Friday, July 27, 2012

More Lavender - Something Sweet

Lavender Lemon Sorbet and Shortbread

     After recently trying quite a lot of lavender infused savory dishes, I thought I was done experimenting for a while. However, Roy was given a mini ice cream maker for Father's Day which had never been out of the box and someone I was tutoring brought me a wonderful shortbread cookie.  I kept thinking about a couple of recipes I had come across for lavender sorbet and lavender shortbread. I gave in to the temptation to try them out!  The sorbet would be great served in a shot glass as a palate cleanser, but here I used a juice glass.   The shortbread is flakey, buttery and is great with a cup of tea.  Like I did before, I reduced the amount of lavender in each recipe and tweaked the instructions a bit, but credit is given below to their origin sources.

Lavender Lemon Sorbet
Adapted from

1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender flowers
5 tablespoons of lemon juice

Put the sugar and water in a pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the lavender flowers and the lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove it from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Place a strainer over the bowl and pour the mixture through it.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Then follow the directions for your ice cream maker.  Or, put your covered bowl in the freezer until it is semi-solid. Then, stir it up and put it back in the freezer for several hours.  When ready to serve just scoop it up and put into serving dishes.

A word to the wise - this melts quickly outside on a hot summer night!

Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from

This makes about 24 cookies

3/4 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender, crushed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars until it looks light and fluffy.  Then mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Butter a good size piece of foil and with buttered hands, shape the dough into a "loaf" and place it on the foil.  Wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least an hour.  After it is chilled cut the dough every 1/4 of an inch and place the slices on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  The edges should just be getting browned.
Check out the pictures below!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Bit of Magic - Culinary Lavender

    A sister-in-law, Betsy, gave me a silver tin full of a secret spice that I had very limited knowledge about:  culinary lavender.  I have seen recipes all over the internet for desserts that had the essence of lavender, but Betsy said what it was really great for was savory cooking.  I have decorative lavender growing in my yard; however, the lavenders used in cooking are varieties such a Lavanula x intermedia or "Provence" which is what Betsy gifted me.  Of course I got on the internet and tried all kinds of dishes.  I learned to reduce in half the amount that any recipe suggested or else it is just too overpowering.  When added in the right amount, the lavender takes the taste to a whole different level - fabulous.  I barely know it's there, but when I take a bite, I am transported back in time to a cute little French bistro I once ate at. In this post I have included the three best savory recipes that I tried out.  The Grilled Pork Chops with Lavender Flowers reminded me of how I roast chicken using Herbs de Provence - I had never made the connection that there was lavender in that classic dried herb mix.  Vinaigrette with Lavender is truly out of this world - I am not kidding - you will want to lick the salad plate.  It would also be good as a marinade for fish or chicken.  Finally the Black Olive "Tapenade" is for the true gourmet. It is so simple, but so sophistated.  Serve it to Impress!

Grilled Pork Chops with Lavender Flowers

4 to 6 pork loin chops                                                   
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix all the spices and oil together to make a paste.  Rub the mixture on both sides of the pork chops.  Let them sit for about 20 minutes and then grill about 5 to 7 minutes a side.  An inserted meat thermometer should read 155 degrees.

Vinaigrette with Lavender

1/2 cup olive oil                                                                   
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon of ground culinary lavender
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, put through a press

Grind the lavender buds into powder. Whisk all the ingredients together.  This is so, so, so delicious on a salad that has sliced hard boiled eggs in it!

Lavender Truffle Tapenade

1 crusty loaf of bread like a French baguette                        
1/2 cup chopped up black olives   
1 teaspoon white truffle oil
(or olive oil & a minced garlic clove)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender buds

Warm the bread up in the oven.  Put the olives, oil, and lavender in a food processor and combine them long enough to form a paste.  Slice the bread and serve it warm with the tapenade.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Grilled Stuffed Stuff

Grilled Spinach Stuffed Tenderloin & Red Potato Skewers

     During the school year while I am going a million miles an hour at full throttle, I tend to live life by the seat of my pants.  Lovely pieces of meat get bought at a good sale price, but are then thrown in the freezer and forgotten about.  One of my goals this summer is to discover what is in my freezer and to use it!  I've been eyeing a pork tenderloin that's been in their a while;  it was actually half of a larger portion that was used several months ago.  Since I've been in a grilling/stuffing mode, I decided the time was right to make a dish the family loves for company.  It's really super easy and the girls (who say they don't like pork) love it!  We usually serve it with skewered red potato recipe that I found several years ago on  The potatoes are slathered in Dijon mustard, garlic, and rosemary - the aroma is heavenly!

Grilled Spinach Stuffed Tenderloin

One pork tenderloin (Mine was probably about 2 pounds)
3 pieces of cooking string

For the "Stuffing"
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1 teaspoon dried fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the Rub
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
2 teaspoon dried fennel seed
1 teapoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1.  With a sharp knife, "butterfly" the loin.  Be careful to not to cut all the way through to the other side.

2.  Lay the pieces of string underneath the open loin.

3.  Mix the "stuffing" ingredients all together, place the mixture in the middle of the loin, close it, and tie it shut with the string.

4.  Mix the rub ingredients into a paste and smear it all over the outside of the meat.

5..Grill the pork loin over low heat, turning every 10 minutes for about 30 minutes.  Insert a meat thermometer and check that the internal temperature has reached 155 degrees.  Let it rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Grilled Red Potato Skewers

1 pound small red potatoes
8 wooden skewers, soaked at least 20 minutes in water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

     Wash and cut each potato in half.  Cook the potatoes in boiling water just until a fork can be inserted easily. Drain the potatoes.  Mix the olive oil, mustard, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper together in a bowl.  Gently add the potatoes and coat them with the mustard mixture.  Thread the potatoes on the skewers.  Place them on the grill and cook them 5 minutes per side so they get some nice grill marks.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stuffed Grilled Flank Steak

     Lately I've been thinking about grilling some kind meat stuffed with something yummy.  Caroline spent Father's Day this year with her boyfriend Adam's family.  Adam's dad is a grilling master and Caroline was raving about the wonderful stuffed flank steak he cooked up for their feast.  I remembered a recipe from The Betty Crocker International Cookbook I received in 1981 for a wedding gift.  It has a wonderful recipe for Matambre Arrollado (translation: "Hunger Killer Roll") or Argentinian stuffed flank steak.  The Betty Crocker recipe called for browning the meat and then cooking it in liquid until tender.  The temperature has been so extremely hot this summer and I'm in a grilling mode instead of cooking in a warm kitchen, so I figured if I tenderized the steak well enough, I could do it on the grill.  The results were very yummy and the left overs were even delicious served cold the next day.


1 large flank steak (or at least a pound)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt (and more to sprinkle)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Another clove of garlic, minced or pressed
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 peppers such as serrano or jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, diced
2 whole cooked carrots, cut lengthwise and then lengthwise again
1 hard boiled egg, quartered
Cooking string that has been soaked in water for about 10 minutes


1.  “Butterfly” the steak by carefully cutting it through the middle with a very sharp knife.  Be careful that you do not cut it completely through so that it stays in one large piece.  Open it up and lay it out in a 9x13 inch baking dish or similar container.

2.  Make a simple marinade of ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 2 garlic cloves put through a press, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and a tablespoon of fresh parsley (if you happen to have it).  Pour it over the steak and refrigerate it for several hours (best overnight, but I don’t always think that far ahead).  During the day, turn the steak over every couple of hours or so.

3.  Shake the excess marinade of the steak and lay it flat – cut side up.  Press another clove of garlic and rub it on the steak.  Lightly sprinkle it with salt and pepper.  Chop and seed 2 tomatoes, dice and seed 2 small peppers such as Serrano or Jalapenos, and dice one small onion.  Mix the tomatoes, peppers, and onions together and spread them over the steak.  Quarter a hardboiled egg and line the pieces down the middle of the steak.  Cut two precut carrots in half lengthwise and then in half lengthwise again. Line them down the steak to the left and right of the egg so there are two strips of carrots on either side.

4.  Roll the steak up from the end and tie it with cooking string or twine that has been soaked in water. I like to tie it in three places - the two ends and the middle.
5.  Over medium heat, grill the rolled steak about 7 minutes per “side” to achieve some nice brown marks.  Turn the heat down to low and cook about 7 more minutes.
6.  Let the steak rest about 5 minutes before cutting it into slices.  Yum – Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Adam Makes the Ribs (and Asparagus)

     Roy and I are spending Fourth of July week up at the lake cottage this year.  The beautiful scenery and cool breezes of upper Michigan are a welcome respite from the oppressive temperatures that we are having at home.  Life at the lake is easy:  a quiet cup of coffee on the deck in the morning, a lunch sandwiched in between water activities, and a dinner made with food someone can grill.  One someone is Adam, Caroline’s boyfriend, who gets his grilling expertise from a master – his Italian Chicago dad known as “Picasso” to his buddies.  Using his father’s methods, Adam treated us to the yummiest, juiciest barbecued ribs ever!  He also made some really tasty asparagus which he timed perfectly to be ready just when the ribs were done. 

Adam’s Ribs
You will need:
Slab(s) of pork ribs
Prepared barbecued sauce
Heavy Duty Foil
Estimated Cooking Time:
1 hour and 20 to 40 minutes
The "Picasso Method":
1.  Clean and preheat the grill.  If using a gas grill, set it for medium.
2.  Wrap the slab of ribs in heavy duty foil

3.  Place the foil wrapped ribs on the grill and cook each side for 30 minutes
4.  Take the slab off the grill and unwrap it.  There will be a lot of hot “juices” in the foil so watch out!  The ribs will have a “boiled” look.
5.   Place back on the grill, bone side up.  Take a knife and score the fat on either side of each bone by making 2” cut in the middle part of the slab. Lather it with sauce.  Leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes.

6.  Flip it over and lather the meat side with sauce and leave it on 5 to 10 minutes
7.  Turn the grill heat down to low.  Flip the slab over, lather it with sauce, and grill it for 5 to 10 minutes.  Then repeat with the other side.  Yum!  Enjoy!

Adam’s Grilled Asparagus
You will need:
A bunch of asparagus
Olive oil
Lemon Pepper
½ fresh lemon
Have this ready to put on the grill when the ribs are on their second round of saucing. It will take about 10 minutes.

Here’s what you do:
Put the asparagus in a shallow baking pan and drizzle it with enough olive oil so that the seasonings will cling and the stalks won’t stick to the grill.  Sprinkle with lemon pepper to cover.  Place it on the grill perpendicular to the grill slats. Grill about 5 minutes on each side until the asparagus is tender and has nice grill marks.  Put it on a serving dish in a single layer and squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon over it.