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Archive for August 6, 2012

TIP OF THE DAY: Make Gourmet Lemonade

We recently purchased a bargain-size package of culinary lavender on Our intent was to make lavender tea,* which we consume by the potfull.

When a very large pouch of lavender arrived, we had to figure out what to do with all of it. We didn’t want to go the high-calorie dessert route—lavender pound cake, crème brûlée, panna cotta and so forth.

So lavender iced tea was a no brainer. Then we turned to lavender lemonade, a lovely gourmet twist.

When we made a four-cup version of this recipe, all the lemonade was gone in a minute. So this larger recipe makes a bit more than a gallon, or 16 eight-ounce servings—two 64-ounce pitchers.

*Lavender tea recipe: Steep lavender to taste with the tea leaves; start by making just one cup of tea with 1/4 teaspoon per 6 ounces of water, and adjust to strength to taste with a subsequent cup).




Make lavender-infused lemonade for a gourmet twist. Photo © Edith Frincu | Dreamstime.


  • 3 cups sugar (or make the recipe sugarless and sweeten to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon culinary lavender (culinary lavender is pesticide-free)
  • 2-1/2 cups fresh lemon juice (about 15 lemons)

    1. BOIL. Boil one gallon of water plus the sugar in a large saucepan.

    2. INFUSE. Add lavender and simmer for 15 minutes. If you don’t want to strain it out, place the lavender in a mesh spice ball/tea infuser.

    3. ADD. Cool to room temperature. Add lemon juice, strain out lavender and chill.


    A bunch of dried lavender. Photo by Ewa
    Dacko | SXC.



  • Substitute 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 5 limes) for 1/2 cup lemon juice. Replace 3 lemons with 5 limes.
  • Substitute fresh basil, lemon thyme or mint for the lavender.
  • Use honey instead of sugar.
  • Turn some of the tea into ice cubes so you don’t dilute the flavor with ice.
  • For a party, use whole sprigs of culinary lavender for garnish.

    You can make lavender simple syrup in advance; then, just spoon it into unsweetened lemonade or iced tea. You get both sweetener and lavender flavor at once!



  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried lavender buds

    1. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar fully dissolves.

    2. Add the lavender buds and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain out lavender and let the syrup cool. Keep in a tightly-capped jar (no refrigeration needed) and use it to sweeten plain iced tea, hot tea, unsweetened lemonade and cocktails.

    3. Consider making extra bottles to give as gifts.


    You can also flavor water with lavender. Simmer the lavender in water for 15 minutes, cool and refrigerate.


  • For a zero-calorie drink, use non-caloric sweetener.
  • For a low-glycemic drink, use agave nectar.
  • You can also use this recipe to make fresh limeade.
  • Varying the garnishes makes the recipe “new” each time.
  • A shot of vodka or gin turns lemonade into a splendid cocktail.

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    PRODUCT: Benne Wafers (Cookies)

    Benne wafers are small brown-sugar cookies seasoned with sesame seeds. They’ve been popular in the South since the 18th century. How did sesame, which many Americans associate with Asian cuisine, end up in the American South?

    Before we get to the cookies, here’s:


    The plant, Sesamum indicum grows wild in Africa; some varieties also grow wild in India. Today, thousands of varieties are cultivated in tropical regions worldwide. The seeds grow in the pods (the fruit) of the plant.

    Sesame seed is the oldest oilseed crop known to man, domesticated more than 5,000 years ago. It has one of the highest oil contents of any seed. The seeds are also rich in calcium, iron, vitamins B and E and zinc, high in protein and cholesterol-free.

    The nutty, buttery taste, which becomes even nuttier when toasted, led to the use of sesame seed by cuisines around the globe.

    Now on to America:


    Benne cookies, a.k.a. sesame cookies, from Charleston Cookie Company. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.


    In Colonial times, a small amount of benne—the Bantu word for sesame—arrived in Charleston, possibly in the pockets of enslaved Bantu who considered the seeds to bring good luck (irony noted). The seeds were planted, and by the 18th century the crop became cultivated extensively throughout the South.


    According to Southern Sisters Bakers, which makes benne wafers, when plantation owners had large parties, they sent their guests home with benne wafers as a good luck party favor.

    Benne wafers have a richer, less sugary flavor than many cookies, thanks to the use of brown sugar instead of hite sugar. Some recipes add 1/4 teaspoon salt for a subtle salt counterpoint; the salt adds nuance and also makes the wafers pair well with cheese. If you like sesame honey crunch—those small rectangular candies of sesame seeds in a base of honey (we love them)—you’ll like benne cookies.

    You can get a gift tin with a Charleston watercolor on the lid from Byrd Cookies.

    If you want to bake your own benne wafers, here’s a recipe. Like chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies and many others, there are endless recipe variations. You can search online to find one that best suits your tastes.
    Find more of our favorite cookies and cookie recipes.


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