Flour and Flowers
Blooms add color and flavor to pizzas
New York. Chicago. Sicily. Napoli.
Whose pizza reigns supreme? And which toppings are the best? Passions run hot, and it seems that the debate will never die down. And while most people expect that pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms will attend a pizza party, those ingredients have been joined by the more trendy pineapple, bacon, pesto and even calamari, making the long-revered pie more irreverent and artisanal.
Pizza has recently undergone yet another transformation. Edible flowers are landing on crusts, livening things up and adding both color and flavor in a way that is unexpected. And pretty. Don’t forget the pretty.
Way back in ancient Rome and China, people recognized the medicinal properties of flowers and the flavor they added, and they found ways to incorporate them into their food. In the 1970s, edible flowers were briefly topical, but they fell out of vogue until recently. Now, everything from cupcakes to couscous has become floralized.
Flowers, however, should be used thoughtfully. For a pizza — or any dish — you’ll want to consider the flavor profile. Some flowers have little flavor, which makes them more visual than anything, but others mirror their parent plants, just in a slightly milder form.
Cases in point: rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, cilantro, fennel and basil. Their flowers taste like the plants that produce them, with the added bonus of being colorful and pretty. Fortunately, these herbs are easily grown in Florida.
More Florida-friendly pie pretties include borage, which has a cucumber-like flavor; nasturtium, which has a peppery, spicy bite; marigold, which is peppery with citrusy notes; and calendula, which is peppery. Others to consider are zinnia, viola and pansies. Flowers can be collected from vegetable plants including squash and okra as well as broccoli, radish, beetroot and arugula.
Of course, for a flower to be “edible,” it must check a few boxes.
Primarily, it must be intrinsically non-toxic, and it should not have been exposed to poisonous sprays like pesticides. They should also be attractive in color. Some of the flowers will be fragrant, but not all of them possess a noticeable scent. Many flowers can be used whole, such as pansies, violas and campanulas. However, in most cases, it’s best to pluck off the petals and add them to the dish. For those of us without green thumbs, some edible flowers can be found near the fresh herbs at the local grocery store or at the farmer’s market.
How best to use flowers? Does one sprinkle them on the pie before or after it takes a sauna in the oven? If you have ever seen what heat does to a flower, you’ve probably figured that one out yourself. Edible flowers are best used as a finishing garnish. They keep their structure and shape, not to mention their vibrant color, making your pizza almost too pretty to eat.
Beneath the layer of flowers, go with ingredients that are traditional or seasonal. Use lighter toppings like pesto and crumbled goat cheese, then finish your masterpiece with squash blossoms, nasturtium and broccoli flowers.
Helpful tip for harvesting: Pick flowers at the coolest part of the day, and make sure they are clean and free of bugs. If you need to store them, make sure they are dry, and put them in a sealed container in the fridge. Most flowers will keep for a couple of days this way.
Pork Belly Pesto Pizza
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves from garden
- 1 cup of kale or greens of your choosing
- ¼ cup of parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 3 cloves of garlic, roasted
- Lemon zest
- ½ cup of olive oil (Smashing Olive flavored olive oil)
- One 16 oz. package of pre-made whole wheat pizza dough
- ½ cup of pesto
- Fresh basil for garnish
- Goat cheese (used lavender goat cheese but can use plain)
- Honey drizzle
- ¼ jicama diced into small cubes
- Pork belly cooked and diced into small cubes
- Micro greens and pansy flowers from Legacy Greens
Preheat oven to 470 degrees. Chop up pork belly into small cubes and cook in a pan, then place to the side and get rid of excess oil. Combine pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender. Roll out or throw pizza dough and place on a pizza peel with flour. Spread pesto, then drizzle lightly with olive oil. Spoon dollops of goat cheese evenly on pizza, then sprinkle pork belly. Cook for 10-15 minutes until edges are golden brown. Top with jicama, honey drizzle, fresh basil, microgreens and pansies.
Oregano Flower Pizza
- One 16-ounce package of pre-made whole wheat pizza dough
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 6 ounces pepperoni slices
- 2-3 small fresh tomatoes sliced thin
- Fresh oregano leaves and flowers to taste
- Coarse sea salt to taste
Heat the grill to medium and brush with olive oil. Roll the dough into 1- or 2-inch balls. Sprinkle a cutting board with corn meal, then roll out the dough as thin as possible. Transfer the dough onto the grill and cook for about two minutes on each side. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir the lemon juice and zest into the mascarpone cheese. Spread a generous portion of the cheese mixture onto the grilled pizza, then top with slices of cold pepperoni and slices of fresh tomato. Garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt, the oregano leaves and the flowers.