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Lavender in the Kitchen

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Lavender recipes:

If you’re familiar with lavender’s intoxicating
fragrance and colorful flowers, but haven’t experienced its
appealing taste, a treat is awaiting. From cookies, breads and ice
cream to savory dishes, sauces and the famous herbes de Provence
seasoning, a hint of lavender enlivens recipes in delightful ways.
Many trendy restaurants have begun to capitalize on its sweet
mingling of floral, fresh pine and rosemary with citrus notes to
accentuate sweet and savory dishes. But don’t let the restaurants
have all the fun. Try one of these relatively simple recipes for
yourself.

Essential oils that infuse lavender with fragrance also
contribute to its flavor, with characteristics varying among
species and cultivars. French lavender (Lavandula dentata) tends to
be bolder, somewhat medicinal and more pungent in flavor; Spanish
lavender (L. stoechas) is more astringent and perceptibly more
camphorlike; the lavandins (L. ¥intermedia) are sharper and
slightly camphorous, though some varieties, such as ‘Provence’, are
mild-flavored.

Though any species will suffice in a pinch (given the right
recipe and amount), English lavender (L. angustifolia) possesses
the best culinary flavor. The complexity of flavor will vary
slightly depending on the potency and composition of its essential
oils. A few of the better culinary varieties of English lavender
include ‘Hidcote’, ‘Sharon Roberts’, ‘Loddon Blue’ and the
pink-flowering ‘Melissa’.

While both flowers and leaves can be used in cooking, the
essential oils are most concentrated in the buds and flowers, which
means they have the best flavor. A word of caution: The perfumy
flavor of lavender can overwhelm foods when too much is added. The
key to cooking with lavender is to use a light hand — just a hint
to impart a subtle nuance. You can use flowers and buds whole (be
sure they have not been chemically treated). You also can make
lavender sugar by layering flowers and sugar in a jar with a
tight-fitting lid and letting it sit for several weeks. A faster
method is to grind the buds with the sugar to form a fine
powder.

Lavender is delightful in all kinds of baked products and
desserts — from cookies, muffins and breads to cakes and ice cream.
Steep it in sauces, marinades and dressings, or create flavored
oils, vinegars and butters. Its flavor complements most fruit, nuts
and many vegetables (especially potatoes), and can be used to
season fish, poultry and other meats. Vary lavender’s appeal by
mixing it with other aromatic herbs like rosemary, fennel, oregano
or thyme to bring a new dimension to spice rubs and savory dishes.
Better yet, why not experiment and create your own lavender
delights?

Published on Jun 1, 2004

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