With Fall in the air, we seem to be nesting more — wearing comfy, warm clothes and spending hours in the kitchen. So we’re exploring recipes and ways we can enjoy the harvest. And maybe entertaining our sweet tooth just a bit, too.
From the Herb Gardens 2015 wall calendar by Maggie Oster —
Coconut-Lavender Panna Cotta
Providing a sense of calm and balance, the fresh, sweet aroma of lavender has been beloved for centuries. Used for its beauty, singular scent, and medicinal properties, lavender continues to be a favorite. The use of flowers and leaves of lavender in cooking is growing in popularity. With a flavor that melds floral, piney, and camphor, fresh or dried lavender flowers are most often added to desserts, but they sometimes find their way into savory dishes. Lavandula angustifolia, with its sweet, mild flavor, is the best choice for cooking. Of the dozens of true lavender varieties, Hidcote and Munstead are the most widely available, hardiest, and easiest to grow. Harvest lavender midmorning on a dry day when almost all the buds are open. Tie stems in bundles and hang upside down in a dry, dark place. When dry, gently strip the flowers from the stem. If buying, be sure the flowers are for culinary purposes. Quickly and easily made, panna cotta is a sweet and creamy pudding that is among the most versatile of desserts and readily flavored in innumerable ways.
1 14-oz. can full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup raw honey
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin or a ¼-ounce packet
Combine the coconut milk, honey, and lavender flowers in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat, bringing to a mild simmer, stirring to incorporate the honey. Turn off the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain into a mixing bowl, and then return to the saucepan.
Put the orange juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let soften for 5 minutes. Stir gelatin into coconut milk mixture, whisking for 1 minute to dissolve the gelatin.
Pour into dessert glasses or 5-ounce ramekins. Chill in the refrigerator for at
least 4 hours. Makes 4 servings.
Raised on a farm where every meal was homegrown, Maggie Oster has a passion for growing and cooking food. Her parents also instilled in her a deep love and appreciation of nature, which has led to a lifetime studying, creating, and interpreting gardens and gardening. She has a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University and a master of science degree from Cornell University, both in horticulture. Her writing and photography have encompassed a wide range of topics, culminating in eighteen books, including The Herbal Palate, Herbal Vinegar, Recipes from an American Herb Garden, and Reflections of the Spirit: Japanese Gardens in America. The Potato Garden was a James Beard Award finalist. She has also contributed to other books and has written a number of magazine articles. Many of her books and articles feature her own photography. Currently, Oster maintains the family farm in Indiana, which includes extensive food and ornamental gardens. She also operates a bed-and-breakfast in a cottage on the farm. For more information, please visit her website.