I feel it might be irresponsible to start a blog post about rosewater without first saying that it must be used with restraint. While some ingredients can be poured on with more or less reckless abandon (for instance, "too much za'atar" isn't something you'll hear in my kitchen very often), rosewater is the kind of thing you only want a hint of. It's not that rosewater has an unpleasant flavor—on the contrary, it has a gorgeously floral, sweet, nostalgically romantic scent that's essential to Middle Eastern cuisine. But adding too much makes your food taste astringent and soapy, like accidentally inhaling a big spray of perfume, or having your mouth washed out with soap.
Sometimes this means that rosewater is just a background note (and your most discerning guests will raise their eyebrows and ask, "hmm, do I detect a hint of rosewater?"). But just because you should never use a whole lot doesn't mean rosewater can't be the dominant flavor in a dish. It just means that you need to be careful in how far you push the envelope when deciding how much to add, even when you want everything to taste very much like roses. The best practice is to season gradually whenever possible, adding a little at a time until it tastes just the way you want it to.
ways to use it
Try adding it to some of your favorite desserts, or try one of my favorite rosewater recipes below:
where to buy it
Rosewater is a little easier to find than orange blossom water. It's available online, in spice shops, and in just about any Middle Eastern or Indian market. You might also find it in a well-stocked supermarket.