Becoming an herbacious cook

Herbacious Cook

Chef Bev teaching at Uncle John'sWhen I consider cooking, I like to take full advantage of ingredients in season ~ at the time of year when they are most flavorful ~ and I hang on to summer for all it’s worth. Which brings me to this, my first blog post for EAT PLANTS.

Many of you have been to one of my seasonal demos and tastings at Uncle John’s Plant Farm over the last several years, and we’ve enjoyed each others company in the midst of the greenhouses. I remember my first demo there ~ airplanes from Cleveland Hopkins flying overhead and drowning out my voice (and yes, that’s a LOT of airplane noise) and the fragrance and color of hanging plants overhead. What a treat…

So, it’s with great pleasure that I share with you (on an every two week schedule) some tips and techniques and great tastes…all from plantings you’ve had the opportunity to nuture along the way. A collection of many of my favorite seasonal recipes (all made with my herb garden plants from Uncle John’s) that I have enjoyed cooking for family and friends who have gathered at my table over the years.

These are uncomplicated, ingredient-driven foods that are a pleasure to prepare, serve and eat. Read on and sip, savor, taste, enjoy…and comment ~ I love hearing from you.

 

Edible Tidbits

Nothing adds a sparkle of freshness to food prep like a handful of fresh herbs. Culinarily speaking, simple herbs can give a dish its cultural signature. For instance, basil and oregano declare a pot of vegetable soup to be Italian, while a finish of tarragon and maybe thyme shout French.

Treat fresh herbs like fresh flowers. Oh, sure, a bouquet of fresh basil just isn’t the same as a dozen roses…but just how many rose petals can one eat??!! 

Trim the herb stems at a 45 degree angle, and place in a glass with two inches of water. Refrigerate for up to two weeks (cover the leaves with an unsealed plastic bag to minimize odor absorption), replacing the water if it gets cloudy. You can do this with basil by leaving it at room temperature; it's less likely to turn dark.

 

Minted Fruit

I’ve been enjoying localOhiopeaches beginning last week, and I love to mix and match room temperature, drop-dead-ripe stone fruits and melons with fresh mint. Try this recipe for your next picnic or a too-hot-to-bake-one-of-my-cakes dessert.

 

3 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced

6 small ripe plums, pitted and sliced

½ ripe melon (honeydew, cantaloupe) seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes (about 2 cups)

¼ cup chopped fresh mint (spearmint, chocolate mint or pineapple mint are favorites)

Place the peaches, plums, melon and mint in a large bowl and toss together. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.

 

Chef’s notes from Bev

Note that the flavor of mint intensifies over time. If you prefer a less minty flavor, add the mint to the salad about an hour before serving.

 

Next time: Smoked Salmon Salad with Dill Vinaigrette AND more herb insights