Carrot Salad with Lavender & Thyme

My CSA box* often includes carrots — and last week they were special.  Deep, rich purple on the outside with a bright orange core, these beauties deserved a starring role.


purple carrots, lavender, and thyme


Carrot Salad with Lavender & Thyme

Their flavor profile is a little duskier than a bright orange carrot, and so I paired them with the lovely lavender and thyme growing in my garden.  A simple dressing of olive oil, sherry vinegar and a touch of honey make it sing.  All together, this is a hearty, sweet/savory salad that would add sparkle to most meals.  And a bonus — this salad keeps for a couple days in the fridge — perfect for make ahead meals.  Enjoy!

Carrot Salad with Lavender & Thyme

6 – 8 purple carrots, rinsed and grated
3 TB olive oil
1 TB fruity sherry vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp sea salt, fine
3 sprigs fresh lavender, buds removed and chopped (or 1 tsp dried lavender)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried thyme)

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, taste for salt and adjust if needed.

* I often feature vegetables from my Full Belly Farms CSA Veggie box.  Have you considered joining a CSA?  This stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  There are many in my neck of the woods, Northern California, but I know that they exist all over the country, and perhaps the world.  It is an excellent way to taste the best produce grown locally, grown in a way that respects workers and the land upon which they labor.  Here’s a link to Local Harvest, a site that helps connect you with the best CSA box for you and your family.

Blueberry Spongecake Roll

Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits.  I have several new Southern high bush blueberry plants in my garden this year.  Their flavor is rich and sweet — but subtle in a dessert.  To get the blueberry flavor and color I was after, I turned to freeze dried blueberries to add big blueberry flavor to this luscious spongecake roll.  Adding whole fresh blueberries adds texture and interest to this treat.

Blueberry Spongecake Roll slice

The spongecake is simple and fluffy, and rolls up nicely without cracking.  For this cake you’ll need a 15 inch jellyroll pan and parchment paper.

15 ”  jellyroll pan, mid prep

spongecake, just finished baking

cooled and rolled spongecake, unrolled to spread blueberry buttercream over the top prior to rolling

The Swiss meringue buttercream filling gets its amazing color and flavor from pulverized freeze dried blueberries.  Freeze Dried blueberries are super light in weight, but retain the shape of a fresh blueberry and have a crisp, crunchy texture.  I bought the freeze dried blueberries from my local market, then ground them in a spice grinder until a fine powder.  I used the entire contents of a packet of freeze dried blueberries (about 2 cups to begin with) and ended up with about 2/3 cup ground blueberries.

Blueberry Spongecake Roll, ready to eat!

The proportions aren’t exact — just add the amount of pulverized blueberries you like to achieve the flavor and color you desire.   Enjoy!

Spongecake Roll
(serves 8 – 10)

4 large eggs
7 oz (1 cup) sugar
4/1/2 oz (1 cup sifted) unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. sea salt, fine
1 TB vanilla extract
2 TB water
2 TB butter, melted

Preheat over to 375.  Grease and flour the sides of a 15″ jelly pan roll, then fit a sheet of parchment paper, also greased and floured, to the bottom of the pan.

Using the whip attachment to your mixer, beat eggs on medium high speed for a minute.  Add sugar, then beat for several minutes, or until very light and fluffy.  Reduce mixer speed to low, and add in vanilla and water.

Sift together flour and salt.  Gently fold flour/salt mixture into the egg mixture until incorporated.  Gently stir in the melted butter.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 13 – 17 minutes or until light golden brown, and the middle of the cake springs back when pressed.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then score the edges of the pan to release the sides of the cake.  Invert the cake onto a clean cotton or linen dishcloth that has been lightly dusted with powdered sugar.  Gently roll up the cake long-wise in the towel and allow to cool, seam side down.

Blueberry Swiss meringue buttercream

3 egg whites
6 oz sugar
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup finely ground freezedried blueberries
3/4 cup fresh blueberries – for the assembly of the dessert

Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl.  Place over a pan with 1 inch simmering water, and whisk the egg/sugar mixture until the sugar has dissolved completely into the egg whites and the mixture is about 140 degrees.  (more info here)

Whip the hot egg/sugar mixture on high heat until fluffy, white, and cooled to almost room temperature.  Remove the whip attachment and replace it with the mixing paddle.  Add the butter one TB at a time while paddling on low.  Gently fold in the ground blueberries with a spatula.

To assemble the cake, unroll the spongecake from the towel.  Apply the blueberry buttercream over the inward side of the rolled cake and spread evenly, leaving a one inch margin on one long side.  Sprinkle the fresh blueberries evenly over the buttercream.  Roll up the spongecake longways, and place on a serving tray, seam side down.  Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.  Allow to cool in the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour, then serve by slicing the roll.



Bay Lime Cooler

Here’s a refreshing summer cocktail that uses my Bay Leaf Liqueur.  It’s a balanced sweet/tart flavor, fabulously aromatic with bay and lime mint over a base of gin.

Bay Lime Cooler

sprigs of lime mint, fresh from my garden

I love growing scents in my garden — and lime mint is unique, in that it doesn’t smell minty.  Instead it’s more green, limey and herbal.  You may substitute a strip of lime zest if you can’t find lime mint.  Enjoy!

Bay Lime Cooler
(serves two)

3 oz Gin
1 1/2 oz Bay Leaf Liqueur
a big sprig of lime mint, or strip of lime zest
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
ice for mixing
crushed ice
(bay leaf and lime slice optional garnish)

Give the lime mint a gentle squeeze, and place in shaker.  Add the gin, bay liqueur, lime juice, and ice.  Shake for 20 seconds, or until cocktail is very cold.  Strain into two glasses over crushed ice, garnishing with lime slice and bay leaf, if desired.

Bay Leaf Liqueur

Many years ago I planted a tiny sweet bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) in my garden*.  It has flourished, and produces an abundance of dark green leaves.

Bay Laurel leaves

I love experimenting with flavors in my cooking and cocktails, and decided to do something bold with my bay leaves.  The result is Bay Leaf Liqueur — an elixor long enjoyed in the Mediterranean from whence this noble plant comes.

Bay Leaf Liqueur

While the scent of the crushed bay leaf is pungent, the liqueur is surprisingly rounded and balanced.  It’s gentle on the taste buds, but full of scent and depth.  This liqueur is strong and sweet — rather like Absinthe.  Served over ice in small quantities, it is an intriguing apertif.  I like to use it as a mixer in cocktails.

bay leaves covered with grain alcohol

Creating this sweet liqueur is simple, and made in two stages.  The first stage involves packing fresh bay leaves in a jar and covering with grain alcohol.  After soaking for five days or so, strain off the bay leaves.  The resulting infusion is a stunning deep emerald green.

emerald green bay leaf infused grain alcohol

Mix the infused grain alcohol with equal parts simple syrup, filter, then you have Bay Leaf Liqueur.  Enjoy!

Bay Leaf Liqueur
(makes about 3 cups liqueur)

Fresh bay leaves — enough to lightly pack a 14 oz lidded glass jar (I didn’t actually count them — maybe 60 leaves)

Grain alcohol** — about 12 oz (I used the 191 proof, but 151 proof is also fine to use)

Simple syrup: mix 12 oz boiling water with 1 1.2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar.  Stir to dissolve, and cool.

Pack the rinsed and dried bay leaves in glass working jar.   The goal is to completely fill the jar with bay leaves.  Pour grain alcohol over the bay leaves to the top of the jar.  Cover, and set aside in a cool dark place for several days.

Filter the resulting infusion into another glass jar.  I filter mine through a new paper coffee filter, which removes any particulate matter that may cloud the liqueur.

Mix the resulting infusion 1 to 1 with simple syrup.  Store in a glass container, choosing a container that is the right size to minimize air in the closed jar.  Allow to sit for several days.  If the mixture clouds, and doesn’t quickly clarify with stirring, filter it again through a clean paper coffee filter.

This liqueur should last for months.  Store airtight in the refrigerator, though it will not spoil at room temperature.

*Laurus nobilis is not the same plant as the California native bay laurel.

**Grain alcohol is quite flammable as it is basically pure alcohol — be careful!


Rose Drop

My beautiful Gertrude Jekyll rose is about to bloom — time for a Rose Drop.  This recipe was recently featured in the May 2017 Sunset magazine.  Enjoy!

For me, the garden is a place of deep inspiration for my cooking.  I have a beautiful rose bush* — right now in full bloom with deep pink, fragrant blossoms.  A few years ago, while weeding alongside this righteous proclamation of Spring, I envisioned a cocktail — the Rose Drop.

I imagined the luscious scent of my rose concentrated in one beautiful cocktail.  After a bit of tinkering, I was rewarded with a lovely surprise when I infused the petals of this rose, which I reveal to you in the recipe below.  Enjoy!

Gertrude Jekyll Rose

Gertrude Jekyll Rose

For the Rose infused vodka:
Start by picking 9 – 10 full rose blossoms.  Rinse them and pluck the petals.

Rose petals

Rose petals

Lightly pack all the petals into a large lidded jar.  I used a 20 oz glass lidded working jar.  Add vodka to the brim, then cover and place in the fridge.  Give it a shake after an hour or so.

roses in vodka - the first minute

rose petals in vodka – the first minute

After a couple hours the petals will have been drained of most of their color, and the infused vodka will be a pale straw pink color.  (When this first happened, I was most disappointed, as I was really hoping for the color and fragrance of my rose in my cocktail.  I was stunningly surprised later, when I used this infusion in a cocktail, with the addition of acidic lemon juice — a little food chemistry magic to come.)

rose infused vodka - after three hours in the fridge

rose infused vodka – after three hours in the fridge

rose infused vodka, after straining

rose infused vodka, after straining

Strain the rose infused vodka into a jar and store airtight in the fridge until you’re ready for a cocktail.  Enjoy! (in moderation, of course)

The Rose Drop
(makes two)

4 oz Rose infused vodka (see recipe, above)
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 – 2 oz simple syrup** (add to suit your sweetness preference)
4 ice cubes

Stir all ingredients together until very cold.  When you add the lime juice to the rose infused vodka the beautiful colors of the rose revert to their acidified state and shine brilliant pink.  And the rose scent blooms in the glass.  Strain into two lovely cocktail glasses, garnish with a rose petal, and enjoy.

* My rose bush, a Gertrude Jekyll Rose, is grown with no pesticides of any kind.  This is very important for using roses petals in cooking — don’t use any roses if you’re not entirely sure that there are no systemic or foliar pesticides that have been used on your flowers.

**simple syrup:  Blend equal proportions by volume sugar and boiling water.  Cool before using.


Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

I grow a number of herbs in my garden.  They are not only great to have for cooking, they are also pretty, easy-going members of my garden plant communities.  While tabouleh is often made with parsley, I’m highlighting three mild fresh green herbs in this version:  mint, lemon balm, and fennel fronds.  They’re like good friends, and play well together on the palate.  And, just for fun, I added some primrose petals for a bit of color.  (Yes!  some flowers are edible)

lemon, primrose, mint, fennel fronds, and lemon balm

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

Lemon balm is a delightful, easy to grow herb, and smells of lemon.  I grow a couple different types of mint.  In this recipe I use my favorite for cooking – Kentucky Colonel.  I lightly dressed the bulgur and herbs with olive oil and fresh lemon juice, seasoning with sea salt to taste.  Simple, easy, fresh and satisfying.  Enjoy!

Bulgur Salad with Spring Herbs

1 cup wheat bulgur
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
fresh squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
3 TB olive oil
2 – 3 sprigs mint
2 – 3 sprigs lemon balm
fennel fronds

In a medium bowl, pour boiling water over bulgur and salt.  Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.  Remove cover, fluff the bulgur, and cool in the fridge for another 20 minutes.

Chop herbs fine, then mix into the prepared bulgur with the olive oil and lemon juice.  Add more salt to taste if needed, then serve.  Garnish with edible flowers if desired.

Panna cotta with saffron & rose

The fluffy pink plum blossoms outside my window reminded me of this simple recipe from a couple years ago.  I’m gonna make it again soon!  Enjoy!

It’s February in the Bay area, but it feels like Spring.  The plum trees are covered in fluffy pink and white blossoms.  I wanted a dessert to fit the season, and created this delicate versio…

Source: Panna cotta with saffron & rose