The Lavender Lady (aka Sherri Merritt) is one of the highlights of the farmers market in Bandon, Oregon, and her lavender was the inspiration for these recipes. Her flowers are organic, hand-picked, fresh as can be, and beautiful. But you don’t have to drive to Bandon. Visit her at www.lavenderladyfarm.com to see for yourself. I’ve been wanting to bake with lavender for a while. Its fragrance is soothing–like a porch swing or an old country song–and longs to be nestled into comforting food.
It is the middle of summer here, and that means berries of all kinds are ready for picking. I found loganberries, marionberries, blueberries and olallieberries. I had an inkling that lavender and berries might be a good combination, and baking them together in a crisp seemed like a good way to test that idea. Since I have a habit of eating leftover crisp for breakfast (and liking it much better in the morning than after a big meal), I decided to intentionally make a breakfast crisp full of oats and nuts, and not too much butter and sugar. It’s like warm granola with lots and lots of fruit. Topped with a generous spoonful of plain yogurt, and served with a cup of lavender chai, this crisp is the perfect way to ease into the day. Oh, and it turns out lavender and berries are made for each other!
The chai is inspired by Ruta Kahate’s recipe in her lovely book of Indian cooking, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. My husband and I had the great pleasure of taking a class from her several years ago. The class cooked together and then sat down to enjoy the meal we had prepared. Everything was exceptionally good, including the chai (hers did not include lavender) we had with our dessert. Ruta’s technique for making tea is similar to the way my grandmother made it. Not too surprising since my grandmother lived in India for many years in her youth. She, like Ruta, boiled water in a saucepan, added loose leaf tea, let it steep and then, unlike Ruta, she strained the tea into a teapot to serve it. At my grandma’s house we had tea at 4 o’clock with a plain cookie or piece of toast, and we added our own milk and sugar. Ruta’s technique includes steeping the tea with sugar in the water, and then bringing milk to a boil in a separate pot. She strains the tea directly into a cup and then adds the hot milk. If you are feeling daring, you can use her dad’s technique and pour the milk into the cup of tea “from a height of at least six inches” in order to get a slightly frothy foam.