I saw Sharon Shipley’s “The Lavender Cookbook” at several of the vendor booths at the Becker Vineyards annual Lavender Fest, and rushed to order myself a copy after being drawn in by the book’s colorful seasonal menus that all incorporate lavender in some form, from beverages (Lavender ginger lemonade, lavender iced tea sangria, lavender mulled wine) to desserts (chocolate lavender brownies, lavender honey custard ice cream, lavender coconut panna cotta with raspberry caramel sauce).
As a vegetarian, this book had plenty of delicious offerings that make the most of seasonal Mediterranean produce such as eggplant and artichokes. Rounded out with the included veggie- and fruit-based soups and lavender-infused breads, there is plenty to appeal to vegetarians and vegans who seek to incorporate the delicate flavor of lavender. For carnivores, there are lavender salt rubs, lavender chicken breasts in champagne sauce, grilled lavender lamb chops, grilled seafood, and more.
Every page was a voyage of discovery. Unexpected delights such as Taos lavender potato soup (poblano and chipotle peppers, cumin, an assortment of veggies), cantaloupe, mango, and Asian pear salad with lavender cilantro dressing, and farro lavender tabbouleh salad brought unexpected international twists to a seemingly straightforward herb.
The recipes are presented in an easy-to-follow manner, and oftentimes there is a short introduction as to the origin of the recipe. The seasonal menus take advantage of fresh local produce, and are correspondingly light for spring and summer (tropical fruit gazpachos and cold soups, light salads) and heavier for fall and winter (hearty stews and chili, hot beverages). The desserts are simply fabulous, from lavender devil’s food cake to fragrant fruit-infused cakes, poached pears, panna cotta, and more. The cookbook is illustrated with pen-and-ink sketches of the Provence countryside on the chapter headings, and line drawings on some of the recipes. Nearly every recipe includes helpful hints on where to find trickier ingredients.
This is upscale, elegant, and romantic cuisine that would feel at home in a spa or resort town. Thankfully, it is fairly easy to prepare thanks to the well-written instructions, the ingredients are generally easy to find (finding dried lavender itself (Melissa’s Dried Lavender, 0.33-Ounce Bags (Pack of 24) may be the most challenging aspect), and your guests will be wowed with the unexpected sensuality and versatility that dried lavender has to offer.
Note: the book does not cover varietal lavenders other than the hybrid Provence.
I had problems with the first printing of this book (which featured deckled edges); the binding split and pages started falling out. When I contacted the publisher, they told me to go buy my own replacement (which I did). I noticed that the new printing uses smaller font and thinner paper (also no deckled edges), but so far I have not had the problems with the binding (although I liked the look of the original book better!)