Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category
Last weekend, we had a gorgeous spring day – sunny with temps in the low 60s. Perfect for getting out in the garden and planting some veggies.
We use a lot of lettuce and love a good spring mix, so I planted a salad bowl in a terra-cotta pot. One of my gardening goals this year is to integrate beautiful ornamental plants with delicious edible plants so I can extend the time the garden looks good. So for this salad bowl, I added a few violas to the pot along with the lettuce mix. I sprinkled few pinches of seeds in the open area and will sprinkle a few more each week. This is called succession planting – I can harvest it all summer long by continuing to sprinkle in new seed and harvest the leaves when they’re ready.
The parsley wintered over in the pot and I’ve been harvesting a few leaves now and then when I need a tablespoon or two for a recipe. It’s so nice being able to just clip what I need.
I am a vinegar fiend. I just checked my cupboard and I have 11 different kinds of vinegar. So when I came across this recipe for chimichurri sauce in Cooks’ Illustrated magazine a few years ago, I really wanted to try it. It’s kind of like a kicked-up version of Italian dressing with a larger proportion of vinegar and uses red-wine vinegar – my favorite.
Chimichurri sauce is a condiment from Argentina generally used as a steak sauce, but it can be used on all kinds of grilled meats. There are variations that include cilantro or oregano, but I found I didn’t like those flavors as well, so I just use parsley. I also am not fond of the bite of fresh onion and garlic, so I reduced the amount of garlic and soaked it and the onion in the vinegar to remove some of their pungency.
Even though summer is unofficially over, there are lots of good grilling days ahead, so try this with your next cookout.
Chimichurri Sauce for Grilled Steak
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
1 cup parsley leaves (reserve stems for another use)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely minced red onion
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Add red onion and garlic to red-wine vinegar and let sit for 10 minutes. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until fairly smooth. Taste and add salt, if needed. Will keep refrigerated for one week.
Dan gave me a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, so I could expand my cooking in a new direction. But since I’ve never baked much, I have a hard time thinking of things to do with it! So I decided to challenge myself and try new techniques by joining the Daring Bakers, an online group that comes up with a baking challenge each month. All members bake the same item and publish a blog post about it on the same day each month. The item is known only to the members until the publication day. Which was yesterday. Yes, I’m late on my first challenge, but it turned out well!
Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.
The only requirement was to use two different methods to make two types of crackers:
- icebox crackers, where you mix ingredients, shape them into a log, refrigerate to firm up, then slice and bake; or
- rolled crackers, where you combine ingredients in a mixer, then roll out by hand or with pasta rollers. From here, you can cut out shapes with a cookie/biscuit cutter or cut the sheets into cracker shapes after baking.
Dan and I were out of town the first two weeks of July, so I had limited time to get this done. Last week, I tried a cracker recipe I had printed out years ago – Ina Garten’s Parmesan and Thyme Crackers. But I measured the flour wrong and they crumbled. Lesson learned.
Next I decided to try the Seedy Crisps, an Alton Brown recipe. These are so good! Thin and crisp, filled with poppy and sesame seeds, these crunchy little bites go great with cheese. They rolled out very easily and didn’t stick to my granite countertop, which I love. It’s important to cut them while they’re still warm; otherwise, they just break apart.
Seedy Crisps. Recipe by Alton Brown.
The third recipe I made was really easy, too. I just need to remember to take the butter out to soften! Since I don’t bake much, I’m always forgetting about that part. Anyway, these were Rosemary, Cheddar and Walnut Icebox Crackers from “Garde Manger, The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen” by the Culinary Institute of America. I used pine nuts nuts instead of walnuts since we like those better.
These are like a cheesy, herby little shortbread. These are one of the icebox types; I still have another log in the fridge to bake off later. Because of the high fat content from the cheese and nuts, these will not last as long as the crisps, but the dough will keep in the fridge for days. Now, it just needs to be sliced and baked so we can enjoy it again.
Rosemary, Cheddar and Pine Nut Crackers
The recipes and tips are all available on the Daring Kitchen website.
This was a really fun challenge, and I look forward to participating in many more!
The great bounty of the summer garden is gone now, but in this mild climate, we continue to enjoy food as local as you can get – from our garden.
A couple weeks ago, we pulled out the basil, tomatoes and tomatilloes and planted lettuces in their place. The baby romaine, spinach, red sails (red leaf lettuce) and bok choy are growing nicely. This past weekend, I added cilantro and flat-leaf parsley.
Should be a delicious winter.
We have lots going on in the garden this spring. The romaine, red leaf and green leaf lettuces I thought for sure were frozen to death during the winter came back beautifully and we’ve been munching on salad from the garden for a few weeks now.
Red leaf lettuce
Mixed lettuces – red leaf, green leaf and romaine
We also have a couple rows of English peas coming up.
And I’m really happy that the parsley made it through the winter, too.
We’re trying a new vegetable this year: celery! They’re little babies right now – Dan started them from seed in the sunroom.
We have lots more to come – several kinds of tomatoes, hot and bell peppers, and purple tomatillos are growing from seeds in the sunroom, and we’re going to try Brussels sprouts again, too. Should be a fun summer!