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Baby Veggie Flowerpot

with Edible Dirt

by Jane Worthington-Roth

I just love going out to dinner in restaurants where the chef sends a little treat over to the table – a tiny amuse bouche to wake up your palate and give a hint into the creativity of the chef. Recently, I found a fun way to showcase the season’s vegetables that are just beginning to show up at Farmer’s Markets. Baby Vegetables are young versions of the full plant, picked while they are small and bursting with flavor.

This simple appetizer can be made with any small vegetables, but choosing long, slender, delicate ones will let you add a great variety of colors and flavors. It’s also a fun way to get children to eat vegetables, as they enjoy the colors, the crunch, the dipping and, not least of all, the edible dirt. No, we’re not talking mud pies here…

The concept is simple – take a new tiny flowerpot, layer the bottom with a goat cheese/herb mixture, top with a coating of edible dirt then plant your vegetables! Many Berkshire nurseries currently have mid-summer sales, so now is the time to stock up on some new flowerpots. I found a perfect selection of glazed 2-inch flowerpots in a wide range of colors at Ward’s Garden Center in Great Barrington.

I removed all tags and washed the flowerpots well, then plugged the small drain hole with a basil leaf. Next, I combined fresh goat cheese with minced herbs – dill, chives, parsley, cilantro - and put about 1 ounce of cheese into the bottom of each flowerpot. Instead of making your own cheese mixture, you could substitute an herbed cheese blend such as Boursin.

For the edible dirt – use whatever nuts, crackers, or breads you have on hand, but to make a dark, deep dirt illusion, I toasted a couple of slices of pumpernickel bread then pulsed that in a mini food processor with some crackers that contained a lot of nuts-and-seeds. I also added a few pieces of dried porcini mushrooms to deepen the flavor of the dirt. After pulsing the mixture to a nice, even crumb, I added macadamia nut oil (a teaspoon at a time) to moisten the dirt. You don’t want it to be mushy neither do you want it to be too dry. You can use olive oil, if you’d prefer, but any type of nut oil will give it more flavour. You could also pulse in some raisins or olives to moisten the dirt and enhance the flavor. Spoon a little layer of dirt on top of the goat cheese in the flower pot.

Now comes the fun part – plant some well-scrubbed baby vegetables into the dirt. If your veggies have leaves on them (e.g. carrots and radishes) – keep them for effect! Our combination included multi-colored carrots, French breakfast radishes, deliciously crunchy sugar snap peas from Hautboy Hill Farms in West Cornwall, CT, and also some tiny organic mini gherkin cucumbers (that look amazingly like watermelons the size of your thumb) from Guido’s Marketplace in Great Barrington.

The result was a delicious, fun, simple amuse bouche – and the look on our guests’ faces when we told them the flowerpot was their appetizer was priceless!

Enjoy the summer bounty throughout the Berkshires!