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Island Flavor

"When I was younger, my grandmother kept her dresser drawers, and ours, smelling fresh and sweet with her handmade lavender sachets. They were lovely little heart-shaped pillows filled with dried lavender from her garden. I still have a few in my dresser and they are still fragrant. To this day, the scent of lavender brings back sweet memories of her. I’d never thought of cooking with lavender until I met a goat cheese maker in Arroyo Grande, Calif., named Sadie Kendall. Sadie raised her own goats in a picturesque old farmhouse in the country, overrun with wild cats and goats. Her soft, tangy goat cheese was the best and I grew addicted to it. In addition to making cheese, Sadie produced and sold crème fraîche. She was also a wonderful cook. Sadie loves lavender and, she taught me to use it in numerous ways in ice creams, scones, custards, with pork and lamb. Lavender’s aromatic, minty flavor livens up a number of dishes. On the stony hillsides of Provence in southern France, lavender grows wild along with thyme, mint, fennel and sage. The herbs are gathered just as they come into flower and hung to dry. Then the leaves are crushed and the herbs are blended together to create herbes de Provence. The composition of this fragrant concoction varies from cook to cook. It always contains thyme, and usually rosemary, savory, fennel and marjoram. Sometimes cooks add sage, basil, mint, oregano or bay leaf. Lavender is the surprise ingredient. Traditionally, herbes de Provence is stored in terra-cotta jars, ready to use in cooking. Herbes de Provence is available ready-made in specialty food stores, or you can make your own by blending your favorite herbs. But don’t forget the lavender and thyme. To create your own blend, start by combining three parts each of thyme and marjoram. Then, add one part each of any or all of these: lavender buds, savory, fennel seeds (fennel grows wild on Whidbey), basil, mint, oregano and crushed bay leaf. Mix the ingredients well and crush lightly, tasting as you go along. Use only fresh or dried lavendar that has not been treated with pesticides. Lavendar prepared for pot pourri may not be edible.We are lucky to have one of the largest English lavender farms in the country on Whidbey Island. If you haven’t seen it, definitely take a drive to the Sweetwater Lavender farm south of Coupeville when the lavender is in bloom. Here’s a simple recipe for herbes de Provence 2 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme 2 tablespoons dried basil 2 tablespoons dried marjoram or oregano 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds 2 teaspoons fennel seeds Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container. Pork roast with herbes de Provence crust Serves 6 To enhance the savory-lavender flavor of this succulent roast, pour a fruity pinot noir or a Rhone wine, with hints of violets. 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1 1/2 tablespoons honey 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 1/2 tablespoons herbes de Provence and others according to taste 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 pounds boneless pork loin Place the mustard, honey, garlic and herbs in a blender or food processor. With the machine running, gradually add the oil. Coat the surface of the roast with the mixture. Cover gently with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours to overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the pork in a baking pan and roast for about 1 hour, until a meat thermometer registers 140 degrees F (medium rare). Remove the roast from the oven and let sit 10 minutes before slicing. Lavender scones This delightful recipe is from my friend Sadie Kendall. You can buy crème fraiche pre-made, or make your own. You can also substitute sour cream. Mix the lavender into the crème fraiche one day ahead so it has time to release its flavor. Makes 10 scones 1 cup crème fraiche or sour cream 2 teaspoons dried lavender blossoms 2 cups sifted unbleached all purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt Stir the lavender into the crème fraiche. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix the crème fraiche into the dry ingredients. The mixture should be moist enough that it forms a cohesive dough. If it is too dry, add more crème fraiche, a little at a time, until the dough can be handled. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat it into a circle, 3/4 inch thick. With a knife, divide the circle into 10 pie-shaped scones. Place the scones on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they turn golden brown. Serve with butter. -----------------------Lori McKean-Casad is a Northwest chef with 15 years of hands-on experience and a particular love for Northwest foods. She is the author or co-author of three cookbooks, “Pacific Northwest Flavors,” “The Northwest Best Places Cookbook,” and “John Sarich at Chateau Ste. Michelle.” She lives in Cornet Bay on Whidbey Island. If you have questions, comments, or favorite recipes to share, contact her at the Whidbey News Times, 675-6611; fax 675-2732; or e-mail wnt@whidbey.net."

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