Sunday, April 24, 2011

Honey-Lavender Glazed Fruit Parfaits

This has been a weird Easter.  Not that Easter isn't always a little strange, given the significance of the holiday (and its bizarre convergence with magical rabbits, colored eggs, and candy)--but this year, for whatever reason, it's been weirder than usual.  For instance: I've been having a very hard time getting my cooking mojo going.  Holidays are usually the time when I let out all the stops, but this year I just couldn't muster up any excitement about preparing the Easter meal.  

I tried.  Really, I did.  I asked for suggestions, hoping someone would come up with an idea that stoked the oven of my culinary imagination.  But nothing helped.  And this morning, eating breakfast tacos in the fellowship hall after the early service at church, I threw in the kitchen towel: I decided that it made no sense to go home and make the frittata I'd planned for brunch.  Not when three of the four of us were happily scarfing down bacon and eggs nestled in tortillas.  (The fourth one of us, coming down from the adrenaline high of his French horn solo during church, was loading up on the comforting sweetness of blueberry mini-muffins.)

I'd also planned to make something fairly fancy for dessert--but when the frittata plan disappeared, so did the pavlova plan.  All the eggs in the house (and there are a lot of them) are safe for another day.

The one thing I didn't give up on was the honey and lavender glazed fruit salad I'd decided to make--probably because it's the easiest of the three recipes I had in mind.  Then I noticed the angel food cake sitting on the counter, and I remembered that I had some whipped cream in the refrigerator.  It occurred to me that I could still make an Easter treat, with minimal effort.  Add the super-cute parfait glasses I bought this past week and dessert was a done deal.
 
Honey and lavender are a perfect compliment to any sort of fruit you like to serve, so this glaze recipe doesn't have to be saved for a special occasion.  However, culinary lavender probably isn't hanging out on the spice aisle of your favorite grocery store.  I found it at World Market, and since you'll only use a small amount each time you cook with it, a small package of lavender will last you for awhile.  Resist the temptation to use more than any recipe calls for, even if you're a big fan of lavender--it's pungent, which means it's worth measuring (even for a measurement-resistant cook like me), and less is almost always more.  The idea is to add just enough that you can tell there's something special about what you're eating, even if you can't identify precisely what it is.  Use too much lavender and your glaze will be bitter.
   
You'll have some lavender syrup left over after you've built your parfaits.  Store it in a covered container in your refrigerator--it's perfectly for sweetening tea, grapefruit, or anything else that needs a little sugar to be its best.  

Honey-Lavender Glazed Fruit Parfaits

1 cup water
2 T. honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. dried culinary lavender
1 mango, pitted, peeled and chopped
4 or 5 large strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries
4 slices (1/2 inch thick) angel food cake
Whipped cream

Measure the water into a small saucepan.  Add the honey and sugar; whisk together over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring the mixture to a boil and add the dried lavender.  Allow the syrup to continue boiling for 2 or 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Set aside to steep for 5 minutes.  Strain out the lavender, using a fine mesh sieve, and let the syrup cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced fruit and toss with enough of the glaze to give each piece a shiny surface.  (Don't worry about using too much--the excess will just run off.)  Assemble the parfaits just before you're ready to serve them.  Into the parfait glass, layer one large spoonful of the fruit mixture.  Add half a slice of the angel food cake, torn into pieces; sprinkle about a teaspoon of the lavender syrup over the cake pieces.  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and repeat the layers, ending with whipped cream.   Garnish with fresh raspberries, blueberries, or half a strawberry.

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