Last week, as you may remember, I treated myself to two new cookbooks, both of which showcase some of the more unusual gastronomic treasures to be found around the Mediterranean's far-flung shores. The recipes are so tempting that I started planning a long to-cook list, but I hadn't gotten very far when something perturbed me: at least *three* of the herbs and spices called for in these recipes were nowhere to be found in my spice bowl. This scenario really flusters me, for reasons of pride I probably shouldn't probe into here, but the upshot is that my spice collection grows a little with each new cookbook I acquire, because I do whatever is needed to track down the spices in question. One of the missing spices, fennel seeds, was easy to obtain, its absence from my bowl simply the result of forgetting to replenish a depleted supply. The remaining two, however, proved to be a bit more elusive: dried edible lavender buds and rose petals.
After unsuccessfully perusing the spice shelves of all the major supermarkets and ethnic grocers in town, I reluctantly turned to the internet as a last resort. Normally I'm no shrinking violet when it comes to spending money at the click of a mouse, but I've never really liked ordering edible things online. I would never consider ordering my groceries over the internet, for example, though I know a lot of people who swear by its convenience. I simply don't trust someone else to pick the ripest fruit and the freshest-looking meat, and I like knowing I can change my dinner plans on a whim if something else just looks better. There's something about food's subjectivity and fragility that just makes it better to buy when you can hold it in your hand, see its color and smell its perfume. There's also the impatience factor: when I have a craving for something, I want to make it now, not next week when the ingredients arrive. In any case, it was either brave the internet or go without, so of course I braved the internet, and I'm so happy I did because I've come up with a fantastic find, a UK-based supplier of organic herbs and spices, and yes, even edible dried flowers. I placed my order on Friday, and on Monday morning, a box had already arrived containing these oh-so-chic little stainless steel canisters with glass lids, that when opened billowingly exude a breath of intense lavender and roses.
Thus armed and ready, I was highly dismayed to discover that there are actually very few recipes in these two books that call for my new acquisitions. The lavender makes an appearance in a cake, chocolate truffles and roast duck, while the rose petals are actually only used as a garnish for dishes that incorporate rosewater. I spent a frantic hour rifling through the other books on my shelf only to find the same thing. It seemed like if I stuck to my cookbooks I would barely break the crust of possibility of what can be done with these new additions to my culinary arsenal. So, like any self-respecting cook, I went back to the internet...
...and after hours of research, have assembled a by-no-means-definitive digital guide to show off some of the more interesting things you can do with dried lavender and roses. Just in case you ever find yourself in possession of either and have no idea what to cook :)
Lavender is very popular in sweet-and-savory dishes, such as Barbecued Lamb Kebabs with Honey and Lavender, Lavender Honey and Mustard Pork Tenderloin, Salmon Filet with Lavender Honey and Tamari, Lavender-Glazed Meatballs, Lavender Pistachio Lamb Chops, and Lavender Cream Chicken. It can show up in soups: Lavender Leek and Potato Soup, Cold Melon Soup with Lavender; and in salads: Ojai Orange Salad with Lavender Vinaigrette and Lavender Chicken Salad. It can grace pizza: Lavender Pizza; cheese: Chevre Marinated in Lavender and Fresh Herbs; and nuts: Lavender and Orange-Glazed Pecans. It apparently takes well to baking: Lavender and Hazelnut Bread and Lavender Shortbread; frying: Lavender Ricotta Fritters; and freezing: Lavender Ice Cream. It can quench your thirst on a hot day: Lavender Limeade, Lavender Margaritas, and Lavender Kir, and satisfy even the sweetest sweet tooth: Pear and Lavender Clafoutis, Lavender-Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake, and Chocolate-Hazelnut Baklava with Lavender Cream and Hazelnut Bark.
Rose Petals, especially the dried kind, are a little more enigmatic. Most recipes that want to incorporate rose flavor opt for rose water or rose essence, both readily available in Indian and Middle Eastern shops. A little more sleuthing was involved in finding recipes to use the petals, but the ones I found are wonderfully exotic, indulgent and sensual. I've included recipes here that use both fresh and dried petals. Recipes I came across included Rhubarb and Rose Petal Jam, Damavand Yogurt and Cucumber Cold Soup with Walnuts and Rose Petals, Chicken with Honey and Rose Petals, Quail in Rose Petal Sauce (from Like Water for Chocolate), Pullum Frontonianum (Apicus Chicken), Maraqat al-Safarjal (Sweet Ragout of Quince and Lamb), Grilled Chicken with Rose Petal-Mango Sauce, Cherry and Rose Petal Soup, Almond Pestinos in Rose Petal Syrup, Champagne and Rose Petal Sorbet, Rose Lassis, and a fabulous collection of rosy recipes at The Joy of Soup, including Rose Petal Omelettes, Rose Petal Drop Scones, Linguine with Rose Petal Pesto and Green Tea and Rose Petal Popsicles.