Tuesdays with Dorie: Lemon Loaf with Lavender

Since sharing my love of spring and lemons in my previous post, it’s time for a confession.  While I love fresh lemon in savory dishes, in desserts . . . not so much.  That’s not to say I don’t love lemony sweets.  I just don’t like them to be natural.  That’s right, I confess.  When it comes to lemon desserts, I’m a fan of the processed stuff — that bright, artificial, never existed in real life neon yellow of lemon meringue pies and the Girl Scout’s lemon chalet cookies.  That “natural” lemon flavoring that was invented in a lab and is all yellow dye and chemicals I can’t pronounce.  Yep, that one.  Love it.

And it’s for that reason alone I wasn’t all that excited about this recipe.  I’ve made a few lemon loaf type desserts before and haven’t been too excited by them.

I planned on getting this one out of the way early.  Which turned  into procrastinating.  Which led to “Maybe I’ll just skip this week’s recipe” which finally became “Oh, hell, if I don’t like it, I can always have my husband leave it in the kitchen at work.”  (His office kitchen shares similar properties with piranha-infested rivers in the Amazon.  Mainly that anything left there is pretty much a carcass within an hour.)

So I made it.  And I’m really glad I did.

Normally I don’t tweak the Tuesdays with Dorie recipes.  I’m nervous about my improv skills in the kitchen, and I like to see how the recipe’s supposed to work before making any changes or additions.  For this one, though, I decided to vary it up.  A few years ago I came across a recipe for lavender pound cake.  I’ve yet to make it, but every year when Spring rolls around it pops into my head.  Hmm.  Lemon.  Lavender.  Why not?  I minced up a tablespoon and tossed it in with the sugar.

While mixing the batter, I started to get a bit doubtful.  My kitchen had developed the faint whiff of a L’Occitane store.  And (having had the unforgettable experience of getting my mouth washed out with soap when I was little) it wasn’t exactly making my tastebuds water.  Luckily the finished product did not taste like hand soap.

It’s light.  It’s refreshing.  It’s simple yet elegant.  It will make you want to invite Mr. Darcy over for a cup of tea.  But then again, when would you not want to invite Mr. Darcy over for tea?

Thanks to Truc at Treats and Michelle at The Beauty of Life for hosting this week.  You can check out their blogs for more details on the recipe.

Parmesan Gremolata Smashed Potatoes

Nothing says Spring quite like lemon to me.  It’s the vibrant color.  The crisp flavor.  The promise of blue skies and warm weather.  The way it wakes up your tastebuds after winter.

Chilled glasses of freshly squeezed lemonade topped with sprigs of mint.

A drizzle over asparagus or spinach or grilled fish.

Lemon meringue pie.  Sorbet.  Roast chicken.

And one of my new favorites — lemony smashed potatoes.

As soon as I saw this recipe over at Use Real Butter, I knew I had to try them.  Come on, who doesn’t love some smashed potatoes.  And the gremolata just ups the whole game.  The only change I made was to decrease the salt down to 1/2 teaspoon.  But that’s only because we’ve been trying to cut back on our salt intake and as a result seem to notice it a lot more in food now.

If you’re still looking for a side dish for your Easter dinner, try this one.  It’s exactly how you’d expect Spring to taste — bright, crisp and flavorful.

And, if you have kids, this is a great recipe for them to help with.  Of course, if yours is like mine, you might need to serve it with a side of ketchup.

Parmesan Gremolata Smashed Potatoes
(barely adapted from Use Real Butter)

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 lbs. fingerling potatoes, scrubbed clean
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced (should be about 1/4 cup when minced)
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions
Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain the potatoes in a colander and let dry.

Drizzle a little olive oil on a shallow rimmed baking sheet.  Place the potatoes on the baking sheet in a single layer, coating the bottom of each potato in some of the oil.  And here’s where the kid friendliness comes in — using a meat tenderizer (or heavy-bottomed drinking glass, measuring cup, etc.) gently smash each potato flat. The smashed potatoes should be about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick.  (Optional tip for parents:  Say “Smash” like the Hulk each time and your kid will be even more delighted.)

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the smashed potatoes.  Sprinkle with salt.  (More fun for the kids.)  Pop the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes over half-way through.

While the potatoes are roasting, make the gremolata — Mix the garlic, parsley, lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese together in a small bowl.  When the potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and (in a large bowl) toss them with the gremolata.