The Pleasures of Edible Flowers and Other Lessons from Martha Stewart

When certain friends visit me in Houston, we're all about Going Out To Eat. The itinerary revolves around much-anticipated dinners at fancy restaurants, leisurely cafe lunches and decadent brunches at The Breakfast Klub.

With other visitors, however, it's all about What To Cook. My dear friend Sophie (co-founder of the Society for Anachronistic Cooking) descended upon H-town a few weeks ago, shopping list in hand for a lovely supper of spring dishes she had seen in the Martha Stewart Living April 2012 issue.

Yes, I know it's August. But I said we're into anachronistic cookery, yes?

The first course was a lovely Lillet Rose spring cocktail. Collecting the necessary ingredients was a bit of a scavenger hunt; pink grapefruit juice and gin were on hand, but Spec's was plumb out of Lillet Rose. Thank God for Houston Wine Merchant, which put one of their two remaining bottles on hold for me. Once our cocktails were carefully shaken and adorned with tiny yellow and pink roses, we sipped. "Heaven in a glass," said Sophie. "The drink of fauns and fairies," thought I.

The (nonliquid) courses of the meal were breezy and sophisticated, much like I imagine Martha herself to be. We (well, M. Stewart, actually) paired the entrée of salmon with cucumber relish with asparagus with panko bread crumbs and pearl barley salad.

When I was grocery shopping, I didn't have high hopes for finding decent asparagus and at one point considered shelling out extra bucks for the white variety, which I've only had in Europe. But white asparagus sort of freaks me out (makes me think Bunnicula is lurking), so I nixed that idea. Fortunately, HEB came through with some hearty bunches, which worked fine except for the fact that in our gin-induced euphoria, we perhaps got too generous with the bread crumbs.

Far superior in taste and construction, however, was the pearl barley salad. Martha advises adding "any type of tender green herbs you have on hand, such as basil, mint, chives, parsley or dill." If it weren't for my husband's green thumb, I wouldn't have any of the aforementioned on hand, but thanks to his diligent care of our basil plant and a handy packet of "mixed herbs" from Whole Foods, our salad was vibrant and robust. And to those who object to a "salad" composed primarily of grains, I say "sod off." A pinch of fresh herbs far exceeds a bucket of lame lettuce in flavor and nutritive value. I'm sure Martha feels the same.

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