Thursday, March 14, 2013

Culinary Lavender

Cooking with flower buds is not something I normally do but I wanted to explore culinary lavender for sweet and savory uses.

I started by making infused sugar.  This couldn't be easier.  A cup of granulated sugar and a tablespoon of culinary lavender buds whirled in a food processor will yield an extremely fragrant, superfine sugar.  This sugar can be used in baking or in place of normal granulated sugar when you want a boost of floral flavor.

Scones dough ready for the oven.
I found an awesome scone recipe that called for lavender buds.  In addition I used my lavender infused sugar in place of regular granulated sugar. 
I couldn't wait to bite into my fresh from the oven scone.  Not only did it smell fantastic, it was flaky, buttery, tender and oh so flavorful. 
Hubby was amazed at the fragrance when he walked in the door several hours later.  The house smelled fantastic from the baked lavender.
This recipe is one you really should try.  The scones would be awesome for for Easter or any other spring celebration.  Click here for the recipe.  My suggestions would be to use the lavender infused sugar for the regular granulated sugar.  Cut in the butter with knives or a pastry blender rather than rubbing with your finger.  The dough will be less tough.  The recipe suggests serving with lemon curd which I agree would be delicious.  I ate mine warm with a bit of butter.  You can't miss serving this with Earl Grey tea.

I decided to try two chicken recipes using culinary lavender.  This recipe for boneless chicken breasts is by Mark Bittman.  It is lightning fast, cooking in about 12 minutes on top of the stove.  Besides chicken, the ingredients are olive oil, garlic, thyme, lavender buds and riesling wine.  I would caution you to adhere to the stated  cooking time.  I would also suggest using thin rather than thick boneless breasts.  Over cooking will yield tough chicken.  
The chicken is subtly flavorful and aromatic.  I served it with mashed red skin potatoes and green beans topped with pistachio oil and chopped pistachios.  This is a lovely, quick dinner with lavender being a surprise flavor.  
Recipe two roasts in the oven after a marinade in honey, lemon juice and zest, garlic,crushed lavender buds and olive oil.
Not real pretty in the roasting pan but WOW, the aroma and the flavor of this chicken was outstanding. I used boneless chicken thighs.  They were tender and succulent and so ambrosial.  The flavors are in perfect harmony: just the right combination of sweet honey, tangy lemon and floral lavender.  Click here for the recipe.
* This recipe would be perfect for feeding a crowd.  Make a big roasting pan of these boneless chicken thighs and you will be a "rock star".  How perfect would this chicken be for Easter?  

So where else does dried lavender show up in cooking?  
It is one of the many herbs in Herbes de Provence, used to flavor meat, fish, poultry and vegetables.  Also great in a omelet with gruyere cheese! 

Herbes de Provence includes:
 dried thyme
 dried marjoram
 dried summer savory
 dried rosemary
 dried tarragon
 dried basil
 dried fennel seeds
 dried chervil
 dried mint
 dried lavender flowers

 How can you use lavender infused sugar?  

Lavender shortbread
Sweeten oatmeal
Lavender, white chocolate pots de creme
Lavender ice cream
Use to sweeten iced tea and lemonade
Boil equal parts water and lavender sugar to make simple syrup for cocktails

Toss with pears before roasting

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