View of Saintes-Maries, 1888, by Vincent Van Gogh, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Lavender is much more than a flower and a scent for soap and potpourri. It grows freely and wildly in France, (in my garden and yours, too) and was a subject the Impressionists returned frequently. And lavender is a lovely spice to grace your table, too. Van Gogh painted those fields. Monet grew lavender in his garden, and thus, he too, painted it. Lavender was a perfect choice, because there was a windfall of shades of purples and blues that had just become available to in the tubes of paint they were using, thus making their en plein aire (“in the open air”) painting possible.
The Artist’s Garden at Giverny, c.1900 by Claude Monet, The Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Enough art; back to food, which is why we’re really here, isn’t it? But they are lovely, aren’t they? Anyway, I was thinking about lavender, the flower buds, which techniquely makes lavender a spice, when we’re talking about the flowers, which is what we’re talking about here. Anyway, we don’t cook with it much on this side of the Pond, because I think most people think of soap or potpourri when they think of lavender, but it’s so much more. And you should use it more.
A couple of things to bear in mind. First, it is best to use Lavandula angustifolia, more commonly known as English lavender, for cooking. It is much sweeter and has a less camphorous flavor. Lavandula stoechas, or French lavender, can also be used. As far as I know, all lavender are edible; there is a new hybrid “Provence”, that’s supposed to be superb to cook with. Secondly, a little goes a long way; less is best. I add 1 teaspoon to an entire blueberry pie, because I just want it to be there, but very subtly there. If you overdue lavender, you’ll feel like your eating an over-scented bouquet and it will probably be bitter…not good.
So in my lavender ponderings, I couldn’t help but think about the beautiful purple-blue of blueberries. And what goes well with blueberries? Lemon…and honey. And what goes well with honey…mustard? So we have a Lavender, Lemon and Honey Vinaigrette. Naturally, I thought of a chicken salad, so that’s what we’re doing today and I think you’ll find this a delicious addition to your repertoire of summer recipes…you do have a repertoire, don’t you?
Chicken and Blueberry Salad with Lavender-Lemon Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon minced chives
- 1 good teaspoon dried lavender flowers
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon or 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh French tarragon
- 1/4 teaspoon roasted garlic granules (or not…it’s up to you)
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup good olive oil
Combine all the ingredients, except the oil, in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to combine; slowly drizzle in the oil, while whisking vigorously, until an emulsion forms. Taste and correct the seasoning. To allow the flavors to blend, set the vinaigrette aside for at least 30 minutes. You can make this ahead, chill and return to room temperature before using.
Chicken and Blueberry Salad:
- 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1/4 cup very finely minced red onion
- 6 cups mixed greens with some arugula
- Whole blanched green beans
- Blanched asparagus spears
- Blanched carrot slices (optional)
- Lavender Vinaigrette (see the recipe above)
- Chopped, toasted pecans, for garnish, if you wish
In a bowl, combine the chicken shreds, blueberries and red onion. Toss with a small amount of the vinaigrette. Just coat the chicken, don’t douse it. In another bowl, toss the greens with a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette. On a large platter, place a mound of the greens. Pile the chicken/blueberry mixture in the center. Lay the green beans on one side and the asparagus spears on the opposite side. Decoratively place the carrot slices, if using. Drizzle the vegetables with a bit of the vinaigrette. Serve with nice rolls and sprinkle with toasted, chopped pecans, if you wish.
NOTE: You may add quartered, fresh strawberries or diced mango or peaches (or a combination) to the chicken, if you wish. You may have leftover vinaigrette; store in the fridge. It keeps well, so feel free to double the batch!
Chicken and Blueberry Salad with Lavender-Lemon Vinaigrette Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
The vinaigrette is a straight-forward vinaigrette. You can check out the post on vinaigrettes, that The Goddess shared and that should explain things.
Before I forget, as The Goddess has so many thoughts colliding in her head; it’s frightening to the mere mortal…you can purchase lavender flowers at The Spice Mill, in Manchester, CT. If you don’t live in the area, you can shop on-line and they’ll send it to right to your door.
As I was saying, this is a terrific way to use up leftover chicken or one of the broasted supermarket chickens. That’s what I used here. It works really well and you don’t have to heat up your kitchen or fight the bugs at the BBQ. You can blanch the veggies earlier, in the cool part of the day…remember, we talked about this before. Check here for a refresher. This becomes a fast and delicious mid-week or weekend meal on a hot day…or really any day!