Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

Lavender Sugar for Fruit Salads, Tea, & Cookies

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Dry lavender flowers in a cool airy place. Whirl a heaping teaspoon of dried buds (or to taste) with a cup of sugar and store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Alternately, tie a spring of lavender in a muslim square and drop it into a sealed jar of sugar if you prefer not to have bits of lavender in your sugar.

Sprinkle on fresh fruit (berries, peaches, pears, plums) or use to flavor iced tea or in place of ordinary sugar for cookies, cakes & icings. A combination of tree-ripened peaches and blackberries treated this way is especially summer-wonderful and gorgeous.

Lavender sugar smells divine and has a light flavor of lavender. It combines beautifully with almonds.

Elizabeth Coleman’s Pasta with Pesto & Cherry Tomatoes

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Early this morning, Elizabeth Coleman was in her plot picking cherry tomatoes and basil and getting ready for a trip to North Carolina. When I happened by, she gave me a favorite recipe from her mother which she planned to make the first night at the beach. It sounded so good and so easy that I made it for lunch today.

* Pesto (Elizabeth makes her own, but you can also buy it ready-made from Claudio in the Italian Market)

* Pasta (I got something called “festoni conditi” from Claudio’s, which is a big beefy pasta full of nooks and crannies and colored with tomato, spinach, beet, and squid ink powders, but almost any pasta would work. I’m not sure what kind Elizabeth uses — she didn’t say)

* Cherry tomatoes

Cook the pasta till al dente and drain. Melt a generous dollup of pesto into the hot pasta and sprinkle with lots of halved cherry tomatoes. When I tried it for lunch today, I garnished it with a bit of fresh basil from the garden and some toasted pine nuts. It was delicious.

Black Beans with Epazote

Friday, July 1st, 2011

The ancient Mayan word for bean is bu’ul, plural is bu’ul-ob (the ‘ is a glottal stop)

Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is a rough, weedy plant with pungent taste and pointed serrated leaves, a native of tropical America and used a lot in central and south Mexico but not much in the north and northwest. Barbara McKenzie, who always has some in her plot, would be happy to share if you want to try it.

This recipe is from Diana Kennedy’s “The Cuisines of Mexico”. Diana writes: “It is very much an acquired taste, but after a while to cook black beans without it is unthinkable”.  I agree!

1 lb black turtle beans
1/2 a large onion, peeled
about 10 cups water
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil (Diana uses lard)
1 tablespoon salt or to taste
2 large sprigs epazote

Wash the beans, drain, and add to a pot (earthenware is best if you have one). Cut the onion in half vertically, then slice into very thin half-moons and add to beans (this looks like a lot of onion for the amt of beans but the onion disintegrates during the cooking and becomes part of the great soupy liquid). Add water and olive oil, bring to a boil, turn down to a slow simmer, cover and cook for about 2 hours or until the beans are almost done. Add water along the way so there is always ample liquid.

Add the epazote and salt and cook for an additional half hour or until the beans are very soft. Set aside, preferably overnight. There should be plenty of soupy liquid

Diana writes: “Frijoles de olla are traditionally served, beans and broth together, in small earthenware bowls, after the main course and before the dessert”.

Herbs to use when cooking dried beans…

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I am currently cooking my way through “Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy” by Judith Barrett. Since dried beans are the basis for so many salads, soups and entrees, I was interested in which fresh garden herbs Italians traditionally use to flavor dried beans during the initial cooking period.

The general idea is to soak the bean of choice overnight, then drain, rinse and add fresh water, herbs, & sea salt, and simmer slowly until done. Beans are usually stored in the fridge with their cooking liquid until used in another recipe Here’s a summary of what herbs go with which bean in the initial step:

White beans (cannellini, navy, great northern) — sage only, sage & whole garlic clove, bay leaf only, whole garlic cloves with bay leaf, or rosemary.

Cannellini only: Rosemary alone or rosemary & garlic are good, as is sage and garlic. Cannellini are also good with fresh marjoram.

Chick Peas — bay leaf goes surprisingly well with chickpeas, and lots of Italian chick pea recipes call for bay leaves during the initial cooking period. Cynthia Rafferty’s bay leaf tree is a good source in the garden. Sage and garlic are good alternatives to bay leaves. Rosemary and garlic also go well with chick peas.

Split and Skinned Favas (available at Claudio’s in the Italian Market) — bay leaf

Red Kidney beans go well with bay leaves and garlic

Lima – sage

Dried beans in general– Summer savory