Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 1 of Lavender Week: Presented by The Novel Bakers

You're Cordially Invited to Join the Novel Bakers for 
Lavender Week
July 22 - July 28
Seven days of recipes, tablescapes, gardens, and more:
We'll be celebrating this whimsical herb, using a marvelous guide: 
 The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley.

Few people can resist a cookbook that opens with a confession:
 "My love affair with lavender began in the Alpes-de-Haute in Provence on a warm June day back in 1992. Wandering high in the mountains above a little village, I came upon fields of purple lavender, carpeting the hillsides and filling the air with a sweet scent."

--page 12, The Lavender Cookbook

 I have a confession, too.
I'd never cooked with lavender.
I'd tried and failed to grow the herb on my bald, windy hilltop. When bushes died
(and they always did), I had trouble replacing them: it is a challenge
to find lavender plants, much less edible culinary buds, in my neck of the woods.
Little did I know that I would soon be knee-deep in lavender.
The first time I visited Rattlebridge Farm, I walked down the path,
skimming my hands over the bushes, and a pungent, clean smell enveloped me.
It was love at first breath.
"This house is all wrong for us," my husband said.
"But the air smells purple," I said. "Look at all of the honeybees. You can get skeps
or beehives."
"Already tried that," he said. "Got stung. Forget this house."

Months later, after much cajoling, we bought the house.
And for the first time in our lives, we were owned by a real garden.
I felt blessed--and scared.
Ask anyone, and they'll tell you that I'm the Death Angel to most plants.
How would I keep the lavender from curling up like witch's toes?
It wasn't like I wanted to eat it or anything. No, I just wanted to brush
against it and smell that glorious smell.
But I am slowly learning about this fragrant, versatile, hardy herb.

 Day 1 of Lavender Week
I became a lavender enthusiast with the first recipe that I tested from The Lavender Cookbook;
I selected a peachy-lemony salad, balanced with bitter greens and a hint of lavender.

Though my husband likes to smell lavender, he isn't fond of consuming it. But he ate three helpings
of this salad. The lavender buds are finely ground (I bought a small coffee grinder for herbs), which contributes to the delicate, whispery flavor. You won't bite into a whole bud, which can be disconcerting to lavender virgins.
If you're looking for a salad that's fresh, cooling, aromatic--and unforgettable--this is it. 
Imagine sweet peaches, a lemony zing, the surprise of ginger, and
the complexity of the greens--loud and quiet, zany and well-mannered.
And lavender, of course.
What did it taste like?
Lavender is a chameleon. The flavor (to me) depends upon the recipe.
But, the taste reminds me of sunlight and high summer. Dew on tall grasses.
A cool breeze rippling over a field of wild flowers.
And there's something else.
Something I cannot name.
If fairy dust had a flavor, it would be lavender.

Spinach and Endive Salad
 Lavender-Lemon-Ginger Dressing (see below)
ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
Belgian endives, slivered
baby spinach
fresh blueberries
chopped chives
buttery toasted walnuts
 (I added thinly sliced red onions and a pinch of whole lavender buds.)

Lavender Lemon-Ginger Dressing
This sweet-and-spicy dressing pairs beautifully with bold greens.
The ingredients are heated, whisked, and cooled.
3/4 c Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c white wine vinegar
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 T fresh ginger, grated
1 T apple jelly
1/2 t Dijon mustard
1 t culinary lavender buds, finely ground
sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
 (I added 1 t. lavender honey and used homemade lavender/lemon/white wine vinegar,
which will appear later this week.)

Lavender Week
Monday through Sunday.

Hosted by The Novel Bakers


 Visit Jain, Mary, Mari, and our special guest baker, Pam, for more adventures with lavender.
Recipes ... Tablescapes ... Gardens ... Festivals . . .
and lavender deliciousness are waiting for you at the following blogs: 
Jain   a quiet life,
Mary   Home Is Where the Boat Is,
Mari   Once Upon a Plate
Pam   Sidewalk Shoes

The Lavender Cookbook  by Sharon Shipley

  Metamorphosis Monday  and Tutorials, Tips, and Tidbits contributions.

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  1. What inviting photos. I feel as if I've been magically transported to Provence this morning. You've had fantastic luck with your lavender. Actually our lavender bush is doing very well this year despite all of the rain and blooming a bit. I've been told lavender doesn't like for its feet to get wet.

    I can't wait to taste your peach salad.

  2. Thanks for letting me participate this week! I can't wait to try this dressing!

  3. I was just @ Mary's party! Your recipe sounds WONDERFUL! I know that my daughter will also love the dressing. I'm putting it in her recipe Smash book today. Lovely post! I will make the salad later on in the week.

    {Your garden mosaics are stunning!}

    Ricki Jill

  4. Love at first breath AND love at first bite of your summer salad! Gorgeous mosaic and beautiful and delicious bites to come! I adore your wellies and your lavender umbrella would come in handy here again this week. I've made several attempts to grow lavender, it's too humid here and our soil has too much clay...epic failure. I tried some in pots this year for better drainage, now if it would stop raining it might survive :) Thanks for the delicious start to lavender week!

  5. Oh my goodness, Michael Lee, it's breakfast time, but I am craving a bite of that heavenly salad! Aren't you the lucky one to have a garden of lavender right at Rattlebridge Farm?! Your photos are a beautiful culinary adventure!

  6. What gorgeous photos! beautifully set table! What could possibly be better?? Actually being there with you!! :)

  7. mmmmmm, salad sounds divine...not quite sure about cooking with lavender yet, but I'm sure I will be convinced by week's end~your photos are like a fantasy~

  8. I recently learned about lavender and LOVE cooking with it! There's a lavender farm near my house and it was so much fun visiting this year! Try these lemon lavender blueberry muffins and your tastebuds will SING!

  9. I have a lavender pound cake recipe pulled right now. I bought some lavender at Whole Foods but was surprised it came from China!

  10. Oh my, Michael! What a beautiful post ~ it absolutely takes my breath away. Your jaw-droppingly stunning photos, and entertaining narrative, you are such a gifted artist -- such a treat to come visit your blog. I love all of your special touches, your wellies, lavender umbrella ... gorgeous table (complete with matching pillows!) I am blown away by your talent! You do lavender PROUD!! xoxo
    P.S. I'm sending you an email today... (you inquired whether I rec'd. your emails.) No, I haven't ~I don't know what's up with that, nothing in spam folder, either... We'll figure it out, I'm sure!

  11. I've not had much success with actually growing lavender, but I keep trying. Three small bushes in my herb garden hanging on. I want large fragrant ones like yours! The salad looks delicious. I want to make it for lunch. I've baked with lavender, and am looking forward to this week to see how you girls use it in other dishes. Lavender Week ~ a terrific idea!

  12. I have been growing Lavender for 15 years and every year when I harvest the lavender for my garden, I am always amazed how delicate it is and how wonderful it smells:) I have been using Lavender in recipes for some time now and it pairs wonderful with Pork Tenderloin~ Lovely post~ Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

  13. egads i love your photos... i have the book and am still tingling when i see you make the cover so extra gorgeous! and look at your garden, perfection! again i still marvel at the artistry of your pics... heavy sign to lavender contentment~

    i am cracking up that your husband doesn't like lavender, but ate 3 helpings, sounds JUST LIKE MY HOUSE! but what a gorgeous salad, way to hard to resist, even from the manliest men! and your shots are pure art, colorful, fresh, vibrant...

    oh my, your prose just takes me away... but your cheating, this is your occupation, to melt us down to the wonder you are driven to this vocation, you have the magical it factor that draws us all in spellbound as you weave your tales... even if its the whisper story of lavender... if fairy dust had a flavor it would be lavender. chills... poetic chills! matched with too dang good photos!

    and i see crab cakes coming!!! i wanted to make them too, ok i want to make the whole darn book!

    oh my what a fabulous start to lavender week from you, truly i feel like i am sitting cross legged in grade school looking up at my teacher rapt for more...

  14. Perfect french linens for your lovely post. That salad looks scrumptious.

    Your garden is beautiful and I can image the intoxicating fragrance.

  15. Oh my gosh, where do I start with saying how beautiful your lavender post is, and amazing photographs of your beautiful salad. Your blog is a joy to read and I feel like I live just down the road and we are having tea and visiting about our lavender gardens. I love lavender so much. I've grown lavender for years and enjoy every stem I cut. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post today.
    Betty @ My Cozy Corner

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