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August 31, 2008

Lavender, and a purple haze (Recipe: pork tenderloin with grilled lavender peaches) {gluten-free}

Please welcome Marcia, who with this post joins The Perfect Pantry as guest blogger. She lives up the road from me, in a lovely old house with several vegetable and flower gardens, surrounded by acres of woodland. Professionally, she's been a teacher, children's librarian, naturalist and goat farmer. An avid cook and baker, Marcia will share stories and recipes once a month or so.

Lavender1

Guest post and photos by Marcia in Rhode Island

Lavender is a frivolous yet ever-present staple in my pantry. Occasionally my garden yields a few tablespoons, just enough for lavender madeleines when I’m feeling peckish and reminiscent, but most of the time, I buy buds and flowers embalmed in plastic packets.   

Until today.
   
“Pick your own lavender and distill the color of our garden into your kitchen,” promised the ad that ran in our local paper a couple of weeks ago.

And I’d been waiting. Because I am sure you don’t pick lavender on just any day.

If you’ve read Beyond the Paw-Paw Trees, then you know that something unusual always happens when the sky is lavender blue. This morning the early light shifted from gold to lavender-ish. At last! I gathered up basket and scissors, and drove through the rolling farmlands of eastern Connecticut.

Kristin Orr, elfin owner of Quintessential Gardens, zipped down the farm lane in a golf cart, yelling, “This way!” I trotted to keep up, following her along a tree-shaded path to the remains of an 1889 house. Only the cellar survives, its granite walls now enclosing a lavender maze.



The old foundation stones retain the sun’s heat and shelter the plants from New England’s bitter winds. According to Kris, lavender’s Iraqi and Mediterranean heritage prefers not only warmth, but also deep drainage. She built up five feet of stones and gravel before adding soil. The blinding white oyster mulch (five tons!) provides needed calcium.

Kris grows Provence, Munstead, England, Dilly Dilly and Hidcote lavender, which is the variety I have in my own garden. I mentioned that some cooks prefer Hidcote while others call for Provence in their recipes. She snorted, "What grows in your area is what works." Regardless of the variety of lavender you use, make sure it is culinary lavender, meaning it is not sprayed with poisons of any kind.
   
Following instructions to cut the blossom stem down to the first set of leaves, I began to snip. Scores of bumblebees hummed nearby, and the cloudless lavender sky turned deep blue. As the day warmed, the lavender fragrance intensified. Snip, snip. I lost all sense of time.

Eventually I emerged from my purple daze, and realized my basket was full. I creaked to my feet and reluctantly headed for home. 

On the way, I bought half a peck of peaches at a farm stand. Back in my own garden, I picked herbs and vegetables. And after consulting by phone with my sister and daughter, I prepared a dinner that featured my lavender in both the main course (recipe below) and dessert (lavender cookies). I let the rest of my lavender air-dry, and stored it in a glass jar.

Pork roast with lavender and peaches.

Pork tenderloin with grilled lavender peaches

In this recipe, the lavender retains its distinctive flavor in each part of the dish: a faintly rosemary-like taste in the pork marinade, deeply floral in the syrup for the peaches. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

1/4 cup total of minced herbs (proportions to your taste, or to what you have): dried or fresh lavender flowers or buds, tarragon, lemon basil, oregano, rosemary, lemon thyme, Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 peach, peeled and roughly chopped
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pork tenderloin (1-1/2 to 2 lbs)

Directions

Mince herbs and garlic, add a bit of salt and pepper, and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, mash the peach, and add enough olive oil to make a paste. Add herbs. Put all in plastic bag with the pork, and marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Grill on indirect medium heat for 30-40 minutes.

For the peaches:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp fresh lavender buds and/or flowers
1 small strip lemon peel
4 peaches, cut in half, pits removed

In a small saucepan over medium heat, boil water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in lavender and lemon peel. Let the syrup steep for 20 minutes, then strain into glass container. Refrigerate if not using right away, and warm before using.

Place peaches cut side down on the grill, for 1-2 minutes over direct medium heat. To serve, pour lavender syrup over peaches.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Mediterranean red snapper
Marinated bocconcini
Southwestern spicy pulled pork
Bay leaf crusted pork roast

Comments

What a lovely, late summer recipe! There is nothing more beautiful than a field of lavender. I wish I were there picking as well!

Marcia, you are such an eloquent writer. Your lavender day sounds grand!

Wow does this ever sound delicious! I was excited to try lavender (I don't think I've ever had it yet) early this season, I so I planted some hoping to have flowers in my backyard. The plant is still growing nicely, but to date, not a flower in sight! Ah well, maybe next year, I suppose. I love that you had lavender throughout this meal though from dinner to dessert, and both sound like a fantastic way to showcase it.

Such a beautiful experience and recipe!

I am a fan of lavender in herbs de provence -- it adds to the flavor and reminds me of the dusty summer landscape above the Riviara. The Ali'i Kula lavender farm on the slopes of the volcano in Maui, HI, is also wonderful to visit.

Hi, Marcia! I have to try this recipe, it sounds out of this world. It would go well with the lavender cookies I have in the freezer. I was lucky to have enough blossoms to make a double batch.

I have a ton of lavender and didn't know what to do with it all...Thanks for the great idea!

First of all, thank you all for your welcoming comments.
T.W., I hope you can pick lavender next year, and you are right, it's a lovely sight.

Julia, Thanks! And it was a lavender day; I even wore a faint lavender shirt!

Mike, There are years when my lavender doesn't bloom. I hope you are able to get it through the winter, if you live in a cold climate. But! The leaves serve me just fine when nature doesn't co-operate.

Mae, You have transported me in my mind's eye to places I'd love to visit. Thank you!

Pauline, Aren't lavender cookies so unique. Have you tried lavender blossoms in madeleines?

Ginny, You're welcome! Guess there should be a bumper sticker; Lavender: More than Soap!

Wow! Awesome-sounding recipe! Thanks!

Paz

What a lovely summer recipe. Is almost spring here (thanks God)I certainly must to try, when season peaches started here.

Wow! That tenderloin and those peaches look fantastic!

Paz, You're welcome. I'll pass your comments on to my sister and daughter, who gave good input!

Sylvia, Ah, the wonders of internet..you writing of spring while our leaves are just starting to turn. Enjoy your peaches when they come in!

MyKitchen, Thank you. They were delish, but all credit for the photo goes to Lydia who took a log 'o pork-with-greenish-peaches- photo-disaster and worked her magic!! We sure did laugh.

I have grown lavendar for years and have never realized that it can be used in actual recipes. The farthest I have gone with it (every year) is to enjoy its delightful frangrance. Thanks for letting us all know there is another "use" for this delightful plant.
re: peaches. I have a recipe so teriffic that it would be a pleasure to share for your readers should you desire.

Welcome Marcia! We look forward to reading you more often here at the PP!
You are so multi-talented, for sure! We are fans of growing lavender as well, but unfortunately had to tear out our patch for some roses. Hopefully we'll find a new, more sunny spot for our future lavender plot. Looking at the beautiful granite walls and this amazing dish has me itching to tear something out and re-grow our lavender now!

marvelous post, pictures, and recipe! love it :)

Bernardette, Now that lavender is in your pantry, I hope you enjoy many new recipes. Peaches....sounds intriguing.

WORC, Thank you. Chuckled with recognition at uprooting, replanting cycle. Have you read Growing Pains by Patricia Thorpe?

Giff, Thank you. It's fun meeting 'in person' all the people Lydia introduces through PP and links to blogs.

Now THAT is my kind of recipe! So appealing! Love your photos, too.

I have never used Lavender in cooking before. It sounds interesting. The pork with grilled peaches looks good.

Ann, Thanks for your enthusiasm!

Kevin, Go for it! It is an interesting taste.

Oh, I'd love to sit in that lovely garden with a good book and just appreciate that beautiful aroma. And thanks for a most delicious recipe!

I forgot to mention that I'll be posting on a pork dish with rosemary peaches, and I'll be sure to link to this one.

Welcome to The Perfect Pantry, Marcia! You are a great addition to this beautiful blog.

Susan, I'll be watching for your recipe, sounds delish.

Kristen, Thank you...glad to be here!

Marica, I enjoyed your first post! What a lovely use of lavender and I liked that you brought out different flavors in the recipes, from "faintly rosemary-like in the marinade" to "floral in the syrup." I can't wait to try this on the grill!

Yay, I am always looking for more lavender recipes.

great post, Marica! How I wish I have an endless supply of fresh lavenders in Singapore... the next best thing is my bottle of herbes de provence which comes with lavender... hee

Sandie, What a nice thing to say, thanks. Hope you enjoy those flavors, and fragrance, when you grill.

Peabody, Good! Glad it helped. What do you make with it?

Noobcook, Ah well, I'm guessing you have fresh herbs I covet! Have you checked out Lydia's recipes for herbes de provence?

What a gorgeous garden! And I can smell the lavender and the peaches just thinking about it. GLORIOUS, I tell you.

Alisha, Glorious is the perfect word for a warm day, lavender, and peaches.

Oh how wonderful! I love grilled peaches and although I've never cooked with it myself, I love the flavour of lavender. Inspired to marry these flavours with pork :)

Jeanne, Enjoy the new union of flavors! Thanks for your comments.

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