Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lavender - Is it a Color, a Scent, a Flavor or Medicine? Part 2 - A Mother's Day Feast of Flowers

Yesterday's post on lavender covered the medicinal properties of lavender, so today I wanted to give you a few recipes that feature this amazing flowering herb . . . In fact I'm giving you an entire Mother's Day dinner menu!

If you've never cooked or baked with lavender flowers, you simply must give it a try.  I want to warn you that when it comes to using lavender in your culinary endeavors, less is more.  Just a few of these tiny flowers provide a floral note and heady aroma to your dishes that is unparalleled.  And now that you know some of the healing properties of lavender, you understand how even a little can truly make food your medicine . . .

Let's start off with a super simple way to impart the delicate flavor of lavender to everyday dishes . . . let's make some Lavender Honey!

For many years I baked and cooked with honey, until I found out from an Ayurvedic physician that it's a big NO-NO . . . and so is pasteurizing or heating over 180 degrees.  It seems that when bees make honey, tiny bits of wax get mixed in and when that wax melts it's nearly impossible for our bodies to excrete it.  So keeping honey in its raw state and using it to drizzle over fresh fruit, ice cream and baked goods, stirred into a cup of tea or used in a soothing face mask is perfect.  Keeping it raw also retains all of the enzymes that are found in honey that help us digest it, as well as many of the other healing benefits honey offers, but that's info for another post on another day.  :)

So here are the directions for making your own lavender honey . . .

Lavender Honey
If you are fortunate enough to live near a beekeeper, this recipe is likely to become one of your favorites. On its own raw honey is delicious and has many health benefits, but when combined with lavender flowers it becomes absolutely heavenly! While you should never bake or cook with honey, it is perfect to drizzle over GF and WF waffles, muffins or ice crème. I also love it on piping hot biscuits, mixed into butter and drizzled over sweet potatoes . . . Once you give it a taste, I think you’ll be hooked! It even makes a great addition to a face or body mask.
Yield – 1 cup

1 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers
1 x 2 inch piece of lemon zest

Loosely wrap lavender flowers in cheese cloth. Place lemon zest and lavender flowers in the bottom of a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Pour raw honey over the zest and flowers, cap and store at least 1 week before using. The scent and oils from the lavender will permeate the honey. There’s no real need to remove the zest or flowers until you reach the bottom of the jar, but feel free to do so after 2-3 weeks.

Wrapped with a beautiful ribbon, this makes a fantastic gift.

But now you need something special to make with that delicious Lavender Honey . . . how about a smooth and creamy frozen dessert!  I dreamed up what I think is likely the best gelato I have ever made!  I used Goat's Milk Ricotta from my cookbook (the recipe also offers a substitution), a bit of tart lemon, a sprinkling of lavender flowers and of course, Lavender Honey and it is divine!!!  What could be better for Mother's Day or as the ending to any special day?

Here it is . . .

Lavender Honey & Lemon Ricotta Gelato
This is a seductive little dessert! It’s light, slightly tart and tangy, with a floral hint from the lavender and sweetness only honey can impart. I guarantee that you will be hooked after the first bite.
Yield – 4 servings

2 cups Goat’s Milk Ricotta or 3 cups goat yogurt drained overnight
¼ cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon stevia powder
3 tablespoons Lavender Honey
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon lavender flowers

I am fortunate enough to live near a market that carries goat’s milk ricotta. But last year I designed a recipe that mimics it, you can find it on page of my cookbook, OMG! That’s Allergy Free? But in a pinch you can simply line a strainer with unbleached coffee filters or paper towels and drain 3 cups of goat or sheep’s milk yogurt overnight. At least 1 cup will drain out. You can reserve it and use it in smoothies or as the liquid in biscuits.

In a bowl whisk all of the ingredients until smooth and creamy.

Pour into the bowl of your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers directions. When frozen, serve immediately topped with a few lavender flowers or a drizzle of lavender honey.

While this is a great dessert to serve Mom, what about the main course . . . well I wouldn't let you down there, would I!  How about a very simple but completely beautiful roasted chicken using - you guessed it, lavender?

That may sound a little strange until you recall that Herbes de Provance contains lavender flowers!  I use this herbal blend, but I know it's not in everyone's kitchen.  So I thought I would share a recipe for the blend that you can not only use to make Mom's special dinner, but bottle up the remainder, tie it with a ribbon and tuck it into her gift basket!

Here it is . . .

Photo Courtesy of the Meaning of Pie

Herbes de Provence
This is a blend of herbs that are native to the region of Provence in Southern France. While it is similar to Italian blends, the lavender flowers and fennel give this blend something special. Several companies sell their own blend of herbs under this name, but I find this particular combo to be the best. Since you may have, or grow most of these herbs, mixing up a small batch takes only minutes and will keep at least 6-9 months in a tightly covered jar. If you are growing lots of herbs, this special combo makes a wonderful gift for the cook in your life.
Yield – 1/3 cup

1 teaspoon lavender flowers
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon tarragon
1 teaspoon summer savory
1 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon sage
2 teaspoons thyme
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons rosemary
2 teaspoons parsley

Stir to combine thoroughly and store in a small jar with a tightly fitting lid.

This blend makes a perfect dry rub for roasted chicken, simply sprinkle on fresh or roasted tomatoes, over fruit salads or blend into a vinaigrette to make your next salad pop with flavor.

Traditionally Herbes de Provence contains lavender flowers, thyme, fennel, rosemary and summer savory and then chefs individualize from there. So if you are missing, or don’t care for one or more of these herbs, you can create a blend that suits you.

Now on to the entree!  How about a roasted chicken that has such delicate and earthy flavors that Mom won't be able to stop talking about it for months?  A roasted chicken that is so simple to prepare that your entire entree and side dishes are all made in 1 roasting pot in the oven!  A roasted chicken and roasted veggies that feel as though you bought them from a very fancy French restaurant!  Here it is . . .

Roasted Chicken Provençal

This roasted chicken will transport you to Southern France with the first bite . . . Laced with delicate flavors of Herbes de Provance, bright notes from lemon and the earthy flavors from garlic, salt and pepper, it makes the perfect special Sunday dinner.  Roasted with thick potato slices, carrots, celery and kale this is a meal everyone will talk about for months.

Serves 4-6

1 3 pound organic roasting chicken
1 lemon, zested and then sliced into thin slices
1 tablespoon lemon infused olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 rounded tablespoon Herbes de Provance
2 fat cloves of garlic halved
1 ½ cups celery in 1 inch pieces
3 cups carrots in 1 inch pieces
1 small yellow onion sliced in 1/4 inch thick
3 medium red potatoes halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
6 cups kale in 1/3 inch ribbons
1 small fennel bulb and fronds sliced thinly
2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (I like my Tuscan Blend)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rinse chicken thoroughly with pH2.5 water, remove any excess fat and pat dry.  Sprinkle ½ teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt inside the cavity of the chicken.  Stuff chicken with the ends of the lemon ½ clove of garlic, a few pieces of celery, the fronds from the fennel and a slice of onion. 

Combine oil and Dijon, brush over the exterior of the chicken then evenly coat with herbs 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper.  Tie legs together with kitchen twine.

In the bottom of a large roasting pan with a tightly fitting lid*, add chicken stock then layer onions, lemons, kale, potatoes, fennel, mushrooms, carrots, celery and garlic.  Sprinkle with remaining salt, pepper and Herbes de Provance.  Top with chicken, cover and roast about 75 minutes or until juices are almost clear.  Remove lid and continue roasting until skin is crisp, and juices are completely clear, about 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, carefully transfer chicken to a serving platter, cover and let rest 10 minutes to allow juices to redistribute.  Surround with roasted veggies and serve with a lovely salad.

 *If your roasting pan isn't the correct size, make a tent with parchment paper and top with foil.

Now that you have celebrated your Mother, you can rest, that is after you clean up the kitchen!  

Dr. P

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