Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

8.05.2011

The Spice of Life

As a five year old, I might have invited you out into the backyard and offered you my most gourmet delicacy—a sage sandwich.  The recipe?  A few sage leaves…sandwiched together.  It took Mikaela and I a few helpings to acquaint our taste buds to the odd flavor, but we soon grew to like it. 


Mama’s herb garden offered free in-between-meal snacks, so chives soon grew to be a favorite as well.  As you may be gathering, I was obsessed with herbs from a young age.

I am still immensely fond of Mama’s herb garden, which has since become my baby as well.  It currently contains rosemary, chives, sage, oregano, cilantro, and mint.  The little green wonders are packed with pungent, mouth-watering zest that dried, powdered herbs just can't compare with.  It's like trying to compare powdered milk with fresh-from-the-cow milk, or bread just from the oven with Wonder bread.  Do you begin to understand?  When my skill as a cook begins to wane or my culinary creation is dull and lifeless, I’ll dash outside, grab a few handfuls of rosemary, wash it, then chop it up finely with a food chopper.  Voila—I am suddenly transformed into a gourmet chef!  A stalk of mint makes delicious mint tea, a mix of all the herbs is delicious in any kind of soup, chives are perfect for baked potatoes, chopped sage adds pizzaz to breadsticks, a sprig of mint transforms ice water, and finely chopped rosemary with roasted garlic make to-die-for mashed potatoes! 

If you don’t have space for an herb garden, no need to shed tears, because you can grow your favorite herbs in pots on your front step or on your window sill.  Even if that is not an option, now is the prime time to buy fresh herbs at the store or farmer’s market.  However you manage it, get your hands on some herbs, because I want to share a few of our family’s favorite summer recipes that highlight these fresh savory delights! 

The basil plants that Mama buys hardly ever even make it to the soil, because we strip them for bruschetta, a summer delicacy! 

  • 8 chopped ripe roma (plum) tomatoes
  • 5 leaves chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 or more Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 loaf of Italian-style (or French) bread, cut into diagonal slices
  • Additional olive oil 
  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic, oregano, balsamic vinegar, salt, and olive oil. Use more olive oil and vinegar, if necessary, to coat the entire mixture. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes for flavors to blend.
  2. In the meantime, preheat the broiler. On a baking sheet, arrange the slices of bread in a single layer, coat each side with olive oil, and brown both sides slightly in the oven. Remove the slices from the oven.
  3. Spread the tomato mixture on the still warm toasted bread slices and serve.
I would have to say, however, that rosemary is my very favorite herb.  If you agree, then these cookies are a delight not to be missed! My Aunt Hiedie, a magnificent cook who obviously knows the value of fresh herbs, gave me both this recipe and the one following.


Ingredients
·                  1 cup unsalted butter, softened
·                  ¾ cup granulated sugar
·                  2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary
·                  2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
·                  ½ tsp. baking powder
·                  ¼ tsp. salt
·                  1 tsp. vanilla
·                  2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
·                  ½ cup lemon curd
·                  ½ cup mascarpone cheese (I use cream cheese)
·                  1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, rosemary, lemon peel, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in remaining flour.
2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. With bottom of glass dipped in sugar flatten to 1/2-inch thickness. Bake 8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack; cool.
3. Meanwhile, in small bowl combine lemon curd and mascarpone cheese. Spread on flat side of half of cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat side to filling. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately or refrigerate, in layers separated by waxed paper, in airtight container up to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 20 cookies.


Cilantro—the king of Mexican food!  Cilantro is yummy torn and mixed up in a green salad, but this salsa recipe that my aunt introduced me to takes the cake!  You know your taste buds are begging you to try it! 

  • 1 avocado - peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 mango - peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (or more, if you're an herby person like myself!)
  • salt to taste

Directions

Place the avocado in a serving bowl, and mix with the lime juice. Mix in the mango, onion, habanero pepper, cilantro and salt.

So there you have my confession in black and white--I am an herb fanatic.  I go through my days with perpetual rosemary breath, I actually think "Rosemary" would make an beautiful name for a baby girl, and I still fantasize about sage sandwiches.  When it comes to herbs, what's your weakness?

2 comments:

  1. Mmmm...you're making my mouth water! :) I LOVE bruschetta...and, well, the other recipes too! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. mmm These recipe sounds delicious. I will have to try them. My hubby loves bruschetta.

    ReplyDelete

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