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Cooking with Lavender

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Lavender gives a subtle and unique taste to both savory and sweet dishes. It is one of the core ingredients in a mix of dried herbs called Herbs De Provence which is used as a rub on meat as well as vegetables. Lavender can also be used to flavor lemonade and sugar. Key to using lavender in the kitchen though is to use the right variety of the herb, and to use it sparingly. Too much lavender can give an overly floral taste to the meal.
Most angustifolia varieties are suitable for cooking and give a mild flavor. The tender lavenders have more camphor and generally are not used in the kitchen. Most recipes use just the flowers but the stem can also be used. Both dried and fresh lavender can be used.

Herbs de Provence
There are as many recipes for this mix as there are recipes for salsa but the basic is always the same. The three herbs are all Mediterranean in origin and have been blended together for a meat rub for generations. The basic recipe is ½ tsp lavender; 2 tsp thyme; 2 tsp rosemary and a crushed bay leaf. The mix is usually made with dried herbs but can be made with fresh herbs too. Other common herbs to add include basil, savory, parsley and oregano.
Lavender Sugar
Lavender has oil that is released as it dries and when the fresh blooms are placed into a container with sugar, the scent permeates the mix as it dries. Using a small jar with a lid, put about ½” of sugar in the bottom. Place a small muslin bag of lavender into the jar and cover with more sugar. Place the cap on the jar and let it sit in a dark, cool cupboard for about 6 weeks, turning occasionally. The sugar can now be used in recipes when you want a slightly different taste. For instance brush cookies with a little milk and then sprinkle lavender sugar over the top, the cookies will take on a subtle lavender taste. Leave the bag of lavender in the container to maintain the flavor of the remaining sugar.
Lavender Lemonade
Lavender lemonade is a great way to introduce the flavor to children – as the dark color of lavender-infused water mixes with a lemonade base, it magically turns to pink.
Prepare the initial lemonade base as per your recipe. Place a teaspoonful of lavender into a saucepan and cover with about 2 pints of water. Bring this to just under a boil, then cover and remove from the heat. After the infused water is completely cool, strain the liquid and use that along with water to make the lemonade. The attractive pink lemonade is served over ice. For added flavor try putting a small sprig of rosemary into the water with the lavender.
Lavender Salad Dressing
Lavender can liven up salads when it is used in a simple salad dressing. Using a classic oil and vinegar base (1/4 cup vinegar and ¾ cup oil) add a finely chopped garlic clove, salt and freshly ground black pepper and a ¼ tsp of finely chopped lavender buds. If you prefer a finer mix, swirl the mix in a blender. For the vinegar most people use a good white wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and for the oil use a light olive oil. Adjust the amount of lavender to about ¾ tsp if you use fresh lavender rather than dry.
Lavender Butter
Lavender butter is made by softening a ¼ cup of butter and adding ¼ tsp of lavender buds. Blend together and place into a small cup. Refrigerate and use on freshly steamed vegetables before serving.
There are, of course many more recipes for lavender in the kitchen but remember to start with a conservative amount, and never use lavender that has been treated with chemicals.

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