Lavender is renowned as a culinary herb for its clean, distinctive perfume and matching floral, ever-so-slightly minty flavor. It's also one of the hardest seasonings to cook with, because of its potential to easily overpower dishes. Use this reference guide to discover flavor pairing secrets and learn the professionals tricks to cooking with lavender.
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Make sure to buy culinary lavender buds specially marked for cooking. Lavender plants at the local nursery may look appealing, but they can be laden with pesticides and other undesirable chemicals. If given the choice, always go organic when choosing culinary flowers or grow your own.
Cooking with Lavender
The lightest dusting of lavender goes a long way in the kitchen. Fresh or dried buds can be used, and the essence gets stronger and more concentrated as it dries. Use a very light touch or risk infusing the entire dish with bitterness or an oddly soapy flavor. When cooking with dried lavender, reduce the amount by 2/3 if the recipe calls for fresh buds. Example: 1/2 teaspoon dried = 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh.
Lavender's sweet, fragrant flavor complements a range of foods, both sweet and savory. Ingredients lavender goes well with: strawberries, blueberries, pears, lemon, orange, honey, sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and chocolate.
Ways to Enjoy Lavender
Baked goods, herb mixes, salad dressings, beurre blanc, ice cream and sorbet, Provencal-style soups and stews, and dry rubs are all good uses for lavender buds.
Tricks for Using Lavender (So it's not overpowering)
For sweets: Lavender's floral notes play well off berries and citrus in baked goods. Instead of adding small amounts of the actual dried flowers to recipes, try using lavender-infused sugar for enhancing sweet dishes with just the slightest hint of floral goodness. Tone it down by infusing the dried flowers into cream for ganache, whipped cream, creme brulee, and crème anglaise, or into simple syrup for a variety of desserts, iced tea, and cocktails.For savories: Lightly toast dried lavender in a dry skillet set over medium heat, stirring constantly, to deepen its complexity and remove the perfumed notes. Taking away the one quality that makes lavender so distinctive doesn't dull it's unique flavor at all, but rather gives diners the experience of wondering "what's that wonderful flavor; I can't put my finger on it" instead of biting into a mouthful of floral perfume.
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