Chive blossoms are one of those spring specialties I spend the entire rest of the year looking forward to finding at the farmer’s market or in a friend’s garden. The round, puffed clusters of delicate lavender blossoms nodding at the ends of comically long thin stems like cartoon flowers are almost their own reward just for their goofy beauty….but then there’s the flavor. Delicately onion-like, a little floral, just garden perfection. Chive blossoms are like nothing else, and that’s reason enough to look forward to them all year. 

I always make chive blossom-steeped vinegar and sprinkle the little lavender blooms on my salads, but a tartine of chive blossom compound butter with a thin layer of another spring favorite, juicy fresh radish slices, is my absolute favorite way to consume this treat. A tartine is nothing more than a slice of good bread all gussied up French-style, with something delicious spread on it—it doesn't need to be anything more than that, and this chive blossom butter is certainly excellent on its own. But the addition of thinly sliced radishes at the peak of their spring perfection, adds an element of crunch and faintly peppery bite that really completes this humble little snack in an elegant way.

Tartine of Chive Blossom Basil Butter & Radishes

Makes 4 oz. of compound butter

1 stick (4 oz.) good quality unsalted or cultured butter
10 chive blossom heads (large purple clusters of tiny blossoms)
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Rustic loaf of bread, sliced
Thinly sliced radishes (use your sharpest knife and try for translucent slices)

Let butter soften to room temperature in a bowl. Carefully rinse chive blossom heads and shake loose any garden grit, then gently blot them dry. Remove the tiny blossoms from the head and sprinkle them over the butter along with the basil, folding them in with a spoon or spatula as you do. Add honey, salt and pepper, check taste and adjust as needed. Extra compound butter can be re-formed into a stick shape, twisted up tightly in plastic wrap and saved in the refrigerator for easy slicing (use within a week for the best results).

To assemble, spread chive blossom butter on a slice of rustic bread, arrange as many thinly sliced radishes as you like on top, and maybe a tiny sprig of basil for color. Here’s to spring!


So, I've been thinking a lot lately on the question of necessity.

Really thinking. I mean, I've pondered and tapped thoughtfully on both my forehead and my keyboard and hummed, typed, erased, re-typed (more on the 'why' of that, later). What do we humans really need? The question has a special relevance for someone who loves to create in the kitchen, I think, because really, you know..........why? Do we need to create special meals? Do we really need dessert, a course on the menu which has always been about pleasure and never about sustenance? Could we not just jam raw nutrients directly into our mouths? Sure, we could do that. But I'd argue that we need beautiful cooking just as urgently as we need books, art, poetry and the music of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen in our lives. Like we need italics in our typing. We just do.

Why am I bringing this up today? The 2015 Saveur Food Blog Award nominations opened up on March 3rd, and I've been thinking about them ever since. I mean, are accolades necessary? We don't need them, I suppose. And yet, we just do. Like the candied violet (and yes, more on the 'how' of that later) on top of a beautiful cake, don't they just they add a shiver of unexpected pleasure here and there? Do I want to win a 2015 Saveur Food Blog Award?

Dear readers, I've gotta admit to you, I very much do.

Do you have thirty seconds to spare? Because that's all the time you'll need to help me out by nominating Sweet Laurel for this award (you don't even need to register to nominate!). Just follow this link and then make your screen look like mine does in the photo above. And thank you! The freshly baked lavender-lemon shortbread cookies are in the mail, I promise. ;)

Why all the thoughtful tapping, typing, erasing, re-typing? Well, I hate to ask. Simple. I don't write to win awards (wouldn't that be a bit like spending years falling in love and getting married just to ultimately get your hands on a blender? A pretty shameful example of totally missing the point along the way), and I don't like to solicit attention unless it's towards a worthy goal. But as a real flesh-and-blood human with a soul and an ego, I'm not going to lie to all of you following along at home......this one matters to me. Saveur is one of the last print publications doing real food journalism, and their sixth annual blog awards are a real-deal Big Event to me. Some of the most well-respected blogs (and favorite daily reads of mine) have been finalists and winners of this same award along the way. I'd be beside myself with happiness and gratitude just to be in their company as a finalist. I'll try not to say too much more on the subject until the results are announced.

As to that nagging question of necessity, there's no real answer, as is true of the best questions in life. There's no question in my mind that we need cooking as a form of self-expression. Likewise, in 2015 there's no question for me that we need food blogs themselves; many of us depend on them even more than cookbooks these days (although of course many of us are still hopelessly addicted to buying cookbooks, as well). But food blogging awards, a necessity? Of course not. They're not the main meal itself, awards are really just the candied violets on top. And that's quite all right with me.

You may remember these particular candied flowers making an appearance in last month's Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cake post, but I thought I just couldn't do these little darlings sufficient justice without a post of their own, so here we go!

Candied Edible Flowers

These make a spectacular topping (almost like edible confetti) for any cake you're particularly proud of, whether it's a show-stopping centerpiece or a pile of darling little cupcakes. Still, don't feel limited to the world of desserts. These little beauties look magically dipped in crystallized fairy dust, and add an otherwordly, 'forest floor' touch to any course on your menu. Try a sprinkling of candied flowers on a mixed green salad, or as an unexpected garnish on a sweet & savory main course like honey-glazed pork tenderloin. Or just try a handful, inserted directly into your mouth! Few things in the culinary world feel stranger and better than eating handfuls of flowers.

Violas*, as shown (make sure they're grown without pesticides, specifically to be eaten)
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon water
Fine granulated sugar
One small paintbrush (use a brand new synthetic-bristled one for this, you can pick one up at any art or craft supply store for just a few dollars)
Parchment paper

( *Plenty of other flowers, including roses and marigolds, have edible petals that can be candied)

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg white with the water just until thoroughly combined. The slightly thinner texture created by adding water will make the mixture easier to brush onto the delicate petals.

Leave the stems on your flowers during the sugaring process to use as a handle (they're not edible, so just snip them off once flowers have set). Dip the bristles of your brush in the egg white mixture and gently paint it onto the petals of each flower. Gently. I can't stress that enough. This is an easy task, unless you're impatient or in a hurry, so just, you know......chill. Get into the whole slow, repetitive, satisfyingly crafty nature of completing this task. Just don't rip those petals! 

After you've brushed one flower thoroughly with egg white, hold it over a small plate or saucer and shower it with granulated sugar. Shake off the excess, repeat if necessary until no more sugar will stick. Set flower aside to dry on parchment, repeat with remaining flowers. 

The coating will set on your flowers after a few hours, after which you can gently snip or pinch the stems off and use them to decorate to your heart's content! Your candied blossoms will keep in an airtight container for up to three months, but with all the cupcakes, salads and roasts you'll be decking out in flowers, they're not likely to stick around that long.