Fresh Herbs 101 with Chef Susan Vrabec

HERB AND MANGO TEA

2 cups tea (Lipton Cold Brew) brewed with lemon balm sprigs, mint sprigs and organic rose petals

1 & ½ cups mango juice

Additional mint sprigs, lemon balm sprigs and organic rose petals for garnish

 

Brew the tea.  Add the lemon balm sprigs, mint sprigs and rose petals steeping for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.  Strain the herbs and petals from the tea. Combine the tea and mango juice. Chill until ready to serve.

To serve, divide the fruit between 8 tall glasses (large wine glasses are fine). Pour the tea over the fruit, garnish with herb sprigs and rose petals, and serve with a spoon.

 

BLUEBERY LAVENDER SOUP

 

1 pint blueberries, stems removed and washed

¼ cup fresh lavender leaves

½ cup sweet or semi-sweet white wine

1 cup half & half

1 cup plain yogurt

 

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Process until well blended. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with fresh lavender leaves and flower petals.  Serves 4.

 

HERB BUTTER

½ cup room temperature butter (sweet, not salted)

½ Tbs. fresh lemon juice or a few gratings of lemon zest (optional)

3 Tbs. fresh herbs and/or herb flowers or 3 tsp. dried herbs or 3 tsp. herb seeds

Salt and white pepper to taste or dry mustard, paprika, cumin (optional)

Chop the herbs very finely or pulverize the seeds.  Cream the butter and blend in the herbs and seasonings. Shape as desired and chill or freeze up to six months.

 

Suggested combinations:

–         Sage, parsley and chives for chicken, rice, pasta

–         Tarragon or fennel, lemon zest, and parsley for fish, chicken, or eggs

–         Caraway seeds and parsley for cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and bread

–         Rosemary, chives, parsley, and garlic for potatoes, rice, pasta, beef,  chicken

–         Calendula petals, chives, and parsley for chicken, rice, or eggs

–         Scented geraniums, rose, or pinks (dianthus) for toast, scones, waffles

 

HERB OILS

Olive oil, peanut oil or canola oil

1 cup herbs, spices or citrus to 1 quart oil

Combine ingredients in a clean glass jar. Make sure all ingredients are covered with oil or mold will develop. Cover tightly and store in a dark, cool, dry place. Strain out herbs and garlic after 2 weeks. Pour into clean, dry jar

 

BASIL PESTO

4cups fresh basil leaves (may use 1 cup basil leaves and 1 cup fresh spinach leaves)

½ cup parsley leaves

½ cup olive oil

3 Tbs. pine nuts, toasted

2 garlic gloves, peeled

¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tbs. butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Puree the basil, parsley, olive oil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor, blender, or mortar & pestle. Mix the cheese and butter in by hand. Season to taste.

Note: if you are not going to use the pesto immediately, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto and store in the refrigerator. If you prefer to freeze it, add the cheese and butter after thawing.

 

SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO

3to 4 cloves garlic

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes

2 Tbs. hot water

4 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup olive oil

½ cup pine nuts or walnuts

Freshly ground pepper

In a food processor or blender, while motor is running, add garlic. Next add tomatoes and water and combine well. Slowly add Parmesan and oil, then nuts. Season to taste with pepper.

 

TWO PESTO GOAT CHEESE TORTA

10 oz. goat cheese

2 oz. cream cheese

3 oz. feta cheese

Basil Pesto

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

2 to 3 sun-dried tomatoes, julienned

Fresh Basil

 

In a bowl combine the goat cheese and cream cheese. Add the feta, and combine lightly, creating a coarse texture. Line a 1 ½ cup ramekin (or straight sided bowl) with plastic wrap.  Divide the cheese mixture in half. Add ¼ cup basil pesto to 1 half and ¼ sun-dried tomato pesto to the other half. Place the basil pesto/cheese mixture in the ramekin and press down smoothly.  Cover the basil pesto/cheese mixture with the sun-dried tomato/cheese mixture and press down smoothly. Refrigerate overnight or for 4 hours.

When ready to serve, invert torta on serving plate. Remove plastic wrap. Place some of each pesto around the bottom of torta. Decorate top with strips of sun-dried tomatoes and basil.  Serve with crackers or crostini.

 

HERBED GOAT CHEESE

10 ounces goat cheese, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup finely chopped herbs and edible flowers

Combine all in a bowl.

Use to top crostini or crackers or stuff small tomatoes

Option 1:  To ½ cup of Herbed Goat Cheese add 3 to 4 finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil). Mix well. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Option 2: Make small balls of Herbed Goat Cheese and roll in toasted sesame seeds, finely minced herbs or toasted crushed nuts and spear with toothpicks for quick appetizer.

 

HERBED TOMATOS, BASIL AND MOZZARELLA

Ripe Tomatoes, sliced

Fresh Basil Leaves

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Herb Oil

Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper

Balsamic vinegar

Organic flower petals

Toss together and serve.

 

HOMEMADE HERB OIL

1/2 cup rosemary leaves, stems removed

1 cup olive oil

1/4 cup tarragon leaves

1/8 cup thyme leaves

Place the rosemary and the olive oil in a blender and cover. Blend on high speed until the rosemary has been ground into small pieces.

Add the tarragon and thyme and continue blending until all the herbs have been broken down into small pieces. Pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Yield: 1 ½ cups oil

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