Thursday, May 30, 2013

Foraged Recipe: Black Locust & Ricotta Crostini with Wild Mint

Some flowers taste like flowers. Others have a floral quality, but taste primarily like something else. The black locust is one of these, its flowers taste like the sweetest of sweet spring peas, though they have a slightly crunchy texture--like celery.

Around here, black locust blooms are only available for about 2 weeks out of the year, in the late spring. Aside from being delicious, they have the advantage of being very abundant, hard to over-harvest, easy to pick, and pretty easy to identify. Check out my identification post here.

Black locust is frequently used as other edible flowers are used: in baking, or to make syrups. I really don't like to bake, and I wanted to make something that would highlight the pea-like flavors, rather than the floral taste. I also wanted something fresh to celebrate the end of spring. Peas and mint are a pretty classic combo, and cheese makes everything better, right? With wild mint in season, this pretty little appetizer (also good for a light lunch) seemed like a slam dunk. It tastes good, and is attractive an exotic enough to convert even the most hesitant non-forager.

This is exactly the kind of recipe I love to whip up. It's very affordable, and despite being easy and quick to throw together, it really looks like you spent a lot of time and effort. Crostini in general walks that fine line between rustic and sophisticated, and once you add flowers. . .well, it's just so pretty!

Black Locust & Ricotta Crostini 

serves 6-8 as an appetizer

1 baguette, multigrain or whole wheat
5 cups of loosly-packed black locust blooms,
  plus additional for garnish
1 cup whole milk ricotta (it's worth the extra calories)
1/2 cup shaved fresh Parmesan,
  plus additional for garnish
3-4 medium sized mint leaves,
  plus additional for garnish
olive oil
kosher salt

  1. Slice your baguette slightly on the diagonal. Brush each piece (top and bottom) with olive oil. Toast in the toaster oven for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned.
  2. Rinse the black locust flowers thoroughly. Add to a food processor, and pulse lightly. 
  3. Add ricotta, Parmesan, 3-4 medium-sized mint leaves and half a teaspoon of salt.
  4. Pulse, taste, adding additional salt if necessary. 
  5. To plate, top each toasted baguette slice with a generous smear of flower/ricotta mixture, a few slices of shaved Parmesan, a small mint leaf, and a single locust bloom. Don't skimp on the garnish, they enhance both the visual appeal and the flavor of the dish.

For a nice rustic presentation, serve right on a wooden cutting or cheese board.

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