"A rose is a rose is a rose" (Gertrude Stein) — unless it's rose water, the distinctive liquid essence of crushed rose petals used to flavor food, especially sweets, in Persian, Turkish, southeast Asian and more and more cuisines. Have you tasted rose water, or cooked with it yet?
LEARNING ABOUT ROSE WATER
Rose water is also used in religious ceremonies and in some cosmetics but for foodies, rose water is all about discovering and exploring a new taste sensation. When Nupur from One Hot Stove cooked a traditional Indian lunch for a friend and me last month, she demurred, "I'm addicted to rose water. I put it in everything now." Her words got me curious. What, exactly, does one do with rose water? What recipes really let rose water shine?
My first stop for information about new and unfamiliar ingredients is always Lydia from The Perfect Pantry. Sure enough, rose water is a featured ingredient, one she calls a 'pantry special' because while it's not an essential on a pantry's shelf, it is one that's fun and inexpensive.
"From marzipan to madeleines, ice cream to iced tea, rose water adds a distinctive, subtle flavor to many desserts. It also finds its way into savory dishes, especially in the Persian cuisine; a few drops added near the end of the cooking imparts a delicate aroma without screaming "flower shop." If stored in a cool, dark part of your pantry, rose water can be kept for two years."
~ Lydia Walshin, The Perfect Pantry, who shares the recipe for Rose Petal Risotto.
DOES ROSE WATER TASTE LIKE SOAP?
Some people have an aversion to rose water, complaining that it "tastes like soap." I sure remember my grandmother's soap and yes, it was thick with the scent of roses. But it's not so much that rose water tastes like soap, as that soap often smells like roses.
Can we get over this? Let's try! I think these recipes will tempt and tease!
EASY WAYS to EXPERIMENT with ROSE WATER
Just in case, start adding small splashes of rose water to familiar dishes, ones with few competing flavors.
"Rose water also seems to be an acquired taste for some. If you've never cooked with it, or think you don't like it but want to give it another try, we suggest using a delicate hand. Too much rose water can overpower and veer into overly-perfumed grandma territory. But just the right amount can be delightful. Add a few drops to iced tea or lemonade, lightly drizzle it over berries or melon, or add a splash to rice pudding with pistachios. Add it to whipped cream and serve with fruit or cake."
~ Ingredient Spotlight: Rose Water from The Kitchn
RECIPES with ROSE WATER
Dirty Kitchen Secrets ~ Rosewater & Mascarpone Sorbet
"... in Lebanon, we have a rosewater ice cream that I’ve never been able to resist."
Saveur ~ Rose Water Pudding
"This pudding, a cool, sweet, and subtly flavored snack that originated in Turkey, is based on a recipe in 'The Book of New Israeli Food' by Janna Gur (Schocken Books, 2007). You can reduce the amount of rose water in this preparation to achieve a more understated flavor."
strong>Gourmet Worrier ~ Pistachio Nut Ice Cream
"[the recipe] wisely uses rose water to subtly flavour the pistachio nut ice cream, which in turn gives it that authentic Middle Eastern edge. ... I [added] the faintest hint of green food colouring, so to make the pistachio nut ice cream all the more appealing to my incredibly fussy eight-year-old son. I'm happy to report that he loved it! In fact, he inhaled it!"
Joy the Baker ~ adds a teaspoon of rose water to the icing for chocolate cupcakes she calls Sweetheart Rose Cupcakes
"Make these chocolate rose cupcakes for someone you love. Who wants roses when there are rose scented cupcakes in the world!? Heck yes!"
Bad Home Cooking ~ adds a tiny splash of rose water to Mexican Wedding Cakes with Rose Water & Cardamom
"Because I was feeling daring, I added a few drops of rose water to the batter ... The results: Delicious. My kids were incredulous that I made such delights. So was I, truth be told."
Divine Ambrosia ~ Rosewater & Mint Fruit Salad
"The rosewater isn't directly tasted, but adds an 'Ooh, what is that?' flavor to the fruit which ratchets up their appeal."
IS THERE A SUBSTITUTE FOR ROSE WATER?
Sure. Use vanilla extract or almond extract. But then again, it won't be rose water, will it?
MORE ROSE WATER RESOURCES
Rose Water Recipes from The Spice House, Chicago's great spice store which so many BlogHers visited and loved in 2009
Rose Essence vs Rose Water, the differences explained by Jasmine of Cardamom Addict
How to Make Your Own Rose Water, you know, if you've got bundles of spare rose petals
Make Your Own Rose Water Facial Toner; many women find it refreshing, especially in summer
Buy Ziyad Rose Water, $2 for 10 ounces right now
Rose Water & Soda Bread, a novel by Marsha Mehran, the story of "three sisters, two countries, and the language of food"
So what do you think, is a rose is a rose is a rose? Does rose water tempt? If you've used rose water before, leave a recipe or a link to a recipe in the comments!
BlogHer food contributing editor Alanna Kellogg is off to the Indian grocery to buy rose water facial cream and is thinking about adding a drop of water to her all-time favorite mango lassi.
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