Many are skeptical when faced with a recipe calling for lavender, and rightly so! Too much of this fragrant purple herb will leave your dish tasting, horribly and unrelentingly, like a bar of soap. But if you hit it just right, that soft and ethereal lavender flavor is a beautiful thing. Do you ever cook with lavender?
Cooking with lavender might make more sense when you realize that it's actually a member of the mint family. Rosemary and sage, two other highly aromatic herbs, are its close cousins. Lavender itself has a sweet and floral flavor with a bitter edge that increases in potency once dried.
A little goes a long way in cooking. While the flowers are edible, they're best when infused into cream or sugar syrup and then strained before using. Start with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers per cup of liquid, or 3/4 to 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers. The longer you let the flowers infuse, the stronger the infusion. Start tasting after 15 minutes and strain the lavender flowers when the infusion tastes good to you.
We most often think of using lavender in sweet custards and other desserts, but it's flavor is also at home in many savory dishes. When mixed with other herbs, like herbes de provence, lavender can make a fantastic addition to roasted chicken or grilled meats. It can also be used in marinades or infused with olive oil for salad dressings.
When you're planning to use lavender for cooking, always buy organic lavender flowers. Lavender intended to be used for fragrance only tend to be treated with pesticides and other unsavory things. If you buy whole stems or cut them from your garden, the flowers can be used right away and can be removed by gently rubbing along the stem. To dry fresh flowers for later, bundles several stems together and place them upside down inside a paper bag. The dried buds will detach easily from the stem after a few days and can be stored in an airtight container for several months.
Ready for some lavender experiments? Here are some of our favorite recipes:
• Honey Lavender Panna Cotta
• Lavender Lemonade
• French Toast with Lavender and Grapefruit
• Rhubarb Lavender Crumble
• Fig and Lavender Goat Cheese Galettes
How do you use lavender in your kitchen?
Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Lavender Sea Salt
(Images: Emma Christensen)