It’s that time of year when during our evening strolls we detect wafts of that familiar floral scent and we notice vibrant purple buds encroaching on our uneven Seattle sidewalks. Lavender is blooming all around us and, as chefs, we want to cook with it!
Did you know that tucked away in our Olympic Peninsula, the quiet (and surprisingly, sunny) town of Sequim is recognized as THE lavender capitol of North America? If you want to experience it yourself, check out the Sequim Lavender Festival starting July 19th.
Breaking down the varieties:
There are copious varieties of lavender which are generally bucketed into: English, Spanish, French and Lavendin . You can technically cook with any of them, however, the sweeter varieties like the English lavender or Lavandula angustifolia is preferred for culinary use.
Lavender can be used in either sweet or savory dishes but it is more commonly found in desserts. It tastes sweet and floral with a citrus note. This flavor profile pairs well with lemon, rhubarb, blueberries, chocolate, nuts, strawberries and other herbs such as rosemary, oregano and thyme. For sweet recipes, think… shortbread, travel cakes, pastry creams, lemonade, chocolate ganache. For savory think lamb lollipops, herb and nut crusted chicken, citrus salad dressings or an aioli sauce.
This season in our Eat Seattle cooking classes we are topping a lavender salted caramel to a rhubarb cake. Recipe below:
Lavender Salted Caramel
1 Cup Granulated White Sugar
¼ cup water
½ ounce dried lavender buds
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup whole heavy cream
In a small saucepan, warm heavy cream to a simmer with lavender buds for 5 minutes then strain and cool.
In a saucepan, combine sugar and water with whisk and bring up to a simmer with high heat. The sugar will melt and eventually brown to a dark amber.
When you have reached desired caramel color, add strained cream and salt to pan.
Remove from heat and whisk. The sugars will harden on your whisk and then the mixture will turn to a smooth sauce as you continue to whisk.
Serve over bread pudding, ice cream, or in your favorite coffee drink.
If you know our team, we love cocktails! One of my Summer favorites is a perfectly balanced and refreshing. See recipe below:
Lavender Bee’s Knees
2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice (fresh)
1 oz honey lavender simple syrup
Simply Syrup Recipe:
5-10 fresh lavender buds
1 C water
3/4 C sugar
2 T honey
Directions for syrup:
In saucepan, heat up 1 C warm with lavender buds over medium heat. Whisk in sugar until dissolved. Once fully dissolved turn off heat and wait 1 minute before adding in honey. I tend to use high quality unpasteurized (aka expensive) honey as they have natural enzymes that are healthy for you. It’s important to add honey to water that is 105 F degrees or less. Let sit for 5-10 minutes then strain out the lavender buds. This can store for 5-7 days.
Direction for cocktail:
In shaker, add 5 ice cubes and all ingredients. Shake, strain and serve “up” in a martini or coupe glass. Garnish with sprig of lavender or lemon peel.
Fresh or Dried
You can cook with either fresh or dried lavender. If you’re infusing a pastry cream or simple syrup I like to use fresh if it is available. If you’re doing a hazelnut lavender crusted chicken then dried works great. We purchase our dried lavender at Market Spice (one of the oldest spice stores in Seattle located in the heart of Pike Place Market). Please note that dried lavender that is not stored properly can take on a soapy taste over time. That’s why I like to purchase spices like this in bulk so that I only buy what I will use. Alternatively, it’s easy to dry your own!
Use a 3 to 1 ratio of fresh to dried in a recipe. If a recipe calls for 3 tsp of fresh lavender then you substitute with 1 tsp of dried.