Flower Power: Why Chefs Are Digging Sunflowers
There’s a lot more to cooking with the flower than the seeds. Here are the chefs doing it best right now.
The hottest ingredient among chefs right now also happens to be the sunniest.
All parts of the sunflower are showing up on dishes across the country, from nutty seeds to pliable petals. Meet the new flower children and their creative new ideas.
At Elske in Chicago, pastry chef Anna Posey subs sunflower seeds for nuts. “I wanted to use something that still has a toasty, nutty flavor but is suitable for people with allergies,” she says. Posey has always loved the taste of sunflower seeds, so for her parsnip ice cream dessert, she cooks them down in sugar and little oil to create a thick praline paste. The crunchy praline adds texture to the ice cream, black currant jelly and chicory dish.
Chef Jaime Young loved the medicinal flavor of the petals during his days working at Atera in New York City. “I immediately thought of fish,” he says of his thought process in flavor pairing. He tapped that experience for his black sea bass crudo with pickled chiles and Teddy Bear sunflower petals at New York's Sunday in Brooklyn.
As far as chef Miles Thompson is concerned, there’s no limit to infusions. He’s experimented with injecting rose geranium and chamomile in wine, and now at Michael’s in Santa Monica, California, he’s doing the same with sunchokes and oil. He slowly roasts the roots in sunflower oil for 12 hours, then strains the oil for a super nutty taste. After whipping with high-fat European butter and sea salt, he serves the butter with housemade buckwheat sourdough bread.
At the new location of Local Republic in Lawrenceville, Georgia, chef Scott Smith can’t get enough of local farmer Tommy Hill’s young sunflowers. He’s been know to toss them with scallops and sprinkle them in a pecan- and Sweet Grass Dairy tomme-studded salad, but the abundant and constantly changing summer produce can inspire slight different variations.