by Kate Heyhoe
My mother used to scatter lavender buds under her bed to keep the Texas scorpions away, but there are much tastier uses for lavender.
Trendy mixologists are mixing lavender into mojitos and other cocktails. The French toss lavender into their classic blend known as Herbes de Provence. Specialty and health food stores sell lavender in their bulk herb bins. And even McCormick now offers jars of dried lavender buds: proof that shoppers are ready to experiment with the seasoning power of this potent flower.
Earlier this year I listed lavender in my 2009 trend predictions. Now's the time, literally, to run through the lavender field. In June and into July, lavender festivals take place at farms coast to coast. Pick your own fresh buds or stock up on dried ones. Crush a fresh flower under your nose for an instant pick-me-up: not wired like caffeine, but sensory-stimulating and refreshing. Bring home a plant for the garden. Lavender loves sun, is drought tolerant, and ensures sweet dreams when the buds' aroma wafts through an open bedroom window. Plus, lavender keeps scorpions and other insects away.
Lavender is indeed potent. Too much and you'll feel like you're eating granny's sachet. But with judicial use, a little lavender is like no other seasoning: sweet and floral yes, but not un-manly, especially when paired with spunkier flavors. Black pepper and lavender are a personal favorite. Lemon and lemon thyme, woodsy rosemary, earthy sage, and pungent mustard all add balance to lavender's heady floral flavor. Lavender has infinite applications in the sweet kitchen, of course, which is where it's most often used alone or often with vanilla, another flowery flavor. Mint and lavender also mingle well in sweet or savory.
Last month when strawberries were flush and at their peak, I sliced them up and macerated them with a little sugar to extend their life. I made a Simple Lavender Syrup, and served the strawberries with the syrup and freshly ground black pepper. A huge hit. Lavender syrup and black pepper on fresh cantaloupe, another winner. I haven't tried glazing an apple tart with thickened lavender syrup, but my instincts say this would also be divine (with a blast of lemon zest, too). And lavender syrup (which keeps one to two weeks refrigerated) makes lemonade and iced tea super special, and even better with a sprig of mint.
Starting with my Lavender Syrup, here's a collection of Lavender Recipes to inspire your own sweet and savory meals:
Makes about 1 cup
Pour the cooked syrup through a small wire-mesh strainer to remove the lavender buds; even a tea-strainer will work. I store mine in a glass jar in the fridge, ready and waiting.
Uses: Pour the Simple Lavender Syrup over sliced strawberries or cantaloupe. Kick up the contrast with freshly ground black pepper or grated lemon zest. Or, stir into hot or iced tea or lemonade.
Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the lavender's aroma fills the air, about 3 minutes. Strain. Serve warm or at room temperature, or stir cold into drinks. (Will keep 1 week. Store refrigerated.)
Wakame salad has become the darling of sushi bars and take-out cases. It's slightly spicy, with a sweet-tart balance, and a toothsome chewiness that belies its origins as a sea vegetable—especially one that has been dried, reconstituted, prepared as a salad, and shipped frozen. Once thawed, prepared wakame salad sells for several dollars a pound. But you can make your own wakame salad in minutes at a fraction of the cost, and serve it now or freeze it for later enjoyment. It keeps beautifully.
Recipe and more at Kate's Wakame Salad
Get Dad grilling this Father's Day!
Copyright © 2009, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified June 2009
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