Many people are skeptical when I suggest how good lavender can be with savory foods. But this dish can change their minds. When lavender is cooked with simple boiled potatoes, its sweet and floral flavor turns earthy and mysterious, especially when its savoriness is amplified with fresh rosemary.
As in most dishes with lavender, you can use either sweet-scented English lavender, like Hidcote or Munstead, or the larger and more pungent flower spikes of lavendin hybrids like Grosso or Provence. The flowers can be used at any stage, but the flavor is best when the spikes are in bud but showing full color, just before the individual blossoms are about to open. If fresh lavender flowers are not available, dried buds, often available at natural food stores, are a good substitute. Make sure they are food grade and not treated with oils for use in potpourri.
2 pounds small potatoes, such as Yellow Finn, Yukon Gold, fingerling, or new red or white potatoes
6 fresh lavender sprigs, or 1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh lavender buds, or 2 teaspoons dried
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
Parboiling the potatoes: Wash the potatoes and cut them in halves or quarters. If using fingerlings, slice them crosswise 3/4 inch thick. Put them in a saucepan with the lavender sprigs and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue to boil until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork but still hold their shape, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain. Some of the lavender buds will cling to the potatoes.
Final Cooking: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes, chopped lavender and rosemary, and salt; cook, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are very hot and the flavors have a chance to meld, 5 to 8 minutes.
Herb Substitution: Omit the rosemary and add 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh spearmint to the potatoes just before they are through cooking in the skillet.
Adapted from The Herbfarm Cookbook: A Guide to the Vivid Flavors of Fresh Herby by Jerry Traunfeld (Scribner 2000). Copyright 2000 by Jerry Traunfeld.
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