The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 18, 2008

 

Fragrant summer herbs are ready for the kitchen

A lot of you out there are great gardeners, and right now, your patches of heaven are probably redolent with the heady fragrances of fresh herbs of all colors and textures. I admire all of you who have gardens. I am a terrible gardener limited to boxes of herbs and pots of flowers on my deck and one big box of tomato plants that is really my husband’s. Although it does not come close to any of the beautiful gardens I have seen around Carlisle, even my small portable herb garden is flourishing right now, and I am happily snipping the harvest to use in summer recipes. Some of my talented gardener friends are sharing their overstocked herbs with me, too, so it is a real pleasure this summer to fill the kitchen with these wonderful summer scents and flavors. Here are a few easy ways to enjoy fresh herbs this summer.

Featuring mint and more

Iced tea

Throw a few sprigs of mint into the base for iced tea and let them steep. Add a few raspberry leaves or lemon balm for even more delightful flavor and steep for at least an hour. You can make the flavor more complex by including different kinds of mint: applemint, spearmint, chocolate mint, etc. Then add ice and water until you get the strength of tea you want.

Mint and lemon teacake

This is a recipe I picked up in the U.K. and converted into U.S. measures. This teacake is very rich, so a little goes a long way, and it freezes well.

1-2/3 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

6 oz. (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature

3/4 c. superfine sugar

Zest of 1 medium lemon

1 T. chopped fresh mint

2 large eggs

5 T. milk (or enough to make a heavy, firm batter)

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Beat together the butter, sugar, lemon rind and mint until smooth. Beat in the eggs and the milk until you have a “stiffish” (the Britishism means a smooth, but heavy and firm batter, rather like a brownie consistency) and spread the batter in a greased and floured or papered 2 lb. loaf pan. Bake one hour at 350°F. or until a a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool 10 minutes in pan, and then remove from pan and cool completely. Top with lemon glaze and decorate as desired. Makes one loaf cake.

Glaze: Mix together the juice of 1 lemon and enough confectioners’ sugar (about 1-1/2 c.) to get a thick glaze. Drizzle over teacake.

Featuring dill and more

“Norwegian” stuffed chicken

The word “Norwegian” is in quotation marks here because there is nothing really Norwegian about this chicken dish except the Jarlsberg cheese. Since you can substitute Swiss or Cheddar in the recipe, it could just as easily be Swiss or English stuffed chicken.

1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, or 1 10- or 12- oz. bag of fresh spinach, washed and chopped

1-1/2 c. shredded Jarlsberg cheese (okay to use reduced fat)

1/2 c. fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 c. shredded carrot

1/2 c. sliced green onion

1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped

2 T. chopped fresh dill leaves (discard stems)

1/2 tsp. salt (Kosher is fine, or regular table salt)

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 large egg, well beaten

3 chicken breasts, split, bone in

Cooking spray (canola oil, olive oil, butter flavor all fine)

2 T. lemon juice

Chopped parsley and chopped dill for garnish

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a bowl. Use to stuff chicken by spooning mixture between breast meat and skin. Place skin sides up in baking pan and spray lightly with cooking spray. Drizzle lemon juice over breasts. Bake at 375°F. for 45 minutes or until tender, basting occasionally with pan drippings. Alternatively, wrap breasts individually in foil and grill at high temperature for about 35 minutes or until tender. Unwrap and turn breasts skin side down on grill to brown, watching carefully to be sure skins do not burn. Garnish with chopped parsley and dill. Makes six servings.

Potato salad with dill

Local gardener Marjorie Johnson has had a lot of wonderful dill this summer in her garden. She has been kind enough to share some with me, as well as this recipe, which is absolutely delicious.

5 pounds red potatoes

1/2 medium red onion, chopped

1 bunch of fresh dill

Boil the potatoes until cooked through, but still firm. Cool. Leaving skin on, cut into chunks. Add the onion. Wash and dry the dill, and pull or cut the ferny leaves from it and add to the potatoes. Discard the stems. Whisk the vinegar, salad dressing and mayonnaise together and pour over the potatoes. Mix all together. Refrigerate, covered, one hour before serving. Serves six.

Featuring basil and more

Basil is everybody’s favorite summer herb, and just about everybody has a favorite basil pesto recipe, so I would never presume to publish one here. Here is a recipe that allows that basil scent and flavor to shine, however. It stands up very well to the mustard, and the parsley brightens the whole thing.

Grilled mustard shrimp (can also be used on chicken)

Mix together in a medium bowl:

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1 medium yellow or Vidalia onion, diced

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped

3/4 tsp. dry mustard

Add to bowl: 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined; tails on (optional), or 2 lbs.boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts

Allow shrimp or chicken to marinate one hour. Brush grill with oil, skewer the shrimp, and grill for about 1 to 2 minutes per side or until opaque. If you are using chicken, grill 4 to 5 minutes each side and test to see if it is cooked through. Place on serving dish and drizzle with reserved mixture. Serves six to eight.

Featuring lavender

Long reputed to be healthful and relaxing, lavender is an unsung heroine of the summer herb harvest, useful for much more than stuffing tussie-mussies or potpourris. I use it in teacakes and muffins, and it imparts a subtle, sophisticated flavor that is surprisingly pleasing and piquant. Try this recipe with a tall glass of iced tea while you enjoy a summer evening and see if you agree that lavender deserves a place in our palate as well as in our olfactory pleasures.

Lavender shortbread cookies

1 c. butter at room temperature

2/3 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. unsifted all-purpose flour

1 T. fresh lavender leaves and buds

Blend sugar, lavender, and flour in food processor. Add vanilla and process until blended. Add butter and using pulse, process until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and shape each into a log about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Chill until firm enough to slice, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Cut each log into 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick rounds and place on sheets. Bake 15 minutes and check on cookies, reversing baking sheets if browning is uneven. Bake about 15 minutes longer, or until cookies are just golden. Makes about 30.

Here’s a quick rub for steak that uses a variety of this season’s herbal bounty:

Filet Mignon with fresh herb and garlic rub

Combine in a small bowl:

1 T. fresh garlic, minced

2 tsp. fresh basil, minced

1-1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced

1-12 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced

1/2 tsp. salt (Kosher or table)

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Rub this mixture on: 4 (4 oz.) trimmed beef tenderloin steaks, each about one inch thick. Coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat it. Add steaks, and cook 4 minutes per side, or to desired degree of doneness. Alternatively, spray a grill with cooking spray and grill the steaks. Serves four.

Featuring sage

This recipe makes a great side dish for chicken, fish or meats. It also serves well as an accompaniment to salad for a complete summer meal, and it is delicious with eggs and fruit at breakfast time.

Sage and honey skillet cornbread

1 c. yellow cornmeal

1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour

1 T. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. chopped fresh sage plus 12 whole fresh sage leaves

1 c. milk

2/3 c. honey

1 large egg

1/2 c. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat a heavy 10-inch-diameter cast iron skillet in oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the first four ingredients and the chopped sage in a large bowl to blend. Whisk milk, honey and egg in medium bowl to blend. Remove skillet from oven and add to it the butter, swirling until butter is melted. Pour all except 2 Tblsp. butter into the egg mixture, whisking to blend. Add whole sage leaves to butter in skillet, tossing to coat. Arrange the leaves over the bottom of skillet, spacing them apart. Add egg mixture to cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined (do not overmix). Pour batter carefully over sage leaves in skillet and return skillet to oven. Bake until browned around the edges and tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in skillet 10 minutes; then invert onto serving dish. Makes 10 to 12 servings and freezes well.

Featuring cilantro

Cilantro looks like parsley but really does not taste like it. It adds a fresh, bright flavor to salads and meat dishes. Here is a quick and easy-to-prepare recipe that doubles and triples easily and makes a great supper. Try it with the sage cornbread or serve it with brown rice for a healthful meal.

Twenty-minute chiles rellenos for two

2 large poblano peppers (or Italian

green peppers for a milder flavor)

7 oz. ground turkey breast

2/3 c. canned black beans, rinsed and drained, or the same amount of dried,

soaked and cooked black beans.

4 T. tomato paste

1 T. cumin

1 pinch sugar

salt and cracked black pepper to taste

1/4 c. chopped cilantro leaves

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly coat the green peppers with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet. Roast them for about 20 minutes in the oven or until their skins begin to char. Remove them from the oven, place them in a bowl and cover them with plastic wrap to cool. Meanwhile, coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat it. Add the turkey and cook until it is no longer pink. Add everything else except the cilantro and stir until well mixed and heated. Remove from heat and mix in the cilantro. Carefully peel the charred skin from the green peppers and slit each one vertically on one side. Open them on a plate and fill with the turkey mixture. Garnish with more cilantro, if desired.∆


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