of complicated, unfamiliar or fussy dishes; meals with friends can be a singular, delicious bite—like a tahini bun you’ve set in motion moments before (easy when you have a stocked pantry), a slice of blueberry mascarpone crostata (its rough edges are infinitely forgiving) or a salad mostly composed of flowers (everyone will gasp with glee).
In our busy lives, where time is limited and digital connections take priority, preparing a small, delectable morsel and inviting a friend or two over to taste it (and linger) is a purposeful return to something tactile, sumptuous and real—plus it’s so much fun.
When it comes to creating happy memories, I believe more is more. So let’s make these little moments happen, where we gather to celebrate the small stuff, the ups and downs, the ordinary and extraordinary, and set the table with our good china and thrift store glasses mismatching in imperfect harmony. And let’s do it on a bright spring morning, a midweek night, or a Sunday afternoon. There’s never a “perfect” time—so get started now with your joyful, tasty life!
Reprinted from Food with Friends by Leela Cyd. Copyright © 2016 by Leela Cyd. Photographs by Leela Cyd. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Cook the Book: With the spring theme of creating food communities, Edible Santa Barbara food writing fellow Urmila Ramakrishnan cooked through Food with Friends. Read her story here.
Blooming Flower Salads
Did you know there’s a plethora of flowers you can eat, as well as enjoy in a bouquet? Once you know which are edible, you can easily add them to your culinary repertoire, seeking them out at farmers markets or growing a few yourself to toss into salads or scatter on top of a cake.
The flowers called for in this fairy-tale salad are largely available at most farmers markets, nurseries or occasionally at fancy grocery stores (sold in containers labeled “edible flowers.”) But if you’re buying outside of your supermarket, make sure you ask an informed attendant about how the flowers are grown and treated. Try to eat these salads without smiling ear to ear—it’s an impossible feat!
Makes 2 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups arugula, stems trimmed
- 3 medium radishes, thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled into ribbons
- 1 cup organic, untreated petals from the following flowers, in an assortment of colors: 1 rose, 3 chrysanthemums, 3 calendula flowers, 3 cosmos flowers, 6 nasturtium flowers.
In a large wooden bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, garlic and salt and pepper to taste until well combined. Toss the arugula, radishes and carrot ribbons with the dressing in the bowl.
Divide the salads between 2 plates. Scatter all the flower petals on top of the vegetable mixture and serve immediately.
Rhubarb Rose Floats
Let’s bring the ice cream float back into vogue! Who’s with me? All you need is some sticky sour/sweet rhubarb syrup, which is easy enough to make. Add good-quality vanilla ice cream and sparkling water, and you’ve got something pretty exceptional. But if you really want to go all the way (and, like me, you enjoy a culinary project), knock out the candied rose petals ahead of time when you have an hour to spare—they keep for about a week in a sealed container and make teatime far more interesting. I cannot help but sprinkle them atop any dessert in my midst, they’re so pretty!
Makes 4 servings
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3 cups roughly chopped rhubarb
- Pinch of salt
- 2 cups carbonated water
- 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
- 1 cup (or more) whipped cream
- Candied Rose Petals (recipe follows)
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water, the granulated sugar, rhubarb and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat until it’s just high enough to maintain a healthy simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the rhubarb mixture through it, pressing the pulp against the sides of the strainer to squeeze as much syrup out as possible. Reserve the pulp for another use (as a jam-like spread) and pour the syrup into a small sealable jar. (There may be a little extra than what you need here, but keep it sealed and it will stay good in the fridge for up to 2 weeks; see Tip.)
In each of 4 cocktail glasses or wine glasses, mix 2 tablespoons of the rhubarb syrup with ½ cup of carbonated water. Scoop the ice cream into each glass and top with a heaping ¼ cup whipped cream (or more if you like). Dot the top of the whipped cream with 5 candied rose petals and serve.
Tip: Leftover rhubarb syrup is great on yogurt, other desserts, oatmeal and even as the sweet element in a salad dressing.
Candied Rose Petals
Makes 1/2 cup
- 20 organic untreated rose petals
- 1 large pasteurized egg white, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a small brush, paint each rose petal with a thin layer of egg white, then dust with the superfine sugar. Carefully place the petals on the parchment and let harden at room temperature for at least 8 hours (any extras can be stored in a sealed container for up to a week).
Leela Cyd has contributed photography to Edible Santa Barbara and is a longtime contributor to TheKitchn.com and shoots for Food & Wine, Sweet Paul, the New York Times, Kinfolk and more. Leela lives with her husband in Santa Barbara. For more on Leela’s travels and adventures, please visit LeelaCyd.com.