Weekend Herb Blogging: Lavender Lemonade

Herbal Refreshment

In my front-door herb garden, my lavender plants are in the starring role right now — you can smell the blooms from across the street!

I’ve been noticing lots of recipes for lavender that are intriguing me (rubs, panna cottas, roasted chickens and shortbread cookies), but time is of the essence, and today is hot.

I saw this recipe in the August issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray (She’s everywhere!) and made up a batch. It has a nice undertone of lavender and seems to be a perfect partner with lemon.

Susan at FoodBlogga is hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week. Go on over and check out what’s growing and cooking.

Lavender Lemonade
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

7 cups boiling water
2 tablespoons fresh lavender flower buds
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

Pour 3 cups of the water over the lavender in a heat-proof bowl; let steep 15 minutes. Pour remaining water over sugar in another large heat-proof bowl and stir until dissolved.

Strain lavender mixture and pour into a pitcher along with water and lemon juice. Chill.

Serve over ice with a lavender sprig.

Beautiful Bins of Lavender at the Portland Farmer’s Market

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Black Raspberry Birthday Cakes

I felt Farmer’s Market Greed during our Saturday morning trip to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market. I was in line waiting – relatively patiently, I might add, despite the fact that my eyeballs were starting to sweat and it wasn’t yet 9 a.m. – to purchase a few baskets of fresh, dewy black raspberries. Then the woman at the front of the line chose to buy all the pints displayed on the table. I felt a clenching, anxious panic come over me as I watched her snatch them up.

The person behind me sucked in her breath and said “Oh, are there any left!?”

That’s just what I was wondering, but because I was in the process of sending out invisible extra-pointy asparagus spears into the back of the black raspberry-buying woman’s head, I wasn’t able to articulate the question myself.

It turned out that yes, there were plenty more berries – enough for everyone!

But I was a little traumatized by my greediness. I might need to do some deep breathing before shopping for precious produce next time out.

We just happened to be celebrating a birthday in the middle of a busy weekend, and I thought that individual cakes would be satisfying and fuss-free. I might be a little greedy, but I don’t have time to mess with fussy, fancy cakes. I adapted a recipe for Brown Sugar Bundt Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours (is there any recipe in this book that doesn’t turn out perfectly?) by baking the batter in oversized Texas muffin tins instead of a Bundt pan and reducing the baking time.

These are essentially big, rich cupcakes. They would be yummy without the topping, maybe just a dusting of powdered sugar over the tops.

I would stand in line for these any day. Just don’t buy all the berries!

Black Raspberry Almond Birthday Cakes
for 10 cakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) butter, softened
2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Topping:

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint mixed fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries or black raspberries)
Powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 2 6-cup oversize (Texas) muffin tins with softened butter and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Beat in the extracts.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and mixing just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Spoon batter evenly into 10 cups of the muffin tins (pour water 3/4 full into the 2 empty muffin cups for even baking) and bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool pans on a rack 15 minutes before turning cakes out to cool completely.

To make the topping, combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high speed until the mixture forms soft peaks. Dollop over the tops of the cakes and top with berries. Dust with powdered sugar.

Happy Birthday!

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Happy Hour: Passion Fruit Caipiroska

Cool Cocktail

Tomorrow is the last day of school, the community pool is open for the season, and I have my first dozen mosquito bites. Summer’s here!

I made a big batch of these delicious Brazilian-style summer drinks for a Memorial Day bash last weekend. I only allowed myself one, but I’ve been thirsty for another. Passion fruit has an intensely tropical candy-like taste that I love, and this drink is a perfect foil for the vodka – you don’t really taste it. Which can be a problem. Sometimes.

Have one or two in the backyard while fending off those bloodthirsty insects, and you’ll be a happy camper.

Passion Fruit Caipiroskas
makes 6 drinks
from Food and Wine magazine, June 2006

3/4 cup frozen pure passion fruit puree, thawed (Note: I use Goya brand frozen fruit pulp from my international grocer)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
1 1/4 cups vodka
Garnish: 6 thin lime slices

Stir together all ingredients in a pitcher until sugar is dissolved.
Pour over crushed ice. Garnish with a lime slice.

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