By Janae Jean –
Lavender is for more than skin care and potpourri; it’s a culinary herb that adds a certain je ne sais quoi to both sweet and savory dishes and beverages. Lavender is a common herb in Southern French or Provençalcooking. While recently becoming popular in North America, lavender has been used as a cooking herb in Europe for at least 2,500 years. When cooking with lavender, it is important to start with a little. If you add too much, it can turn a culinary nod to the French countryside to a dish that tastes like it was doused in perfume. Lavender may be used in place of rosemary is most dishes. It has many known health benefits, including reducing anxiety, encouraging better sleep, decreasing inflammation, protecting cardiovascular health and supporting gut health.
Raw honey makes a great partner for culinary lavender in sweet and savory dishes. Its sweetness blends well with lavender’s floral flavor. This combination makes for great herbal teas and lemonades but also works well as a glaze or marinade for savory dishes. Locally sourced raw honey is a natural remedy for seasonal allergies as the allergy sufferer is ingesting minute quantities of local pollens in every spoonful. Honey is commonly known to be antibacterial, antifungal and increases athletic performance as it aids muscles in recovery time. In this month’s menu, lavender and honey play off the earthy flavors of grilled mushrooms and the rich, savory flavors of the traditional herbes de Provence. This déjeuner à la campagne (lunch in the country) is perfect for recreating L’été en Provence(the summer in Provence) on your patio or at the park.
Herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
1 teaspoon marjoram
½ teaspoon mint
½ teaspoon fennel
¼ teaspoon oregano
1 crushed dried bay leaf
Blend together spices and store in a resealable container.
Les Champignons Provençal
8 large portabella mushroom caps
1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon raw honey
1½ teaspoons herbes de provence
Salt and pepper to taste
2 chopped green onions
Shredded gruyère (optional)
Remove spores and stems from mushrooms with spoon. Grind herbes de provence with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder. In a small bowl, mix together the butter or oil, vinegar, honey and herbes de provence. Grind in salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the mushroom cap and marinate for an hour. Grill mushrooms on hot grill for about six minutes. Place on serving tray and top with chopped green onions and shredded gruyere, if desired.
La Limonade à la Lavande
1 cup lemon juice
½ cup key lime juice
1 cup lavender syrup
2 cups cold water
Sparkling water (if desired)
Mix cooled lavender syrup (below) with lemon juice, key lime juice and two cups cold water. Chill before serving. You may serve this lemonade simply over ice, or pour over ice to halfway and top with sparkling water.
Le Sirop de Lavande
1 cup water
1 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon of fresh culinary lavender or 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender
Bring water and lavender to a boil. Stir in honey until dissolved. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool for an hour, and then strain out the flowers.
Les Fraises au Fromage de Chèvre
A dozen whole strawberries, hulled
4 ounces creamy goat cheese
¼ cup plain kefir
1 teaspoon raw honey
Pinch of salt
Culinary rose petals and/or culinary hibiscus flowers, as garnish
To hull strawberries, use a sharp knife to scoop out stems.
With an electric mixer, whip creamy goat cheese, plain kefir, salt and honey. Spoon whipped cheese mixture into hulled berries. Garnish with edible flowers. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve with fresh greens, baguettes, cheese board and chilled rosé to have the full Southern French experience. I encourage you to experiment with herbes de provence, trying it with steak, chicken, salmon, summer squash or even jackfruit, or substitute balsamic vinegar or grapeseed oil. As always, don’t hesitate to send me photos of your creations janae@ConsciousCommunityMagazine.com.Bon appétit, mes amis!
Janae Jean serves as editor, social media manager and podcast co-host for Conscious Community Magazine. She enjoys improvising in the kitchen and creating recipes with her loved ones and is very grateful for their suggestions, feedback and assistance. She is also a music teacher and sound healer; visit www.perennialmusicandarts.comand www.janaejean.com.