15 July 2010
As mentioned earlier this week it was time for another personal challenge here at More Than Burnt Toast. I love to create a menu around an ingredient or an idea. As you are reading this I am continuing the B-day celebrations in Vancouver (such is the power of Blogger) but I wanted to continue to share my experiences with cooking with lavender with you all. For the past week I have taken on the challenge of creating a menu from beginning to end... from salad to dessert... using culinary lavender and infusions, each recipe incorporating a new technique.
One of the pleasures of having lavender in the summer garden is thinking up new ways to use it. I started this challenge off with a Nectarine and Lavender Salad with Goat Cheese Medallions as a first course. Fresh lavender flowers were used to impart their unique flavour. Our next technique used the stems of the lavender for an entree of Lemony Shrimp and Garlic on Lavender Stems. These shrimp skewers get their hint of lavender flavour from the skewers themselves. Today I am using a third technique by creating a lavender infused olive oil for a potato and fennel side dish I found at Cooking with Corey that married well with the shrimp. Many of us associate lavender with a floral taste but it is interesting to note that it is part of the mint family and can be substituted for rosemary in almost any dish.
Unless you are from France the fact that has surprised readers the most is that lavender lends itself to savoury dishes, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Release the flavour by using an herb mill or mortar and pestle to break up dry lavender to release its aroma before using in as an ingredient in a recipe. In The Lavender Garden, Robert Kourik suggests that lavender foliage can be substituted for rosemary in almost any dish. Both are members of the enormous mint family, and both have a powerfully aromatic flavour with resinous undertones. His recipes include one for lamb chops cooked over lavender sprigs and garlic and another for boneless chicken breasts laid on top of fresh lavender stalks and cooked on a cast iron griddle over an open fire.
Lavender has become a popular ingredient for cooking for both sweet and savoury dishes but a little goes a long way. Keep in mind that too much lavender, as with other herbs, can overpower a recipe. Use it sparingly. Start out using small amounts and experiment a bit until you find what amount works best for your taste and in a particular recipe. Meantime, consider it as a complimentary background flavour, similar to the use of vanilla.
Wherever your culinary experiments take you, the real secret is to use lavender with the greatest restraint, particularly if you are substituting the dried flowers for fresh blooms: A good rule of thumb is to use half as much dried lavender as you would fresh. And if you buy lavender, be sure that it is culinary, unsprayed quality.
My own inspiration came from a beautiful farm property with sweeping views of Okanagan Lake the Okanagan Lavender Herb Farm . The McFadden family reinvented their heritage property into an agritourism business which today features over 60 varieties of fragrant lavender. Row upon row of gentle waves of icy blue, mauve, and deep violet billow all around you with themed herbal gardens and an array of whimsical vine sculptures.
This potato dish complimented the shrimp well with it's subtle hint of peppery lavender. I added some of the fennel fronds in for good measure. Next comes dessert which is something we associate with lavender more readily.......so stay tuned:D
**Lavender-Infused Potatoes with Garlic and Fennel**
Cooking with Corey
Ingredients for Lavender-Infused Olive Oil:
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
Ingredients for Potato Fennel Dish:
1 tablespoon lavender-infused olive oil (created from the above concoction)
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 medium-sized red potatoes, sliced into 1/4" rounds, with skins intact
1 small fennel bulb with stalks and fronds intact
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste (approximately 1/2 teaspoon)
pepper, to taste (approximately 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup water (optional, add as needed)
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley (for garnishing)
To make the lavender-infused olive oil, put dried lavender buds into a small glass jar and pour olive oil on top. If necessary, add more olive oil to completely fill the jar to the top. Put lid on jar and tighten. (If you don't have a lid, tightly stretch plastic wrap over top of jar and then place rubber band around top lip of the jar.) Keep out of direct sunlight, placing jar in a dark place like an unlit cabinet. Please note: Jar must remain in this location for 1 week before using. So you might want to plan to do this step in advance. LOL!
After 1 week, remove jar and place contents into a strainer, with a bowl underneath to catch the liquid. Press spoon against strainer to extract excess olive oil. Pour contents of bowl back into jar and seal. Place aside.
Boil potatoes for 10-15 minutes, then drain and set aside. Potatoes should still be slightly hard to the touch; they shouldn't be cooked all the way through at this point.
While potatoes are cooking, remove fronds and stalks from fennel bulb, separating the fronds and putting them in a small dish. Reserve stalks and put back into the refrigerator for future use. (Although this recipe doesn't make use of the stalks, they can be incorporated into recipes like fennel bean soup, etc.) Chop fennel bulb into crescent-like slivers and put aside.
Pour 1 tablespoon of the lavender-infused olive oil into a large sauté pan. Seal the jar tightly and return to unlit area. (The remainder of the lavender-infused olive oil can be used for culinary or cosmetic purposes.)
Add garlic and cook on medium heat for about a minute or so. Do not brown garlic.
Add sliced potatoes and cook until they are just starting to brown. Then add fennel to pan and cook until tender. Stir continually and add a dollop of water if necessary, so that ingredients don't stick to bottom of pan and/or burn.
Add lemon juice, oregano, and marjoram. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Cook until all ingredients are soft and tender. (Watch pan carefully while you cook, so that ingredients aren't accidentally overcooked or burned.)
Garnish with parsley and serve.
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