Lavender Scones and Mysteries

Mysteries and food, they make such a lovely pairing.  I can think of a number of writers who combine the two interests, and one of my favorites is Susan Wittig Albert.  This recipe for Lavender Scones comes from her 2004 mystery, A Dilly of a Death, featuring China Bales, sometime sleuth and proprietor of a small town herbal shop and tea room, somewhere in Texas.  Where is not exactly important, it is the fleshing out of characters, plot development and all the rest that make us come back for more.

Like these scones.  One of the more irascible characters quibbles that China should have left out some of the lavender.  That gave me pause.  But then you consider the person, and say no, I'll try it the way it's given.  What a waste of delightful lavender buds if you could'nt even get a taste.  And, I am here to tell you that there is just enough.  Perfection.  And, wait until you smell them baking; that by itself is wonderful.  Luckily I had some lavender remaining from an earlier experiment in marshmallow making, (Lavender Marshmallows, yum).


Feijoada - A Brazilian Feast for Daring Cooks

This is not to be confused with Black Bean Soup, which I and probably most of you have made many times.  What we have here is a cultural happening, a Brazilian feast comparable to Thanksgiving, for which one dish is not sufficient.  You don't just serve turkey.  At Thanksgiving there should be cranberries, sweet potatoes, stuffing....etc. etc.  Right?  It's like that.

Rachel Dana was our October 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge hostess! Rachel brought Brazil into our lives by challenging us to make Feijoada and Farofa along with some other yummy side dishes traditionally served with Feijoada, which is a delicious black bean and pork stew.

Accompaniments to the main dish are Farofa (made with cassava flour), collards, (in my case kale since there were no collards) Vinaigrette (sort of pickled salad), sliced oranges, rice, and hot sauce.

For the pork in my Feijoada, part of it anyway, I used a "shoulder blade?" acquired by my friend Nancy's husband, from a naughty, roving wild boar, caught disturbing their gardens, and who came to a well deserved rest in our stew pots.

 I brined that chunk of meat with fresh sage, juniper berries, peppercorns and garlic.  And along with the blade, I used pork sausages and bacon.  All the meats are fried and browned separately before being added to the nearly cooked beans.

With this meal, it helps if you prepare it on a relatively free day.  I did it mostly Saturday, and spread out the prep time, doing things early and setting them aside.  Soaking the beans and brining the pork was begun the night before.

And actually,  I made my kale dish the night before as well.  We had some with our steaks  and there was plenty left to reheat for this extravaganza.  I like the method of par-boiling, after removing the stems and slicing thinly, then quick stir-frying in olive oil with garlic, salt and a bit of lemon.

In the morning while my beans started cooking, I made the garlic and onion base (see recipe below) and then the Vinaigrette.

This is a lovely, colorful side which can rest until dinner, conmingling flavors in the fridge while you rest between fixing all the various parts of your meal.

The Farofa comes together very quickly, while your stew is in the last few minutes of simmering or just sitting there all nice and hot with a cover.

I have to say that the Feijoada surprised me a bit, there weren't a whole lot of additional flavoring agents aside from the pork, beans, garlic and onions.  But the flavor rocked.  Just awesome.  Altogether, a marvelous meal and cultural experience as well, thanks to Rachel, our intrepid Brazilian leader. All her recipes will follow.  Everything you need for your own authentic feast.


Triple Cheese Stuffed Squash Blossoms, Baked

Another of those "bucket list" type foodie items, I'd been meaning, wanting, longing (maybe we're going too far here) to try.  Growing zucchini was not a success, as the snails kept eating my plants.  Then this week at our Hilo Farmer's Market, I spotted a large array of lovely squash blossoms.  Hurray!

Most recipes call for frying, so I was happy to find a baked version, which I thought might sit better on my stomach.  And it does.  Fried foods often create a heavy lumpish feeling there.  For me anyway.  Sorry Nancy.  She's from the South, where even salad might turn up fried.

The process was so easy, and the flowers tender, tasty and easy to work with.  I used the nicest looking ones for this stuffing experiment, and the rest (about half) will go into a Mexican soup tonight, from the Frida Kahlo cookbook