Thursday, February 26, 2009

lavender cookie recipe?...go ask alice...

so i joined a book club. my friend brooke emailed me right before the holidays and asked if i would participate if she formed a club...she is amazingly cool and a brilliant writer (check out her blog...AficioNada)...and i immediately said "sign me up!"... last month, seven of us met at zuzu's (a local napa restaurant...tapas...really, really good...) and we crafted the "no rules, rules" for our group. we decided we did not want anything too formal...did not want to feel like we were back in school...and we selected the biography alice waters and chez panisse, by thomas mcnamee...as our first book.
regular readers know that i am a broken record regarding using the freshest, best quality available ingredients in cooking...i consider alice waters an icon in this area...i have learned so much from her...so selecting this book for our club was a natural. we agreed to read the book and then hold our first meeting at one of the member's homes and have each of us bring a "chez panisse inspired" dish.

first of all, i loved the book. i remember the first time i ever heard of alice waters...many years ago i was reading a restaurant review in the newspaper about chez panisse...the description of the food was unlike anything i had ever heard...the focus on the ingredients..not only what they were, but where they were from...was so unusual...i was inspired to visit farmer's markets, cheese shops, olive oil producers, bakeries for fresh bread...etc..but this was the early eighties and specialty food shops were not common...even in southern california where i am from...but, if you searched hard enough you could find them....i first ate at chez panisse in the late eighties for a company function...and knew immediately that i would be back as often as i could...every dish was the best i had ever tasted...i have followed the alice credo ever since..."fresh, local, seasonal, and where possible organic ingredients"...are words i live by.

i will refer to alice and the book frequently in upcoming posts...but for today...back to the book club...we had our first "official" meeting last night...there are seven of us...and what a group!...artists, chefs, sales executives, entrepreneurs and a writer...how cool is that? to top it off, one of the members had a friend visiting from out of town...who just happens to be a chef...and just happened to intern at chez panisse 5 years ago....we got all the scoops..and even though she had not read the book...she confirmed many of the stories...what a fun night...


so i read the book...even highlighted passages that were especially meaningful to me...and the next task was deciding what dishes to make for the book club meeting. we had agreed to keep it light...salady (i so love to make up words)...organic..."chez panissey"(i know, there i go again)... the easiest decision was the wine...they mention bandol rose frequently throughout the book...supposedly alice's favorite...so i went to my favorite wine shop and purchased a bottle...now, onto the food...i have been experimenting a lot with dishes made with organic lavender lately. i purchased a large quantity of organic lavender flowers while crafting recipes for our bath and body care line...organic bath tea is a natural...and... because it is too early in the season for my own lavender to flower...bought some from a favorite resource. i only use food grade ingredients in my bath & body care products...so having so much lavender around has inspired me to cook with it!! i love the concept of lavender in food...use herbs de provence frequently...but lately, every lavender dish i taste at a restaurant...or bakery...is just too "lavendery"...a little goes a long way with this herb. the concept of lavender, lemons, cheese and balsamic vinegar was interesting to me...so i landed on an experiment of parmigiano-reggiano cheese with balsamic reduction, served with lavender cookies...i played around with many versions of the cookies...and created a recipe that was light..not too sweet..not too much lavender..balanced with meyer lemon zest..that i fell in love with...the dish was a hit....i now have my lavender cookie recipe...one that i love cause the lemon and lavender pair beautifully together...and i thought i would share with all of you..please let me know what you think...

step #1..find the best parmigiano-reggiano available
step #2..serve with the balsamic reduction and lavender cookies.

that's it...easy...delicious...organic where possible...best quality available ingredients...very alice...we also had salads, really good bread...and a delicious vegetarian version of eggplant caponata (thank you ashley)....terrific food...even better company...i am going to really like this book club...and will enjoy telling you about it each month.

balsamic reduction
2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 tsp organic honey
1 tsp organic agave nectar

add ingredients to saucepan and cook over medium heat until liquid has reduced by half. allow to cool. i always keep this on hand, stored in a mason jar in my refrigerator..drizzle on cheese, fruit (esp strawberries), steak, roasted or poached chicken, steamed vegetables, pound cake....i use this on almost everything...


organic lavender cookies
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg, room temp
1 tsp lemon zest (preferably meyer lemon)
1 tsp organic lavender flowers

preheat oven to 350 degrees. grease 2 baking sheets or use silpat. set aside. sift together flour, baking soda and salt...set aside. using an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. add sugar and cream together until well mixed. add honey and egg and incorporate well. add dry ingredients to mixing bowl and beat until well blended. add lemon zest and lavender and mix until incorporated into batter. drop by teaspoonfuls onto prepared sheets leaving approx. 2 inches of space between each cookie (dough will spread when baking). bake until cookies just begin to turn brown...12-15 minutes. remove from oven and cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. remove cookies from sheets, place on racks and allow to thoroughly cool.


do you have a favorite lavender recipe? please share in the comments section of this post..do you belong to a book club? if so, please tell me about it....oh, btw..our next book is about salt...one of my favorite ingredients...i cannot wait to read the book and tell you about it...look for that story sometime in early april...


best,
diane

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style"™
please sign up for our mailing list on the sidebar of this blog....
follow me on twitter



13 comments:

'A Tuscan view.....from Umbria' said...

Ciao Diane, there are so many things I love about your blog I don't know where to start. I've stopped by before when the figs were ripe and I loved it then.

Let's just say I love the products especially the bags and the retro aprons (we call them pinnies), I love the photography and the food and I think it's beautifully written too.

I think that an aged and crumbly parmiggiano would be perfetto with your lavender cookies, can't wait to try it.

I belong to a book club here in Italy, we are a mixed bunch, Italian, English, American and German. We read mainly in English (thank goodness). I love it, we talk about everything under the sun and then the book... it's great. amanda

Brooke said...

I would love to know some of your favorite passages, the ones that leapt from the page and into your heart. We didn't share those at all Wednesday night...we must remedy that for next time!

Linda Lou said...

I am actally starting a book club this month, and am very excited about-starting with about 9 women, haven't picked a book yet...I am coming up to the Bay Area for Easter break and asked my husband if we could go to Chez Panisse for lunch or dinner-always wanted to check it out...I heard reservations are at least 1 month ahead, better start calling...

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

hi amanda..thank you so much for the kind words! the feeling is mutual..i am a big fan of your blog...love everything italian...and your photos and stories allow me to feel like i am back for a visit...what book is your club reading now? would love to hear about it..
best,
diane

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

hi brooke..i know, i had my book all highlighted and everything..wasn't sure what to expect..but loved the flow of the night...who knows, maybe salt will move us all???

to everyone reading these comments..you really should check out brooke's blog!!

dp

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

hi linda lou..welcome back! excited to hear you started a book club. please keep me posted on the books you guys are reading!

make your reservation to chez panisse now..you will love, love, love the restaurant. i usually eat upstairs these days...downstairs for really special occasions..either way, you cannot go wrong.

please tell me about your experience..and enjoy your trip to the bay area....

diane

Lisa said...

Diane,
I made your cookies yesterday. Excellent!
Thank you for the idea and for the recipe.
Lisa

Joan said...

Hey Diane,
I made the cookies too. They are delicious!

Joan

Penny said...

Diane,
I just discovered your blog and love it! I also loved the Alice Waters book. I'm looking forward to visiting often.
Penny

madrekarin said...

Your post was so brilliant that now I must read that book!! I love lavender cookies, especially lavender shortbread with a lemon glaze. Yum. I've had good cookies made with this versatile flower and bad ones that tasted like Yardley Old English Lavender soap, which I like to bathe with but not eat. Not a good thing.
Our book club disbanded about two years ago and it makes me sad still. It was something I looked forward to every single month. Maybe I can resurrect it somehow. They would love this book!

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

hi lisa and joan..so happy you liked the cookies!! thanks for the comments..
diane

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

hi penny,
so happy you discovered my blog..welcome! please visit again soon..(and i cannot wait to visit yours)

best,
diane

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

karin..you are so kind..thank you for the nice comments...and now you cannot be a tease..please share your lavender shortbread recipe with lemon glaze..how good does that sound?

diane