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Nasturtiums Stuffed With Herbed Cream Cheese

Try these whimsical hors d'ouevres and you'll agree that a red, yellow or orange nasturtium is more than just another pretty face. E.J. Magnani, co-executive chef for Dana Kline Catering, says the fresh, mildly peppery taste combined with the other ingredients is a sure crowd-pleaser in any season. Magnani suggests checking for flowers' availability first -- from Perri Produce, special food stores or floral shops.

8-ounce package cream cheese
1 box nasturtiums, whole flowers including stems (usually 7 or 8 bunches per box, 8 flowers per bunch)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 scallion, minced
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch salt

Refrigerate boxed flowers when purchased; they should be used within two days. Cut off the stems before filling, with approximately 1/4 inch remaining to hold the nasturtiums together.

After removing the flowers from the box, inspect them very gently and rinse under a slightly dripping faucet (they're grown organically -- no spraying), to dispose of any hitchhikers from the garden.

Filling: Just before serving, mix all ingredients thoroughly by processor or by hand. Place the mixture in a pastry bag with a small "star" tip and fill the flower's center immediately. When the filling is squeezed out of the bag, it will form a star-shaped dollop. Yields about 35 hors d'oeuvres; discard any leftovers.

Use unfilled nasturtiums to garnish your serving platter, or pop them into a vase for a little sunshine in your home.

Thursday, July 22, 1999

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