I spent my 4th of July this year in Topeka, Kansas. Why? My dear boyfriend Matt is originally from there, and between our ramblings from Grandpa’s farm in Seneca to the wonderful college town of Lawrence, friends invited us for a short stay in Topeka. After a patriotic parade of children, dogs, and antique cars donning red, white, and blue and throwing candy at our feet, we were invited to a family barbecue with our friends—such fine hospitality and a pleasant surprise! The Finchams’ kitchen counters were abundant with giant juicy blackberries, cool watermelon and colorful summer salsas to munch on while the grill worked its magic. But waiting on the table in all their glory were these pretty, dainty appetizers made by a lovely lady named Lynn:
They were gorgeous (!), and when I found out they boasted both lavender AND goat cheese in their ingredient list, well, I was ever so pleased. Goat cheese and lavender are two of my favorite things—the one for its tangy creaminess, and the other just for its clean, floral, sexy scent—or so I thought. When I realized one could cook with lavender, grind those tiny dried flowers into a powder and stir them into soft cheeses or icings or syrups, my head was filled with visions of lavender fields in Provence, tiny buds strong with essence, and for the eating too! And with a bite of that apricot topped with lavender goodness, I discovered that eating flowers, at least this one, is just as enchanting as smelling them!
Per my excitement and request for the recipe, Lynn promptly sent it to me, and I have since made these twice, once with cream cheese and once with goat cheese, and both times using black raspberry jam in the cheese mixture (and I refer to them playfully as “Apricot Dandies”). The cream cheese is good, though not as tangy as the goat cheese, and it also melts rather quickly and should be left in the fridge until minutes before serving. But they were quite a hit both times, and they look as pretty as they taste. Thanks again Lynn! You’ve made me a party hit, and now I have lavender buds on hand in the kitchen for any flowery culinary whims!
recipe for “Apricot Dandies”
1/8 pound dried apricot halves (about 40)*
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup brandy or bourbon
6 oz. soft mild goat cheese (or cream cheese)
1 ½ tablespoons cranberry chutney or fig, plum, or black raspberry jam
1 teaspoon dried culinary lavender buds, finely ground**
¾ cup toasted pistachios or almonds, coarsely chopped
In a medium saucepan, combine the apricot halves, orange juice, and bourbon or brandy. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the apricots are soft and plump (stir occasionally and add more orange juice if the liquid boils away). Drain on paper towels and pat dry. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper, and spread the apricots, cut side up, on the sheet.
In a food processor, blend the goat cheese, chutney or jam, and lavender until smooth. Pipe the mixture onto the apricot halves using a pastry bag, or if you don’t have a pastry bag, spoon the mixture onto the apricots. Top with chopped pistachios or almonds. Beautiful.
*If you get a 6 oz package of whole dried apricots, it’s very easy to pull the halves apart, and you’ll have about 40 halves.
**I found dried lavender at my local health food store.