Archive for the ‘herbs’ Category

Urban Farming: Getting the spring garden going

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
Red leaf lettuce

Mixed lettuces
Mixed lettuces – red leaf, green leaf and romaine

We also have a couple rows of English peas coming up.

English peas
English peas

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.

Baby celery
Baby celery

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!

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Photo Friday: Ethereal

We have some fennel plants in the herb garden. A couple summers ago, I was weeding the garden and noticed that there were dozens of ladybugs in the fennel fronds.

Photo Friday: Ethereal

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GYO: Shrimp Bun – Vietnamese-style Rice Noodle Salad

Grow Your Own Food Blogging EventSome friends introduced me to Vietnamese cooking a few years ago, at the restaurant Great Saigon on Virginia Beach Blvd. in Janaf Mall. One of my favorite meals to get there is bun, or meat served over salad and rice noodles with a hot, sweet, salty and sour sauce or dressing.

I decided to try making it at home by combining a recipe I found at with one from the cookbook The Best International Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. It’s a bit more work than I want to do on a weeknight, but next time, I’ll mix up the dressing ahead of time and maybe skip the shallots.

This is my contribution to the food blogging event Grow Your Own, originated by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes, which celebrates raising and cooking our own fresh food. The lemongrass, mint and chiles in this recipe came from my garden. We had a huge crop of hot chiles last year, and I still have some in the freezer.

Here’s a tip: To preserve whole hot chiles, place them on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer. Freeze until fully frozen, then remove to a zipper-lock bag and keep in the freezer. When ready to use, remove the number of chiles needed from the bag and let thaw on a plate on the counter. This will take about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the chile. Trust me, they maintain their hotness 🙂

Shrimp Bun – Korean-style Rice Noodle Salad

Ingredients – serves 4

2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 lb. peeled and deveined large or extra-large shrimp
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and crushed with the side of a knife

1/3 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup warm water
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 fresh hot chiles, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

1/8 cup canola or peanut oil
1/2 shallot, julienned
salt to taste

2 carrots, or 6 baby carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cucumber, peeled and julienned (cut into matchstick shapes)
4 oz. dried rice noodles
2 cups lettuce, any kind, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade (ribbons)
1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into chiffonade (ribbons)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup chopped peanuts


SHRIMP: Combine shrimp with marinade ingredients; seal in a zipper-lock bag, place in a leak-proof container, and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning occasionally.

DRESSING: Whisk dressing ingredients in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

SHALLOTS: Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Strain shallots through a sieve into a small bowl; reserve oil. Place fried shallots on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, and set aside.

SALAD: Place rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 20 minutes, then drain. Combine the noodles with the shallot oil, 1/4 of the lettuce, and 1/2 of the bean sprouts, carrots and cucumber, tossing well.

Pre-heat grill or grill pan. Remove shrimp from bag and discard marinade. Grill shrimp 2-1/2 minutes per side, till completely opaque. Place 1/4 of the noodle mixture in each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1/4 of the shrimp and 2 tbsp. of the dressing. Pile 1/4 of each of the remaining ingredients around the rim of the bowls and top with 1/4 of the fried shallots. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve.

Grow Your Own: Vietnamese Shrimp-Noodle Salad (Bun)

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In the Garden: Mesclun Mix

Back in, probably February, Dan planted mesclun mix seeds in a terra-cotta planter on the back steps. I had told him they would last all summer, but I neglected to specify that he should sprinkle a pinch of seeds each week for the summer. So he planted the whole seed packet all at once.

April 25
Mesclun Mix - April 25

This is from last week, so it’s a little smaller now, but we definitely need to eat more of this. I also added a couple of parsley plants in there. It couldn’t be easier to grow – just sprinkle the seeds on and keep it watered.

May 15
Mesclun Mix - May 15

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Fruit Salad with Fig-Vanilla Balsamic Vinaigrette

I’m entering this recipe in a contest the Virginian-Pilot, our local newspaper is having – they’re looking for recipes that use fresh, tasty strawberries, since they’re in season now.

Last year, I visited my sister and her family in Temecula, Calif., and we went to The Temecula Olive Oil Company for an olive-oil tasting. They also had flavored balsamic vinegars for tasting, and as soon as I tried this fig-vanilla balsamic, I knew I had to have some.

After we got back home, I made up this recipe, and it’s wonderful, if I do say so myself. My mint is bursting out now, too, so it’s definitely time to make it again.

Fruit Salad with Fig-Vanilla Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 2

1/2 cup hulled and quartered strawberries
1/2 cup diced cantaloupe
4 California Mission figs, sliced
1/2 cup diced feta cheese
1 tbsp. fig-vanilla balsamic vinegar, or regular balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. fruity extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. chopped fresh mint, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
3 cups chopped or torn romaine lettuce

Combine fruit and cheese in a medium bowl. Place vinegar in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisking constantly, drizzle EVOO into the bowl. Stir mint into dressing. Pour the dressing over the fruit and cheese and let stand 10 minutes. Divide romaine between two salad plates and serve fruit and cheese mixture over romaine. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Fruit salad with fig-vanilla balsamic vinaigrette

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GYO: Antipasto Pesto Pasta

I love the sound of that 🙂 And the dish was pretty good, too.

We had about 16 people over for Thanksgiving, and since we had spent two weeks in Europe, including a week in Italy, in September, naturally I wanted to serve antipasto for an appetizer.

But most people were holding out for the main event, so there was quite a bit left over. What to do with all these preserved meats and veggies? Put them in a pasta, of course! I found this great-sounding recipe and modified it for what we had and like, and it turned out great. I’ll definitely make it again.

This is my entry in Grow Your Own, the foodie event started by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes and hosted this month by House of Annie. GYO celebrates the food we grow ourselves. We grew the basil and parsley for the pesto in this dish, and I froze pesto to use during the winter, since the basil was so prolific. The round-up of all the entries has been posted, so check them out!

Antipasto Pesto Pasta
1 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup marinated cocktail onions, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 ounces salami, chopped
1/2 cup marinated mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/3 cup refrigerated pesto
8 ounces uncooked bow-tie pasta (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Place the roasted pepper, onions, olives, salami, mushrooms, and artichokes in a large bowl and mix gently.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt; drain. In a small bowl, mix together the pesto and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; add to bell pepper mixture, and toss to combine. Add pasta to bell pepper mixture and stir.

Sprinkle each serving with 2 tsp. remaining cheese and 2 tsp. pine nuts.

Antipasto Pasta

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February 2018
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