Potluck: Mint and Feta Bruschetta with Chive Blossom

  • Mint and Feta Bruschetta with Chive Blossoms is a recipe that’s easy to adapt, as long as you have fresh mint. © Keller + Keller Photography

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    Excerpted from "Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen" © Brittany Wood Nickerson. Used with permission from Storey Publishing. © Keller + Keller Photography

For the Gazette/Hampshire Life
Published: 6/1/2018 9:54:06 AM

The first greens to arrive in the early spring are highly nutritious, packed with vitamins and minerals that are ready to give the body the boost it needs after a long winter eating food that has either been stored or traveled long distances to get to us.

Examples of early wild greens include dandelion greens, nettle, garlic mustard and peppercress. Many of these are garden or yard weeds and can be foraged and enjoyed in the early spring. At my home in Conway, I have harvested all of these flavorful treats this spring — I have made pestos, wild salads and wild greens soups. (If you are looking for ideas about how to cook with wild foods, you can find recipes on my blog, thymeherbal. com-/blog.)  

It isn’t until a little later in the spring when the weather warms that aromatic herbs begin to emerge. In addition to chives and other allium family greens, mints are some of the first herbs to pop up in our climate — zesty, aromatic and irresistibly fresh tasting, they are welcome treats after a long winter.  These pungent aromatics help stimulate the metabolism and wake up the senses in the spring. They also add an unmatched delight to cooking.

The history of cooking is in many ways characterized by the use of herbs. Culinary traditions revolve around different staple foods and flavor profiles found in herbs and other accents — the art of cooking is the union of the two to create harmonious and healthful combinations. Around the world, culinary herbs share many similar properties and flavor profiles — usually bitter, pungent and aromatic — and support digestion and assimilation of nutrients by stimulating the metabolism. The aromatic compounds in these culinary herbs also help relax and soothe the nervous system. The long and the short of it is that cooking with herbs makes your food much more healthful and nutritious, which ultimately means that the more flavorful your food is (when it is flavored with herbs, that is), the better it is for you.

When I cook, I think a lot about preparing food in a way that makes it easier to digest. These days, I do a lot of creative cooking  for my 16-month-old daughter — my goal is to make her food as nutritious and as digestible as possible. She loves potatoes, so I mash them up for her with home-made grass-fed ghee, plain yogurt and chopped parsley or another flavorful herb. She loves them! The addition of the herbs and yogurt are not just for the nutrients they contain, but also for the diverse, challenging flavors that they bring — which stimulate her digestion and make the nutrients in the food more absorbable.  

In my garden, the chive blossoms are about to bloom — something I wait for all year long! This mint and feta bruschetta with chive blossoms dish is a celebration of culinary herbs, richly packed with flavor and nutrition — it is a real treat for the senses. It is also a celebration of spring and the vibrant, colorful gifts that warmer weather bring.

It’s such a delicious and simple dish to prepare that I find myself wanting to make it all summer, long after the chives and their blossoms have passed. It is easy to adapt this recipe, as long as you still have fresh mint. You can substitute tender onion greens or scallions for the oniony flavor of the chives, and the chive blossoms can be replaced with any colorful edible flowers — calendula petals and nasturtium flowers are some of my favorites. If you don’t have a garden of your own, these ingredients can usually be found at your local farmers market or natural food store.

Mint and Feta Bruschetta 
with Chive Blossoms

As the sun sets, it casts a warm light on the garden. The bees buzz excitedly around the chive blossoms, harvesting the pollen and, I imagine, enjoying this smell — somehow oniony and floral, pungent, and sweet at the same time. I join them, collecting the tops and tender stems. Another fragrance joins my nose, and I stop to pick some mint before I head into the kitchen. I won’t wash these fresh, aromatic greens — like the bees, I want to enjoy the vitality of the garden: soft leaves, fragrant oils, and fresh pollen.

Yield: 4 servings as an appetizer 

    ½    cup fresh chive blossoms

    1    French baguette

    ½    pound feta cheese, crumbled

    1    cup chopped fresh mint

    ½    cup minced chives

    2–4    tablespoons olive oil

   Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.    Preheat the oven to 325°F (170°C).

2.    While the oven is heating, pull apart the chive blossoms, removing the central stem and plucking the tiny purple florets.

3.    Set the baguette in the hot oven and bake for
7 to 10 minutes, until the edges are crispy but not browned.

4.    Meanwhile, combine the feta in a bowl with the mint, minced chives, and chive florets. 

Add enough of the oil to moisten, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

5.    Remove the baguette from the oven and slice along the diagonal. Arrange on a platter with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bruschetta mixture on each slice. Drizzle with a little more oil and serve.

Soft or Crispy?

I like to make bruschetta with the bread soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. 

If you prefer the bread to be crisp throughout, slice it on the diagonal to start with, brush each piece with olive oil, and bake on a baking sheet at 325°F (170°C) for 5 to 7 minutes, until crispy.

Recipe excerpted from “Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen” © by Brittany Wood Nickerson, photography © by Keller + Keller Photography, used with permission from Storey Publishing.

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