Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

Corn on the Cob with Basil Butter

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

This is so simple it really isn’t even a recipe. However, it IS my favorite way to eat corn on the cob.

Fresh corn on the cob

Butter at room temperature

Basil, cut into shreds with a sharp knife

Prepare basil butter by chiffonading the basil into thin shreds with a very sharp knife and mixing with softened butter.

If you have a microwave, this is the healthiest and tastiest way to prepare corn on the cob. The earthy fragrance of just-picked corn freshly microwaved in its husks is unbelievable, plus corn microwaved in its jacket retains much more of its nutritional value.

Cut off any excess stem from the stem end  so the corn can rotate on the turntable but do not disturb the husks or try to remove the silk. Microwave on high as follows:

1 ear,  2 minutes; 2 ears, 4 minutes; 3 ears, 6 minutes; 4 ears, 8 minutes, etc.

Remove the corn from the microwave, wrap in a towel and let rest for 5 minutes, then (using a pot-holder or protective gloves) peel off the husks and the silk. Serve with lots of basil butter. The heat of the corn releases the basil fragrance in a wonderful way.

NOTE: Pesto is also a really good substitute for plain butter.

NOTE2: Microwaving is an easy prep for freezing corn right on the cob: nuke the ears (possibly reducing the time slightly), let cool then remove the husks and silk and break cobs in halves or thirds. Freeze solid then pop into freezer bags for winter storage (freezing first prevents them from sticking together so you can unfreeze only what you need).

NOTE 3: Frozen 1″ thick rounds of corn cut right through the cob add a festive South American touch to winter stews.

A Stir-fry with Indian Spices

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

2 handfuls baby red, gold & purple potatoes
1 handful green beans
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
Onion, chopped

Indian Spices (mix & match as you like or use everything as I prefer):
1/4 Tsp Tumeric
1/2 Tsp Black Mustard Seed
1/2 Tsp Whole Cumin Seed
1/2 Tsp Whole Coriander Seed
1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, cut in match sticks
15 Curry Leaves (optional)
Pinch of Asafetida (optional)
Dash of ground Fenugreek (optional)
Dried Red Pepper

Oil for stir-frying
Melted ghee or butter for finishing (optional)
Fresh coriander leaves & lemon wedges for garnish

Boil the potatoes till just tender, then cool and cut in halves. Steam green beans till they turn dark green. Drain chick peas and dice the onion.

Heat oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat, add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the ginger and curry leaves (if using). Add cumin, coriander seed, dried red pepper broken in half and let sizzle for a few seconds. Add onions, turmeric and asafetida/fenugreek if using. Add potatoes and toss with the onions and spices, letting them begin to brown around the edges. Add drained garbanzos, cover and let steam briefly. Remove lid, toss in green beans, and remove from heat. Adjust salt and add a little melted ghee or butter over the top for added flavor if you like.

Garnish with lemon wedges and fresh coriander if using. Serve with warmed Indian flat bread (naan, roti, chapati, parathas), yoghurt, and some mango or lemon pickle, or chutney.

NOTE: Indian flatbreads, curry leaves and mango & lemon pickles are all available at the Indian grocery at 42nd and Walnut next to the Wawa.

Pasta with Sauce of Uncooked Tomatoes and Basil

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Everybody must have a favorite version of this easy supper for a hot summer night. Here’s mine:

Tomatoes fresh from the garden
Generous amount of olive oil, maybe about 1/3 cup
Salt & Pepper
Linguini or spaghetti

Optional: minced garlic added to tomato mixture, crumbled Feta or fresh mozzarella cubes as a topping before serving

Dice the tomatoes into a bowl. Add a generous amount of torn fresh basil leaves. Add salt (this draws juices from the tomatoes and makes part of the “sauce”). Add a generous amount of olive oil — it becomes the second part of the sauce. If you are using it, add the minced garlic.

Let this sit on your kitchen counter for a couple of hours to exchange flavors while you sip iced tea in front of the fan.

When you are ready to eat, cook the pasta and drain, then stir hot pasta into the tomato mixture. The heat from the pasta warms the sauce and releases the fragrance of the basil.

For a more substantial meal, crumble feta or toss fresh mozzarella cubes on top of the pasta.

CALABACITAS CON CREMA (Zucchini squash with cream)

Friday, May 1st, 2015

This recipe comes from Diana Kennedy’s “The Cuisines of Mexico”. Diana writes: “There are hundreds of ways of cooking squash in Mexico, and every cook has her own method and seasoning. This was our maid Godileva’s way of preparing them, and the dish frequently appeared on our dinner table. It has an exotic flavor, and is quite unlike any other squash dish I have come across.”

* Diced zucchini, about a pound and a half (can include chopped up zucchini blossoms if you have them)
* Small ripe tomato or two, diced
* 6 whole peppercorns
* 4 sprigs fresh coriander
* 2 sprigs fresh mint
* 1/2″ stick cinnamon
* 4 whole cloves
* 2 whole chiles serranos
* 1/2 cup light cream
* Salt to taste

Combine everything in a pot and cook over a very low flame, stirring occasionally so it does not stick. Add a little water if it looks like it is getting too dry. It will take about 30 minutes to cook, the zucchini should be very soft, the milk or cream should be absorbed with no liquid remaining in the pan. The chilies should remain whole and just flavor the squash — it should not be picante. It is even better reheated the next day.

Anne Harvey’s “Potluck Pesto”

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Last evening in the garden, Ted was trying to give away a huge bunch of assorted fresh herbs, and he and Anne and I got to exchanging recipes. Anne mentioned her “Potluck Pesto” which she said turned out to be amazingly tasty. It will keep indefininly if you freeze tablespoons of it on a cookie sheet and store in zip-lock in the freezer. Here’s what to do:

Survey your garden for any herbs you might consider “pesto worthy”. Anne specifically mentioned arugula, mint, celantro, basil, tarragon, dill, marjoram, perhaps a tiny bit of lavender — use your imagination, there are no rules here. Pick everything in the proportions that will taste good to you, and when you get home get rid of stems and other “grassy” non-flavorful parts.

Here’s a basic pesto recipe to get started:

    1 cup assorted pesto herbs
    4 heaping tablespoons of parmesan or romano cheese, chunked or grated
    A few fresh garlic cloves (optional)
    Enough extra-virgin olive oil so that your blender can do it’s thing (start with 4 or 5 tablespoons)
    Handful of walnuts
    Salt to taste

Wash and spin dry the herbs. Put herbs in a blender along with the parmesan/romano and olive oil and blend till you get a lumpy paste. It may take a bit of coaxing to get the blending process to initiate. Add a handful of walnuts and blend till not-quite smooth. Transfer to serving dish and add salt to taste. Adding a squeeze of lemon is also another possibility.

I made it last night and Anne is right, it is delicious.

Amy’s Herbed Carrots

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

A great tasting dish fragrant with fresh sage, thyme, & shallots, plus a dash of freshly grated nutmeg.

3 pounds carrots, peeled
1 cup chicken stock or broth
salt & black pepper
1/2 pound shallots, thinly slicked
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil)
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Cut carrots into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks.

Bring stock to a boil in a heavy skillet. Add carrots and simmer, covered, until just tender, about 15 minutes

Remove lid and boil until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Transfer carrots to a bowl and wipe out skillet.

Cook shallots in butter (or olive oil) with a little salt and pepper in skillet over medium heat, stiring occasionally, until deep golden, about 6 minutes.

Add sage, thyme, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and return carrots to skillet, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Beets: Three Variations on a Theme Plus a Footnote

Monday, June 4th, 2012

These three ideas come from the “Three Bowl Cookbook: The Secrets of Enlightened Cooking from the Zen Mountain Center” by Tom Pappas, long-term tenzo (cook) at the monestary. In Buddhist monasteries, meals are served in three bowls, reflecting the original alms bowls of mendicant monks. Tom writes: “Dogen Zenji said ‘Preparing food is offering the great assembly comfort and ease’.”

**For All Variations: Wrap beets tightly in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour until they are fork tender (or steam or boil on the top of the stove if you don’t want to heat up the oven). When cool enough to handle, peel and cut into large chunks. Then proceed with one of the variations.

Variation 1: Ralph’s Beets with Mint. For 2 lbs beets, mix the juice of 1/2 lemon with a handful of fresh mint torn into pieces, add salt and a tiny bit of olive oil. Can also add zest from the lemon if you like. Mix with the beets and serve.

Variation 2: Roasted Beets with Balsamic Vinegar. Toss the chunked beets with balsamic vinegar to taste and serve.

Variation 3: Roasted Beets and Greens. Cook the beet tops in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes, then drain and plunge into cold water. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can, then chop the greens and set aside. Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan and sauté the greens until softened. Add the cooked beets and the juice from 1/2 lemon to the pan and toss. Season with salt and pepper and serve. NOTE: if you don’t have presentable beet tops, sauté chopped chard or spinach instead. No need to parboil it first.

FOOTNOTE: In Maine, where my father’s side of the family comes from, “beet greens” are a special springtime treat. Baby beets, no larger than 1 or 1 1/2 inch, are lightly scraped with a paring knife, whisker roots trimmed, then steamed briefly with their tops still attached. Be very careful not to overcook. Serve hot with butter or cold with a few drops of vinegar.

You will probably have to grow your own baby beets in Philadelphia because <sniff> none of our local farmers sell beets this young.

Mint Flavored Sugar for Fruit Salad or Lemonade

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

In a mortar, lightly bruse a sprig or two of mint in sugar to release its fragrance or, alternatively, whirl a few fresh mint leaves with a couple of tablespoons of sugar in a blender to create a lovely sweetener for fruit (make sure the mint is dry). This sugar is meant to be made fresh, so only make as much as you need — it doesn’t keep well and gets lumpy because of the moisture from the mint.

Especially good with peaches, blackberries, strawberries and pears. This sugar is also great for making lemonade. Remember to garnish with a few mint leaves.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

This salad is extraordinarily exotic and delicious, but it requires two things: it must have orange flower water and it must be served very cold

1 lb carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp freshly juiced lemon juice
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp orange flower water
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper, lightly sprinkled to taste
Fresh mint for garnish

Combine all ingredients except mint and chill for several hours or overnight. Serve garnished with slivers of mint.

Note: you can find orange flower water at Bitar’s, N.E. Corner of 10th and Federal, or at the Indian grocery at 42nd and Walnut, or at DiBruno Bros. in the Italian Market.

Pasta Dressed with Creamy Sage and Pumpkin Sauce

Monday, November 28th, 2011

My good friend Amy makes this luscious cream sauce for pasta. Made with pumpkin, this is the perfect cold weather comfort food.

* 2 parts pumpkin (about 1 cup per person)
* 1 part light cream or half-and-half
* Fresh sage leaves
* Generous grating of parmesan or locatelli
* 1 pat butter
* Salt and pepper to taste
* 2 oz. pasta (fresh linguini or fettuccini from Talutos in the Italian Market is especially good)
* (optional) tablespoon or two of calvados, sherry or Grand

Cook the pumpkin however you like — boil, steam, bake — then whirl in a blender with the cream till smooth and unctuous.

Return to the pot and heat gently over a low burner. Chiffonade the sage leaves, add to the pot, and gently simmer till it begins to look thick and sauce-like. Add the grated cheese, which will thicken it a bit further.

Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente

Drain the pasta and combine with the pumpkin mixture. Cook for a few seconds to combine flavors, then melt in a pat of butter. Finishing with a tablespoon or two of calvados or sherry or Grand Marnier gives it an elegant taste if you like that sort of thing (I used calvados). Serve immediately with a fresh grating of pepper and a nice salad.

NOTE: I first made this with oriental pumpkin which you can buy by the slice at the Sunday Farmer’s Market at the 2nd Street Shambles, but a flavorful orange winter squash also works. Just be sure to blend until the texture becomes creamy and smooth.

- Barb McKenzie