- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Laurie McCann Crowell was trained in architecture and interior design, but when she worked for a catering company for several years, she found her calling.

“I fell in love with how great food could be, even simple food, if you have the right ingredients,” says Miss Crowell, who lives in Minneapolis.

In her spare time, she started making seasoned sugar and vinegars to give to friends as gifts. Soon her creations were in such demand that local stores started carrying the products.

Now Miss Crowell is the owner of the Golden Fig, a company that produces herb- and spice-based condiments such as blueberry lavender vinegar and sugar infusions including lemon rosebud sugar, rosemary sugar and a hibiscus-based sugar.

Herbs bring exciting flavors to desserts, says Miss Crowell. “Woodsy rosemary goes with everything. Sprinkle rosemary sugar on a scone. Simmer peaches with rosemary sugar. Sprinkle it over ice cream. You don’t see the rosemary. When you taste the dish, you may not be able to identify the rosemary, but you know it’s distinctive.

“I’ve soaked rosemary sprigs in cream, then made a caramel out of it. It’s so enjoyable; it entices the taste buds,” Miss Crowell says.

Lavender is another herb that shows up in her products and her cooking. “Whip heavy cream and add lavender sugar. When you taste it you get a little different dimension to the cream,” she says. “One of my other favorite sugar recipes calls for honeydew melon and blueberries with a syrup made from peppermint sugar.”

She also makes vinegar. “I use locally grown ingredients because they taste better. This summer I’m using a heritage variety of raspberries for the vinegar,” she says.

Her summer menu includes a salad of spinach, blue cheese and blueberries topped with a lavender vinaigrette dressing.

For twosomes, making quarts of vinegar or flavored sugar by the 5-pound bag isn’t reasonable. However, you can experiment by making small-batch condiments for your recipe needs.

Try flavoring sugar to make lemon and cinnamon sugar. The combination is delicious sprinkled over low-fat ricotta cheese or blueberries. For a single-use version of flavored vinegar, prepare the recipe that follows for spinach and blueberry salad with freshly made rosemary-balsamic vinegar.

For more information on Golden Fig products, visit www.goldenfig.com. The Spice House also sells flavored sugars including a delightful lavender-vanilla sugar. For more information visit www.thespicehouse.com.

Lemon and cinnamon sugar

Zest of 3 lemons

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Place lemon zest in a food processor or on a cutting board and mince finely. Place the lemon zest in a bowl. Stir in sugar and cinnamon.

Spread the flavored sugar on a baking sheet and let sit at room temperature about 2 hours, or until the lemon is dry. If necessary, break up any clumps with your hands. Store in a tightly covered container. Makes 2 cups.

Spinach and blueberry salad

Rosemary-balsamic vinegar (recipe follows)

2 cups baby spinach

cup fresh blueberries

1 teaspoons orange juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons crumbled soft blue cheese

Prepare rosemary-balsamic vinegar and set aside. Combine spinach and blueberries in a salad bowl. Toss gently.

Combine rosemary-balsamic vinegar, orange juice, olive oil and mustard in a cup. Season to taste with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Just before serving pour rosemary-balsamic vinaigrette dressing over salad. Toss gently but well. Sprinkle blue cheese on top. Makes 2 servings.

ROSEMARY-BALSAMIC VINEGAR

teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon red balsamic vinegar

Combine rosemary and vinegar in a cup. Press rosemary with back of spoon to extract flavor.

Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain out rosemary before serving.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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