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Archive for the ‘appetizers’ Category

Lavash and Lavender Seasoning Together at Last

“Have you ever made lavash?” asked my friend, Mike Neustrom, lavender grower from Kansas.

“Lavash?” I said, “What is it?”

 Then like a game-show contestant trying to respond before the buzzer, I burst out, “Wait. Is it a type of cracker or flatbread?”

Mike said he’d been wondering how it would taste with lavender seasoning. I could not resist this culinary challenge and pledged to find out.

My first surprise came when I looked through my 1970’s “Joy of Cooking.” The index didn’t list “lavash”, however when I searched for “flatbread”, I found a description (“Armenian, Greek, Arab, Syrian, Euphrates Bread”) along with a recipe. More questions entered my mind, such as where and when this bread originated, how it was first made and what role did it serve in the country’s cuisine.

Further research revealed the answers to these questions. Flatbreads date back nearly 10,000 years. Grain mashed and mixed with water or milk created dough that became the earliest form of bread. The dough was rolled thin and cooked over high heat.  The quick cooking time preserved scarce fuel. This method of converting grain into bread provided a durable and portable source of nourishment throughout the winter.

Many countries developed their own version of flatbread. Lavash originated in Armenia in the Caucasus.

Seattle Public Library - Books about Armenian Cuisine

Other flatbreads are: Matzo in Israel, Lefse in Norway and Naan in India. In the United States, Americans eat English muffins, soda crackers and pretzels, descendants of ancient flatbreads. For a complete list, check out Harold McGee’s book, “On Food and Cooking.

Where did lavash get its name? It’s an Armenian name with two parts. The first part “lav” means “good”. And “ash”, the second part, means “food, meal”. When joined, the meaning is “good food”.

In pursuit of a lavash recipe, I turned to the internet. Googling “lavash recipe” returned more than 600,000 hits including a recipe on All Recipes and a link to a “Lavash-Making Challenge”. 

After browsing for a bit, I settled on the lavash recipe posted in the All Recipes website. I selected this one for two reasons: 1.It met my criteria for an unleavened version (no yeast and on baking powder) and 2. Readers gave it rave reviews and offered tips for baking and serving.

Lavash recipe in hand, I was ready to bake. First I took a quick trip to the grocery store to see whether they sold lavash. The day before Thanksgiving, the store was buzzing. Extra employees were helping shoppers. I found one and asked, “Do you sell lavash?” My second surprise that day was when the woman responded, “Yes, follow me.” She led me to the artisan breads and handed me a box of crackers.

Lavash from the Grocery Store - $6.29

I was shocked at the price of $6.29 – for a box of crackers, really? Yes, I bought them, but only because I wanted to compare “store-bought” to “home-made”.

 The ingredients in lavash couldn’t be more basic: Flour, water, sugar, salt, egg white and butter. I mixed the ingredients together into a sticky dough, and then turned it out onto a floured surface, where I kneaded it for 5 minutes. The dough was smooth, soft and stretchy. I inhaled  the bread-like aroma. I cut the dough into 10 portions, and covered them with a damp paper towel. I picked up one of the balls and patted it into a disc, and then began rolling it. I tossed it around and rolled it until it was as thin as a tissue. I carefully lifted the dough onto the baking sheet, brushed it with egg white and sprinkled seasoning on top. I used Tuscan Seasoning, a recipe from my book, “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” Other seasoning options include: Herbes de Provence, basil, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, caraway seeds, cayenne pepper, garlic salt, cumin or sea salt. I slid the baking sheet into the hot oven and felt a connection with ancient times.

Soon the aroma wafting from the oven and filling my kitchen awakened my appetite. I peeked into the oven; the lavash was golden with tiny dimples and puffy bubbles looking like a sun-drenched moonscape. I removed the lavash from the oven, letting  it  cool on a rack. I broke off a piece and put it in my mouth. It tasted warm, rustic and comforting; I tasted the fresh herbal flavor of the lavender and pungent tones of onion and garlic. In my refrigerator, I found sun-dried tomato goat cheese to spread on the lavash.

Lavash - Hot out of the Oven

 I was savoring every moment of this private tasting experience, when I glance over to the kitchen counter and saw that I still had lots of lavash to bake. The recipe makes enough for a crowd, and it was not surprising to discover home-baked lavash surpasses the store-bought version in every way – better flavor, less cost, healthier and more seasoning choice.

 Lavash, not only simple, cheap and filling, gives the creative cook a blank canvas  to showcase aromatic herbs, nuts, seeds, spice and artisan salts to create a flavor masterpiece. I’d recommend serving it with humus, olives, feta and other soft cheeses or salsa. Extremely versatile, lavash can be served as a pizza crust, wrap, dessert cookie or cracker or even an eating utensil to scoop up stew, kabobs or as a plate for rice, beans or vegetables.

So to my friend Mike, I can now report, “Yes and yes: I’ve made lavash, seasoned it with lavender and the entire experience was sensational. Thanks for asking!”    

Lots of Lavash!

– – – – – – –

Tuscan Seasoning                                    

Mix this seasoning with butter or olive oil and spread on a fresh baguette

for delicious lavender garlic bread.

 ½ cup roasted lavender (place culinary lavender buds in hot, dry skillet for about 1 minute, stir until buds are slightly toasted)

¼ cup dried onion flakes

¼ cup dried minced garlic

1 tablespoon salt

 Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process for 10 seconds or until all ingredients are well blended.

  1.  Store seasoning in an airtight container.

——————————————–

p.s. As I was completing this post, I discovered two other lavash products on the market:

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When someone invites us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, I like to bring something special. This year I’ve made tasty packages of  Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs. I’m excited to share my special treats.

The recipe is a variation on one from 101 Cookbooks. I love this recipe because it is easy, flavorful and nutritious. Yes, it does have a whole cup of brown sugar, however the nutrients provided by the walnuts more than make up for the sugar.

Walnuts

Walnuts : They're all they're cracked up to be and more!

Whenever I read a recipe calling for rosemary or mint, I  think about using lavender instead. Most times, it works beautifully and adds an exotic taste.  So when I read Heidi’s “Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts Recipe,” I wanted to try it with lavender. I also thought about substituting dried plums or apricots for dried figs, however I love figs so that is what I used.

 

For packaging, I dropped by Seattle’s PS-Store to pick up plastic containers, ribbon, labels and stickers. I love the square labels with the colored borders. In the past, when I’ve made gift packets, I’ve struggled with labels. Frequently, labels can be difficult to line up on my printer, and I get frustrated. These worked like a dream. I went to this link to get a template compatible with MS Word. I typed in the text and hit the print button. It all worked the first time. I used a 2” x 2” label. The container was 3” x 3” x 3”. I used a clear round sticker to seal the container, I tied a ribbon around it, tying a bow on top. PS-Stores sell an artificial lavender sprig that looks nice. The lavender sprig looks great on the package.

See the Lavender Sprigs: Perfect for Gifts!

Walnuts - All Sugared and Spiced

Sugared and Spiced: Walnuts are Ready for Someone NIce!

I cooked up one batch of this recipe yesterday afternoon in about 5 minutes. They baked in the oven for another 25 minutes, and I turned the oven off and just let the nuts dry out a bit more. When they were cool, I created my gifts. I created 5 gift packages.

 

Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon ground culinary lavender buds*
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 large egg whites
1 lb cups shelled walnut halves
1/3 cup chopped dried figs, stems trimmed

Sugar and Spice - All Things Nice

*What variety works best? I like Royal Velvet; however any English Lavender will be fine.

*How to grind? Use spice grinder, mortar and pestle or a clean coffee bean grinder will work too!

Preheat oven with racks in the center to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine brown sugar, salt, lavender and sesame seeds in a small bowl.

In a large bowl whisk the egg whites a bit, just to loosen them up. Add walnuts and figs to whites and toss until they are evenly coated – it’ll take a minute or so. Sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture over the nuts and toss (really well) again.

Split the nuts between the two prepared baking sheets in a single layer, separating the wa;nuts from one another.

Bake for ~25 minutes or until the walnuts turn golden brown  and the coating is no longer wet. Turn off your oven and let them dry for 10 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes, and then slide the parchment/nuts off the hot baking sheets onto a cool surface to cool completely. These will keep for a week or so in an airtight container.

Makes 1 pound of nuts

Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 25 min

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Glazed Pecans

Glazed Pecans: Appetizer, Snack or Treat

 

On the first day of October, I like to begin to think about holiday gifts that I can make at home. Especially this year with the economic slump, I’m looking for inexpensive, easy and luxurious gifts. One of the best treats that have ever dazzled my taste buds is Lavender and Orange Glazed Pecans. Easy-to-make, quick, full of flavor and luxurious, glazed pecans are sure to please. 

The pecan, actually a seed of a large tree, boasts a high fat content. Native to America, the pecan tree belongs to the hickory family. Mostly grown in Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas, pecans often star in the deliciously rich Southern pecan pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

When I was writing my cookbook, I discovered this recipe by chance. I contacted Susan Mc Rae seeking her permission to include it in my book. Since that time, I’ve made these glazed pecans too many times to count.  What a brilliant idea Susan had to use orange juice & zest along with lavender & ginger! 

I made a batch of these today and set the timer for 15 minutes. These fragrant pecans were cooling on parchment paper and I was sipping a cup of tea when the timer buzzed to tell me “Time’s Up”! I beat the clock and popped my prize – a tan and tasty pecan into my mouth. 

Gift of Glazed Pecans

Gifts from My Kitchen

 

Here’s the recipe. 

Lavender and Orange Glazed Pecans 

Slightly sweet and spicy with a hint of orange flavor, these pecans can be served as an appetizer, given as a holiday gift or nibbled as a quick snack. 

1 cup lavender sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
2 cups pecan halves (about 1/2 pound)
 

  1. Lightly toast pecans in large heavy pan over low heat.
  2. Line cookie sheet with waxed paper.
  3. Bring first four ingredients to boil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 30 seconds. Stir in pecans.
  4. Spread pecans in one layer on waxed paper and cool completely. Separate pecans if necessary.

(Prepare one day to one week ahead. Store in airtight container.) 

To make lavender sugar, add a cup of granulated sugar to a jar. Mix in ½ tablespoon culinary lavender buds. Put a lid on the jar and set aside. The lavender sugar should be made at least three days before using to allow time for the lavender to infuse its flavor into the sugar. Sift the sugar to remove the lavender buds before adding the sugar to the recipe. 

Makes 2 cups

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When I woke this morning, I was looking forward to driving to Kent – a suburb of Seattle – to visit a home and garden shop. About a week ago, my friend Crystel  visited a small shop, Bella Home and Garden. When Crystel discovered that the store was hosting an event called “The Sense of Lavender”, she told the sales clerk about my book “Discover Cooking with Lavender”. Then she emailed me telling me about the shop, their Open House and suggested I contact the shop owner. Crystel even gave me the phone number. 

Bella Open House Event

Invitation to "The Sense of Lavender"

 

I was pleased because I would not have found this shop without her email. I don’t live in that area and I rarely shop there. It’s about 25 miles from my home. Friends, like Crystel, are hard to find. 

Crystel - A thoughtful Friend

Crystel - A Thoughtful Friend

 

I drove out to Kent. The traffic was light and the cloudy drizzly day felt calming. I brought a few books along with me. I parked and walked towards the store. Tables full of small plants made the store look fresh and inviting. I spotted plenty of 4 inch lavender plants, Betty’s Blue was blooming. I walked into the store and was immediately greeted by an attractive blonde woman, whose name  I soon learned was Carol. Carol introduced me to the shop’s owner, Marci Wainhouse. 

Soon we were talking about cooking with lavender, lemonade, grandchildren and Girl Scouts.  “I brought a few copies of my book.”  I said. 

Carol began looking at it. “I love the cover.” 

Then Marci paged through it. “This is my granddaughter. And the little girl on the back is Charlotte Rose, daughter of Shelley Thomas and Brian Smale (the food stylist and photographer who gave my book its great look),” I commented. 

I was thrilled when Marci said, “We love the book. It fits perfectly with our shop. We’d love to carry it.” 

The conversation turned back to the Open House. “I can be here on Saturday, October 2nd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Would you like me to demonstrate how to make and use lavender sugar? Also, I’d love to show your customers how easy it is to dry roast culinary lavender buds to create a whole new taste,” I offered. 

“Good, sounds wonderful,” Marci replied. 

With that settled, Marci asked, “Have you shopped at Martha E. Harris? She used to be near University Village? I used to work there many years ago.” 

What a coincidence, I thought. “Martha Harris is my favorite florist. Whenever I order flowers, I call Martha E. Harris.” 

Marci smiled, saying, “I thought I might have recognized your name. You should see if she wants to carry your book. It would do well there!” 

She went on to suggest several other places where she thought my book would be a fit. One was Purple Haze. Then the topic of food came into the picture. Marci raved about Purple Haze Lavender and Herbes de Provence Mustard. “It’s delicious on ham on French bread. I made a wilted salad with it and loved it,” she said. 

“I’d like to buy some and try it.” I said. 

Marci walked across the shop to the shelf where the mustard was displayed, picked up a jar and placed in a bag with the Bella logo. “This is on us. I hope you enjoy it,” she said. 

This is a story of how one kindness can open the door to more. Crystel, thanks for opening the door.   

p.s. By the way the mustard is delicious. We tried it this evening using Marci’s serving suggestion. Perfect! 

If you are in the Kent area on Friday(10-1) or Saturday(10-2) between 4  p.m. and 8 p.m., drop by Bella. Gourmet food tastings, special price for lavender and great gift ideas will be available. 

Ham on Mustard on Bread

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One thing often leads to another. This summer, my sister and brother-in-law gave me a Brie Baker for my birthday. I love gifts that I can use in the kitchen. I’d never heard of a Brie Baker, so I was eager to try it out. This Brie Baker, handcrafted pottery, was made in Ludington, Michigan. A small ceramic cheese knife came with it. But wait, there’s more. It came with this note:  

Brie Baker  

Cover Brie Round with pesto, mango or pear chutney. Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. (Microwave for a minute or two). Cover Brie with cranberry sauce, a little bit of triple sec. Sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake for about 10 minutes. (Microwave, also). Sprinkle a little Jack Daniels on Brie; add a little bit of brown sugar and some sliced almonds. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Serve on bread, pear, or apple slices.  

Birthday Gift Brie Baker

My New Brie Baker

What a nice touch to include some ideas for baking brie! I decided to top my brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney made by Pelindaba. Pelindaba is a lavender farm on San Juan Island.   

Demo Garden at Pelindaba

Demonstration Garden at Pelindaba

The name of this farm Pelindaba is the Zulu word for “Place of Great Gatherings”. Stephen Robbins, the owner of Pelindaba, has committed to keeping his 20 acre  valley property as open space for “great gatherings of crops & great gatherings of people”. To learn more about his philosophy, click here.  

Brie and Chutney

Brie and Chutney Pair Up

My birthday led  to a Brie Baker, the Brie Baker led  to this flavorful chutney made by the folks at Pelindaba, and the recipe that came with the gift led  to  Baked Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney. When I opened the oven door to take out the cheese, the fragrance nearly knocked me over – sweet lavender and summer berries filled the air.  

Baked Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney

Baked Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney

When I put the knife into the warm cheese, it was creamy and warm. Then I spread the cheese covered chutney on a cracker and popped it into my mouth. All I can say is it was fantastic!  

Now my hope is this blog post leads you to experience Baked Brie. I would love to know what you topped yours with. Next time I want to try the Jack Daniels with brown sugar!   

   

    Brie with Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney    

        1 8-ounce round of brie cheese  

       ¼ cup Lavender Mixed Berry Chutney  

       ½ tablespoon sliced almonds  

  1. Place brie on baker (removing rind from top and bottom of wheel is optional)
  2. Spread the chutney over the top of the cheese
  3. Sprinkle almonds over chutney
  4. Bake in 350° oven for 10 minutes

Serve with crackers, bread and/or slices of apples, pears or nectarines

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Plums and Lavender: A Delicious Duo

Late summer in Seattle brings us an abundance of plums. When I was a kid, our plum tree was loaded with fruit. Our favorite way to enjoy the plums was to eat them au natural.

Thanks to Jerry Traunfeld’s brilliant cookbook, “The HerbFarm Cookbook”, we now have another way to use up our plum plenitude. Jerry offers us a recipe for Plum and Lavender Chutney.

It’s nice to have cookbooks. Even nicer to have friends who cook, select tasty recipes and then share their goodies. Two weeks ago, a friend gave me a jar of her home-made plum and lavender chutney. I decided to serve the chutney on top of goat cheese on French bread.

Chutney with Goat Cheese on BreadChutney, jams, jellies, preserves and pickles are all ways of preserving summer’s harvest of plums, berries, cherries, pears, peaches and cucumbers, carrots and beans. What a treat to have these items in the pantry to enjoy on a cold dark winter day!

Chutney is an Indian invention, the Hindi word is chatni. In India, chutneys are served with nearly every meal. The ingredients used to make chutney vary, however they almost always contain fruits, spices, onions, sugar and vinegar. According to www.foodreference.com, the British embraced chutney during the colonization period in the 1800’s.

While we still have fresh local fruit available at the Farmers Market, I will be making some chutney for my pantry. I’m thinking about trying the recipe posted by Tom at tall clover farm with a few of my own improvisations.  Of course lavender will be one of them.

 

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Farmer’s Market Vegetable Tray

Eating enough vegetables can be a challenge. Somehow it is easier to reach for a cracker or chips rather than take time to wash and peel a carrot or cut up a red pepper. The best thing about this recipe is the peeling, cutting and seasoning can be done ahead of time. The vegetables are in your refrigerator ready for that moment when you need a quick and satisfying snack.

By the way, the French call this technique Vegetables a la Grecque meaning vegetables prepared in the Greek style. Prepare a court bullion, a poaching broth and steam your favorite vet ables making sure they are not overcooked. The steaming helps the vegetables absorb flavor and brings out the vibrant colors while maintaining a crisp and crunchy texture. Select high quality organic vegetables for the best result. You can use carrots, celery, mushrooms, tiny onions, red or green peppers, cauliflower, string beans, asparagus and broccoli florets. Your eyes will feast on the splash of color, your body will love the nutritional content and you will relish the flavor.

Poaching Broth
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup red vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups vegetables, cut in 1 inch pieces

1. Add the first eight ingredients into a medium saucepan. Simmer for five minutes.
2. Poach vegetables in the season broth for 2 minutes.
3. Remove vegetables with slotted spoon and place on tray to cool.

When vegetables are cool, place them into a jar or bowl. Pour the poaching broth over the vegetables and cover. Store in the refrigerator for 2 days.

Serve with gren or black olives on a decorative platter.

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