“The Herb, and the Good Things Which Come of the Earth”
by Julie Badger Jensen

Perhaps you have already discovered the joy of herbs and the way they enhance foods in a subtle yet exquisite way. If not, you may wish to begin an exciting journey of discovery. They have through generations called to us with their scents and textures.

From simple to exotic, herbs are certain to take you on a culinary adventure. Whether growing your own or purchasing from the nursery or supermarket, they are bound to be rewarding. Used alone or in infinite combinations, they offer a nutritious, low calorie approach “to please the eye and to gladden the heart.” (D&C 59, verse 18.) As more and more people wish to cut down on fats in the diet and eat more fruits and vegetables “in the season thereof”, (D&C 59, verse 18) the role of herbs can be vital in adding variety and pleasure.

There’s nothing quite like fresh herbs. Their aroma and flavor are unmatched. Most who try them become immediate fans. An herbal home garden can be most rewarding. “What was Paradise? But a Garden, an Orchard of Trees and Herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights” . . . William Lawson. With careful attention, some herbal plants can also thrive indoors on the kitchen windowsill adding scent, charm, and convenience. Topiaries of rosemary or basil are delightful.

When necessary, they may be dried or frozen. “Cut herbs just as the dew does

dry . . . tie them loosely, hang them high” (an unknown American farmer). Dried herbs have a relatively long shelf life when stored in airtight containers and should last about six months. Drying concentrates and strengthens flavor, so you need to use less of the dried herb than you will fresh. 1 tsp. dried to 1 Tbs. fresh is a good general exchange amount.

Some herbs can be successfully frozen. By combining chopped fresh herbs with olive oil or chicken stock and then freezing them, they will retain color and taste. Thyme, chives, rosemary, mint, parsley, and basil all freeze well. An ice cube tray is an excellent container. After herbs are frozen, cover tray with plastic wrap or foil. Just remove as many cubes as needed and enjoy. You can label each bag and tray with the date and type.

Experiment . . . be brave! With practice, using herbs will become second nature. Until you are expert, use small amounts. Soon you’ll sense which types and amounts you and your family most enjoy.

Imagine squash, onions, or red bell peppers sauted with a handful of just picked basil, chives or thyme . . . or steamed carrots glazed with mint and honey, rosemary, marjoram or dill. The wonderful aroma of any basic bread or roll recipe can be enhanced by their addition. And don’t forget to make a sandwich memorable by adding combinations. Pastas come to life with oregano, thyme basil or chives. No more boring soups or salads and salad dressings . . . give depth and flavor by tossing in thyme or basil. Try rosemary, lemon basil or lemon thyme with fish and other seafood. Sage and marjoram are excellent choices with chicken, other poultry and pork. Beef is best complimented by the stronger varieties of bay, oregano, and rosemary . . . and don’t forget garlic.

Herbs are delightful and versatile. They can touch our spirits . . . providing continuity with our ancestors and all cultures and peoples . . . giving enrichment to our lives with the pleasures of the earth. Discover the rewards of combining the “herb and the good things which come of the earth” (D&C 59, verse 17) AROUND THE TABLE.

LEMONADE WITH MINT OR ROSEMARY

Fun and refreshing

Serve well iced and garnish with thin lemon slices

1 heaping tsp. dried mint or rosemary -OR- 1 fresh sprig of mint or rosemary

4 cups water

1 cup sugar

2 / 3 cup lemon juice

dash of salt

lemon slices, to garnish

Combine mint or rosemary, 1 cup water and sugar in a saucepan. Boil gently for 5 minutes. Strain and add 3 cups water, lemon juice, and salt.

TOMATO AND BASIL TOASTS

Luscious with juicy tomatoes and the sweet, spicy perfume

of basil. Try other cheeses or omit if you’re watching calories.

Add other herbs such as marjoram or thyme.

1 thin baguette French bread about 16″ long , cut on the diagonal into 3 / 4-inch slices

Olive oil

1 pound tomatoes, sliced

1 / 2 cup fresh basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat the oven broiler. Brush both sides of each slice of bread with the olive oil. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and broil until very lightly toasted, or about 5 minutes.

Top with tomato slices, salt and pepper to taste, and cheese. Return to the oven and bake about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Top with basil leaves. Serve immediately. Yield: 16 pieces.

HERB CROUTONS

A nice addition to nearly any salad

Simple and more flavorful than store-bought croutons

1 loaf of French Bread, sliced

4 Tbs. butter

4 Tbs. canola oil

4 tsp. crushed dried herbs

2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cut the crusts from bread. Cut the slices into 1 / 2-inch cubes. In a large skillet, heat butter and canola oil. Mix in dried herbs and garlic. Add bread cubes and stir well to coat. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Cool. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

HERBAL SALAD DRESSING

Use as a salad dressing, marinade or to spread on bread

1 / 2 cup extra virgin mild-tasting olive oil

1 / 3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

1 / 2 tsp. seasoned salt

Dash ground pepper

1 tsp. mustard powder

approximately 1 / 2 tsp. each fresh or dried oregano, basil, thyme, and mint

Combine ingredients in an 8-ounce glass jar. Screw lid on tightly. Shake. Adjust seasonings to taste – it may need more lemon juice, salt or garlic. Before storing in refrigerator, place jar in the center of a square of paper towel, bring up the ends, and slip a rubber band around the jar.

HERB CHEESE

Make your own savory blend of herb cheese from your favorite

blend of cheese and herbs. You can use regular or light cream cheese;

regular, low fat, or nonfat ricotta; fresh goat cheese; or nonfat yogurt cheese.

For herbs, almost any can be used alone or in infinite combinations. Spread on

bread or rolls or use herb cheese as a filling for omelets, crepes, and ravioli.

8 ounces fresh cheese

1 garlic clove, minced

1 / 4 cup minced fresh herb leaves such as chives, basil, oregano, or marjoram

By hand or in a food processor, combine all ingredients until well blended. If cheese is too thick, add a bit of cream or milk until of desired consistency. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, allowing flavors to blend for at least a day before serving. Makes about 1 cup.

HERB PUFF PASTRY TWISTS

Serve them with appetizers, soups, salads, or main courses.

Best of all, here’s a chance to either choose your favorite

herbs or match herbs with other foods – for example, basil with

tomato soup or sage with a grilled chicken salad.

1 pkg. frozen puff pastry

1 / 4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 Tbs. herb of your choice

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Thaw pastry for 20 minutes. Combine the butter and herbs. On a lightly floured board, cut the pastry into strips 3 / 4 inch wide and 10 inches long.

Brush the strips with the butter-herb mixture. Twist each strip three or four times and lay on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly, then serve immediately. Makes 24 pieces.

HERB BUTTERS

Herb butters may have lost some of their popularity as a

result of the concern over dietary fats, but they’re a perfect

opportunity to practice your moderation. Nothing is more fabulous

with simply cooked vegetables and baked potatoes, as well as

breads, muffins, biscuits, or grilled meats.

1 Tbs. minced herbs (one herb or a mixture of herbs)

4 Tbs. butter at room temperature

1 tsp. lemon juice

Mix in herbs thoroughly, then add lemon juice. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Or, shape into logs or balls or use a butter mold, cover tightly and refrigerate. The butter may also be frozen. Which herbs to use in making butters? Experiment with them all.

GARDEN VEGETABLES GRILLED ON A

ROSEMARY SKEWER

The essence of rosemary works its way from

the inside out on grilled vegetables skewered

on the stems of this fragrant herb.

5 Tbs. olive oil

12 baby summer squash, such as zucchini, yellow or green, 1 / 2-inch slices

12 cherry tomatoes

1 red pepper, sliced in one-inch chunks

6 (12-inch) rosemary stems, stripped and soaked in water for one hour

Salt and pepper, as desired

Toss all the vegetables with 4 Tbs. of the olive oil in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 hour.

Divide the vegetables into six portions and alternate them on the rosemary-stem skewers. Salt and pepper the vegetables, if desired.

Prepare the grill. Cook the vegetables about 10 minutes, or until they are tender, turning and brushing them with additional olive oil as necessary. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

 


2006 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.