Local Lavender

This past summer I was lucky to be a vendor at Joplin Empire Market. I demonstrated recipes using ingredients from the vendors at Empire Market, and let visitors sample the goods. It was a wonderful way to develop recipes, meet wonderful local bakers, farmers, and makers, and promote my own personal chef business. One day I tore myself away from my table and explored the offerings of Lazy Mule Lavender Farm in Neosho. I couldn’t resist purchasing the culinary lavender. Never having cooked with it before, I was up for a challenge. 

But it sat on the shelf, begging for research and development, until this past weekend. Out of support for the Market, I cooked up the following recipes for a wonderful event called Cake It ‘Til You Make It, Empire Market’s kick-off to their 2.5 million dollar capital campaign to improve the building. Many of the Saturday morning vendors were present sharing their yummy bites, and Heartland Opera performed scenes from Bon Appetit, an opera about the life of Julia Child. It was well-attended, and folks seemed to love my food. Many were skeptical at first (as was I), never having tried lavender. Enjoy the following recipes, as you transition from summer to fall. And I challenge you, readers. Try a spice that is unfamiliar. Use your curiosity to feature it in tried and true recipes you already love. Bon Appetit to you!

Pork apple cheddar bites

2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1 pork tenderloin, unmarinated
2 granny smith apples
8 ounces aged white cheddar

Rinse pork tenderloin and remove the silver skin. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet or oven-proof skillet. Sear both sides, about 4 minutes each. Put in oven at 400 until meat thermometer reads 145. Remove and let rest on a cutting board. Once cool, slice and dice into half inch pieces.

While pork is cooking in oven, cut apples into quarters. Core. Dice into half inch pieces. Squeeze lemon juice over them in a bowl to prevent browning. Dice white cheddar into half inch pieces.

Put all three ingredients on a toothpick and drizzle with honey lavender dressing: 
Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over low. Add 1/3 cup honey and one teaspoon ground lavender; simmer until lavender is fragrant, about five minutes. Let cool five minutes. Puree with one egg yolk, two tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar, and one teaspoon Dijon mustard in a blender or food processor until smooth. With machine running, slowly add half cup canola oil until combined.

Lavender pepita brittle

1/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil cooking spray
 1 1/2 cups sugar 
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup pepitas (green hulled pumpkin seeds) 
1 tablespoon dried lavender (grind in spice grinder) 

Coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Bring sugar and corn syrup to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming, until sugar dissolves. Cook, swirling occasionally, until mixture just starts to turn golden around edge. 

Stir in lavender and pepitas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is pale amber, about 8 minutes. Pour onto baking sheet without spreading. Let cool. Break into pieces.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Lemon lavender tarts

3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (avoid seeds and pulp)
Zest of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons ground lavender
Pepperidge Farm phyllo cups
Mint leaves

In a small saucepan, whisk together egg yolk and egg until combined. While whisking, pour in sugar, lemon juice and zest, and continue whisking until creamy and well incorporated, about one minute. Place over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the butter, one cube at a time. Mix in lavender. Pour into a bowl or jar, cover surface with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Keep refrigerated. Spoon into phyllo cups and top with a mint leaf to serve.