Lemon & Lavender Shortbread

lemon and lavender cookies with nasturtium and lavender blossoms

I’ve been looking forward to posting this recipe for quite a while. We have quite a few lavender bushes around our yard and I’m always trying to think of ways to put all that lavender to use. Last Holiday season, I embedded some into resin to make coasters and trivets and I plan to make candles (ssh…they’ll probably wind up as Christmas presents for some folks) and maybe try soap though messing with lye kind of scares me so maybe not.

Anyway back to the lavender. A few weeks back I went through and picked blossoms off the lavender plants and I’ve been letting them air dry. I realize that not everyone grows their own lavender, several of the popular online spice retailers have dried lavender available and of course good ‘ol Amazon does.  Just with Amazon, make sure that its food grade or for culinary use.

Shortbread is pretty easy to make there’s no leavener, its just sugar, softened room temperature butter, a pinch of salt, flour and whatever flavoring you’d like to add, like vanilla extract or in this case lavender and lemon. They’re also nice because you don’t need any special cutters. You can roll the dough out to about a ½” thickness and then cut the dough into bars with a knife or pizza cutter. The dough is also very forgiving. I frequently re-roll the scraps though typically I will chill the dough back down in the fridge for a little while before I do that.

I suppose you can also make shortbread vegan by replacing the butter, though I’ve yet to find a shortening or similar that actually tastes good enough that I’d want to give up the butter. Shortbread dough is versatile. I use shortbread for my cut-out style Holiday Cookies and shortbread is a nice crust to use with custard style pies. Just dock the crust and blind bake before filling.

I’m using my regular shortbread recipe which you’ll find here. With a few important differences, first the cooking temperature and time which in this case is 275F for 60-75 minutes and I’ll be adding lemon zest and lavender blossoms as well as lemon extract. Baking the cookies low and slow will give them a really nice snap (perfect dunking texture). Here are the ingredients and instructions and there’s also a video below to walk you through the process.

Recipe

  • 3 ½ standard sticks of room temperature softened unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 Tablespoon lavender blossoms
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of powdered sugar for dusting rolling pin and work surface
  • white sanding sugar, 1 TBS more of lemon zest and lavender for decorating (optional)

Cream butter and sugar together in a large mixing bow or the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the your flavorings and slowly incorporate the salt and flour. Blend until dough starts to pull away from the side of the bowl and a ball starts to form. Wrap the dough in wax paper and chill for at least an hour. Roll out and cut into desired shape and dock cookies several times with a fork or toothpick. Optional step: sprinkle with the sanding sugar, zest, lavender blend and use the rolling pin to slightly press the decorations into the dough.  Bake at 275F for 60-75 minutes. Larger thicker cookies require more baking time. You want the cookies to be golden brown on the bottom and set. Let cool on a wire rack

Hot weather cooking

Marinated lamb chops with grilled onions, zucchini and orange bell peppers

I mentioned a few posts back that its been fairly hot here. Now I know that’s relative, here along the coast, it doesn’t get into the high 80s or 90s very often and we usually can count on an ocean breeze to keep it cool, so the fact we don’t have central A/C isn’t usually an issue.

Our kitchen gets crazy ridiculous hot when the temperature gets above 85 and. It does not make for a hospitable cooking environment. I try to combat this by doing my prep early in the day, when its still cool. Then do my cooking on the grill.

When its hot like this I crave lighter fare and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. I found some lamb chops on sale the other day so I’m going to grill those up along with some leg of lamb, zucchini, onions and peppers. We’ll have the lamb chops this evening. I think of lamb chops as special occasion kinda food. We’re celebrating our 9th Wedding Anniversary so seems like a perfect excuse. The leg of lamb and veggies we’ll eat with a salad of romaine lettuce, red onion, pepperoncini, feta and olives through the week.

The lamb is marinaded with a combination of yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, fresh mint, parsley and basil and dried oregano, dried sage and salt and pepper. I use the food processor to grind up the herbs, garlic, spices and salt and pepper.

herbs, spices, lemon juice and garlic waiting for a spin in the food processor.

Then I mix that with the yogurt and olive oil.The yogurt helps to tenderize the lamb and helps the marinade to stay on the meat even during grilling.

Yogurt and olive oil added to the ground up herbs and spices

Then I place the lamb chops into a zip top freezer bag along with about 2 TBS of marinade.

place about 2TBS of yogurt mixture into a zip top bag and add the lamb chops. Massage the lamb chops so that they are completely coated with the marinade.

You can marinade the meat over night or for as little as 2 hours. Just let it chill in the refrigerator.

Butterflied de-boned leg of lamb with marinade applied.

The same applies for the boneless butterflied leg of lamb. I buy mine already de-boned and butterflied.  They’re easy to find Easter through Summer, this one came from my local Sprouts. 3-5lbs leg of lamb can easily feed 8 people.  I removed the mesh pouch that its packed with, opened it up and made a few more cuts to make sure the lamb was a uniform thickness. Then coated it with about 3 or 4 TBS of the marinade, placed into a 2 gallon zip top bag and let it chill in the fridge along side the lamb chops. An hour before I start the grill I’ll take the lamb out of the fridge and let the temperature come up.  I grill over direct heat turning once after about10 minutes. Then cook for another 10 minutes for medium rare.

Once I pull the leg of lamb off the grill I’ll let it rest for 10-15 minutes.  While the leg of lamb rests, I’ll grill the lamb chops. They take about 3-5 minutes per side.

Marinade Recipe:

3 cloves of garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp crushed dried oregano

1 tsp rubbed sage

salt and pepper

4 TBS each of  torn fresh Mint, Parsley, and Basil leaves

1 TBS fresh rosemary leaves

zest of 1 lemon

4 TBS yogurt

2 TBS olive oil

Place, lemon juice and zest, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper into a food processor bowl and pulse until a paste forms. Scrap into a clean bowl and add yogurt and olive oil and mix until well combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

This same marinade also works well for chicken. We made Chicken Kabobs when my in-laws were in town a few weeks back. The chicken thighs stayed moist and were well seasoned even though they were marinaded for only an hour. You can also take this same butterflied and de-boned leg of lamb, and cut it into 1 inch cubes for Lamb Kabobs.

And here is the finished roast after grilling and resting.

Grilled leg of lamb sliced and ready for some pita

And here’s the lamb on pita with tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, Yogurt Dill Sauce and grilled onions.

lamb on pita with tomatoes, lettuce, dill sauce and pickles.

 

 

 

Easy dessert options

Here is curd used to add a sour element to cut the richness of marscapone cream.

I’m frequently asked to bring dessert when we attend gatherings. When I don’t have time to prepare something fancy or extravagant, I make citrus curd because they’re easy, don’t require special equipment and only have 5 ingredients that I usually have around the house. You can swap out different types of citrus to change the flavor. Here’s the recipe for basic Lemon Curd. I especially like to use Meyer Lemons or Kalamansi which is a small citrus fruit similar to a kumquat.

Here’s the traditional application for lemon curd as a pairing with scones.

Recipe

3 LG Eggs
1 TBS of Lemon Zest
1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
3/4 Cup sugar
4 TBS room temp butter cut into small cubes

In a heat resistant bowl over the simmering water whisk the eggs, lemon juice and sugar until it thickens. Takes about 10 to 12 minutes. You do need to whisk constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Once it thickens. Remove it from the heat and run through a strainer, add in the lemon zest and then slowly stir in the butter. Thoroughly incorporate the butter before each addition. Once all the butter is incorporated cover directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and chill. It can be chilled for up to 5 days.

For me the real fun is finding interesting ways to dress up a simple curd.

The lemon curd is cut with whipped cream to make a creamy and sour filling for eclairs.

And finally, the most simple application. Lemon Curd paired with store bought pound cake and fresh seasonal fruit.

Seasonal fruit and store bought pound cake make for an easy dessert.

Give this recipe a try and let me know how you liked it.

Plum tart… or pie or whatever you wanna call it.

Tarts and pies are a nice way to enjoy seasonal fruits. Since plum season is winding to a close, what better way to enjoy them, than a plum tart? I’ve used this crust recipe with pretty good success, but use whatever crust recipe works for you or store bought. Yes, I did just suggest store bought pie crust. Commercial crust is usually pretty thick and tough, so you’ll need to roll it out so its thinner and more pliable.

You’ll need a smallish tart pan 8 or 9 inches in diameter. If you don’t have a tart pan, you can use a pie plate you’ll just need more fruit to fill the plate and the “pie” will take longer to bake.

Plum Tart Filling
6-8 plums cut into 1/2 inch wedges
dash of salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp corn starch
2 TBS lemon juice
Zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line the bottom of the tart pan with the crust. Dock the crust and line with foil and then uncooked dry beans (don’t try to re-cook the beans they will never soften and be edible, but they’ll be great for blind baking crusts). Bake the crust ‘n beans in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the foil with the beans and let the crust.

In a large mixing bowl, combine plums, salt, brown sugar, lemon zest and the ground cinnamon. Put the corn starch into a small cup and add the lemon juice, stir with a fork until the corn starch is broken up. You may have a few lumps but thats okay. Pour the corn starch mixture in with the plums and stir until the plums are well coated. Let the mixture set for about 30 minutes, so that the natural juices start to come out of the fruit.

Pour the filling mixture into the shell and bake fo 40 minutes at 350ºF.

You can top the tart with a crumb topping or use another crust and make lattice top. I brush the lattice crust with cream or milk and dust it with a little sugar before baking. If you notice the crust or crumb topping is browning too much, cover it with foil.

Crumb (Struesel) Topping
1/2 AP Flour
1/4 Brown Sugar
1/2 stick unsweetened butter (softened)

Combine in a small bowl and blend with a fork until its crumbly…