Almost all the culinary herbs are suitable for these artistic one-of-a-kind treats, so harvest a fanciful variety of sprigs and blossoms. If you lack an herb garden purchase a bunch each of Italian parsley dill thyme and basil. Edible flowers can be found at speciality produce markets. (Avoid flowers from florist shops as they are commonly sprayed with unsuitable chemicals.) Use rustic dense loaves for the canape bases; softer breads will not hold up.
Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl. Add the chives and 3 tablespoons of the milk and stir until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk as needed to thin to the correct consistency.
Using a serrated knife, trim the crusts from the loaves of bread. Cut the loaves into slices 1/3 inch thick. Cut each slice into 2-1/2- to 4-inch squares, 2-by-3-inch rectangles or 3-inch triangles. Spread the cream cheese mixture on the bread cutouts (use approximately 1 tablespoon per 2-1/2-inch square). Arrange the cutouts on baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
If possible, pick the herb flowers in the early morning, when they are at their freshest. choose from the flowers of borage, both common and garlic chives, chamomile, chervil, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, sweet marjoram and thyme. If you have edible flowers, pick them as well. Select nasturtiums, pansies, violets and/or violas. (Caution: be sure the flowers you pick are indeed edible, and that they have not been sprayed with pesticides unsuitable for edible plants.) Gently rinse all the flowers and stand them in water in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours.
Use herb leaves to fill out the designs. Italian and curly-leaf parsleys, mint, dill, purple and sweet basils, sweet marjoram, oregano, thyme and variegated sages all work well. Carefully wash the leaves and gently pat them dry on paper towels. Lay them out on a baking sheet lined with damp paper towels and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
To assemble the canapes, decorate each cutout with an herb flower or an edible flower or two. Add a few contrasting herb leaves. Use your imagination when mixing the different colors and textures. The hors d'oeuvre may be prepared a few hours in advance, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, but the less time before serving, the fresher the flowers will be. To unify the design, put a paper doily on a decorative tray and transfer the hors d'oeuvres to the tray. Serve at once.
Serves 8 to 10
Scones, Muffins & Tea Cakes
Edited by Heidi Cusick
Photographs by Kathryn Kleinman and Deborah Jones
6-1/2"x 6-1/2"; 96 pages; hardcover
54 recipes; 54 photographs $12.95
Reprinted with permission.
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