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Try Lavender in Your Brownies


“I love these brownies!” Sharon Shipley writes in “The Lavender Cookbook” (Running Press, $18.95). “They’re moist, chewy, and so quick and easy to prepare. Why bother making brownies from a box, when these take only a few extra minutes and taste so much better? Serve them with vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge sauce — or just plain with a glass of cold milk. What could be better?”

If you are cooking with lavender, make sure you get the variety that is meant for the kitchen. Ask your lavender farmer or the person handling the bulk bins at stores like Central Market, Whole Foods or Green Fields for guidance. Shipley prefers the dried “Provence” culinary buds because they have “a low camphor level, a nice floral note, and a gentle lavender flavor. Other varieties of lavender can taste perfumey, buttery and medicinal.” The culinary variety will also have more gray in the color.

Chocolate Lavender Brownies

1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender buds
3 cups sugar, divided use
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder or powdered instant coffee
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

Place the lavender in a spice grinder with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Pulse until the lavender is finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the flour, cocoa, salt, espresso or coffee powder, and the remaining sugar. Mix well.

Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power for 1 minute at a time until melted. Let cool for a few minutes. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter mixture. Using a wood spoon, mix until just combined. Stir in the nuts, if using. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth top. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.

Makes 24 brownies.

From “The Lavender Cookbook” by Sharon Shipley

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Daily Dish: A Taste of Provence


Monkfish Bourride with potato and tapenade.

Monkfish Bourride with potato and tapenade.

Want a way to beat the heat? Give yourself a night in Provence at Fig Tree Restaurant.

A prix fixe summer menu, A Taste of Provence, presents some of the light, flavorful dishes from the South of France. An option is to have wines from the region paired with three of the menu courses.

Appetizer choices are Lump Crab Stuffed Zucchini Blossom or the delicate Pissaladiere, featuring caramelized onions, olives and anchovies on a flatbread crust. This course is paired with a chilled Chateau Routas Rosé 2008.

A fish course offers Monkfish Bourride or Loup de Mer en Papillote. Monkfish, sometimes called the “poor man’s lobster” comes blanketed in a creamy white sauce. The loup de mer, a type of sea bass, comes topped with vegetables and baked in parchment. The wine offering is a rosé from a famous Côte de Provence producer, Domaine Ott.

Roasted Lamb Chops Ratatouille is the first choice on the meat course. The chops come trimmed, seared, and basted in butter. The mixed vegetable dish, ratatouille, is on the side. The other option is tender slices of Pan-seared Lamb Tenderloin Provençal.  The wine is Domaine Tempier Rouge, a red wine from Bandol.

A Cherry and Apricot Tarte or Chocolate Terrine bring a sweet end to the meal.

This summer offering is $48 per person. To have the wines paired with each course is another $12. The Fig Tree is at 515 La Villita St. For reservations, call (210) 224-1976.

Chocolate Terrine with white and dark chocolate layers.

Chocolate Terrine with white and dark chocolate layers.

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