Monday, June 5, 2017

Best Herb Recipes

I love this time of year for a lot of reasons, one of which is that my herb garden is happily thriving. I love using fresh herbs in all kinds of recipes. Here are some of my favorite recipes for cooking and cocktails.

Basil is a staple in my herb garden. We only have basic sweet basil this year, but in past years we've had purple basil (especially pretty in cocktails), and many other varieties are available, including cinnamon basil, lemon basil, sweet Thai basil, and licorice basil. Basil is fantastic in Italian recipes, especially anything involving pasta, tomatoes, cheese, and/or chicken.

Tomato Basil Pasta
A quick summer dinner or side dish, delicious served hot or cold. Use fresh tomatoes if you have them; if not, canned are fine (either plain or with added herbs or garlic).

10 oz dry pasta (any shape)
6 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves crushed garlic (or 2 tsp minced)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups diced tomatoes (or 1 can tomatoes, undrained and omit salt)
6 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonaded
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
3/4 cups crumbled feta
Salt and pepper
Optional: 1 can chicken, drained and broken apart with a fork

Cook pasta as directed and drain. Combine olive oil, garlic, onion, tomatoes and basil in a small bowl; let sit at room temperature. Toss pasta with Parmesan and feta. Stir in tomato mixture and chicken (if using); add salt and pepper to taste. Top with additional Parmesan if desired. Serve immediately or chill thoroughly and serve cold.

Caprese Chicken
An easy skillet meal that's delicious any time of year, but especially when the tomatoes and basil are fresh from your garden. If you want to use full-sized tomatoes instead of grape or cherry tomatoes, just cut them into large chunks. 
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 2 tsp minced garlic)
1 pint grape (or cherry) tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp shredded fresh basil
4 slices mozzarella

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden and cooked through; about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Add vinegar to skillet and deglaze, then add garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and season with salt. Let simmer until soft, 5-7 minutes. Stir in basil. Return chicken to skillet and nestle in tomatoes. Top chicken with mozzarella and cover pan; allow to melt. Spoon tomatoes over cheese and serve immediately. 

Basil Lemonade (cocktail or mocktail)
Basil and lemon are a wonderfully refreshing combination, in food or in drinks. For a non-alcoholic version, simply omit the vodka and use a little extra water. For extra fun, top with a splash of seltzer or lemon-lime soda. 
In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon simple syrup, 1/4 cup water, a handful of basil leaves, and 1 oz vodka (if using). Feel free to adjust amounts to your preferred sweet-tart ratio. Shake until well chilled and strain into a glass with ice. Garnish with basil leaves and a lemon wedge. 

Rosemary is another wonderfully versatile herb that works well with both sweet and savory ingredients. It's especially complementary with lamb, but works well with just about any meat. 

Honey Rosemary Pork Chops
Grilled pork chops are frequently on the summer dinner menu at my house, and I'm always looking for new recipes. This one is a bit unusual, and very tasty. 

Vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
4 6-ounce boneless pork chops, each about 3/4-inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a clean grill to medium-high with the lid closed for 8-10 minutes. Lightly brush the grates with oil.

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and rosemary. Transfer half to a small bowl to glaze the pork chops. Reserve the remaining glaze to brush on the cooked chops.

Lightly brush the pork chops with the remaining olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Lightly brush the honey-rosemary glaze on both sides of each chop.

Place the chops on the grill. Close the lid and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, about 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the chops. Continue cooking for 6 to 8 more minutes for medium. Remove the chops from the heat, brush with more glaze, and set aside to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Crispy Rosemary Sweet Potatoes
I made these for Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago and they became an instant tradition. Even my non-vegetable-loving kids cleaned their plates. Just keep an eye for that last 10-15 minutes so they don't burn. 

3 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary, or 1/2 tsp. fresh
3 lbs. (3-4 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 shallot, peeled and sliced thinly
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine melted butter, oil and crushed rosemary in a small bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons of butter-oil mixture in the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange potato slices vertically in the dish. Add a sliver of shallot between every few slices of potato. Brush top with remaining butter-oil mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cover dish with foil and roast at 400 for 1 hour, covered, until potatoes are tender (thick slices may take extra time). Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Remove foil and roast another 10-15 minutes, until tops of potatoes are browned and crisp.

Rosemary Mule
A friend introduced me to the delightful combination of rosemary and ginger beer in cocktails, and this simple variation on a Moscow Mule makes the most of it. You can also add a splash of cranberry juice. 
In a copper mug (or tall glass) with ice, combine 1 oz vodka and 1 tablespoon lime juice, then top with ginger beer. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a wedge of lime. 

Like rosemary, mint is especially wonderful with lamb, but will pair with many sweet and savory ingredients. 

Mint Jelly
I grew up eating ground lamb patties topped with bright green mint jelly from the store, but homemade mint jelly is even better (albeit not naturally green - just add a bit of food coloring if you prefer it green). If your mint grows as profusely as mine, you'll have more than enough to make it worth canning a batch of your own homemade jelly.

1 1/2 cups fresh mint, washed and packed
3 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 (1 3/4 ounce) box pectin
4 cups granulated sugar

Crush mint leaves. Add water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes. Strain and measure 3 cups of mint infusion. Add lemon juice (and, if desired, 2-3 drops green food coloring). Add pectin, dissolve, and bring to a rapid boil. Add sugar. Cook fast, stirring occasionally until it comes to a rapid boil that cannot be stirred down, then cook 1 minute more. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses and seal. 

Minted Peas
Mint and peas are a surprisingly complementary combination, and another dish which is even more delicious if the ingredients are fresh from your garden. Great as a side dish or on toasted bread as bruschetta.
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 small bunch fresh mint
boiling water
salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil

Put the peas in a small (cold) saucepan and lay the mint on top. Pour in just enough boiling water to cover, then put the lid on. Return to a boil over high heat and cook for a few minutes until peas are just tender. Drain in a colander and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add vinegar. Add olive oil and mix well. Let sit for half an hour before serving. 

Minted Arnold Palmer (cocktail or mocktail)
I love mint leaves added to both lemonade and iced tea, so why not add them to an Arnold Palmer? As with the basil lemonade above, simply omit the vodka for the non-alcoholic version. 
In a cocktail shaker, muddle a few mint leaves with the back of a spoon, then add crushed ice. Add a 1:1 ratio of prepared lemonade and iced tea, or a spoonful of each mix and water. Add 1 oz vodka, if desired. Shake until well blended and chilled, then strain over ice in a tall glass and garnish with a mint sprig. 

I love the pungent bite of chives, alone or mixed with other herbs. It pairs especially well with potatoes and chicken. It does not do well in cocktails, however, so no drink recipes for this one. 

Garlic and Chive Mashed Potatoes
Sour cream for richness and garlic and chives for flavor - yummy!

4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (about 10), peeled and quartered
1-1/3 cups milk
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped (plus additional for garnish)
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place potatoes in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 12-14 minutes, until tender. While potatoes are cooking, place milk and garlic cloves in a small pot and bring just to a boil then remove from heat and let stand. Drain the cooked potatoes and mash with a hand masher, then beat with an electric mixer. Return to the stove over medium heat for about 2 minutes until slightly dry then remove from heat. Discard the garlic cloves from milk mixture and add the milk to the potatoes. Stir in butter, sour cream, chives, salt, and pepper, mixing until well combined. Garnish with additional chives. 

Sauteed Chicken in Creamy Chive Sauce
Rich enough to be a winter recipe but convenient stovetop cooking makes is great for summer as well. Serve with mashed potatoes and whatever fresh vegetable is in season. 
4 chicken breasts
Flour for dredging
3 tsp olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-3/4 cups chicken broth 
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped chives

Pound chicken breasts to an even thickness of about 1/2-inch. Season both sides with salt. Dredge the chicken in flour, both sides. Heat 2 tsp oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. 

Heat the remaining tsp of oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp flour and stir to coat. Add wine, chicken broth, and 1/2 tsp salt and bring to boil, stirring often. 

Return the chicken and any accumulating juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn chicken to coat with sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately. 

Sour Cream Chive Rolls
Herbs in bread are delicious, and the bite of the chives is nicely balanced here by the creamy tartness of the sour cream.
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups flour
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

In a small saucepan, heat sour cream until very hot. Stir in salt, sugar, and melted butter and allow to cool to lukewarm. 

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Mix in sour cream mixture, eggs, flour, and chives. Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Divide dough into 4 parts; shape each into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap when not working with them. Roll each ball into a 10-inch circle, allowing each to rest before proceeding. Cut each circle into 12 wedges using a pizza cutter or large knife. Starting at the wide end, roll each wedge, ending with the point and curving in the ends to form crescents. Place point-side down on greased (or parchment paper lined) cookie sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Allow to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. 

Mixed Herbs
There are lots of recipes that call for various combinations of herbs, so I'm including a few that work well with whatever happens to be most plentiful in your herb garden that day. Have fun experimenting with combinations and proportions!

Herbed Rice
1-1/2 cups basmati rice
1-1/2 cups chopped mixed herbs (cilantro, dill, chives, tarragon, flat-leaf parsley, etc.)
4 medium scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and add rice. Boil, stirring occasionally, until slightly undercooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in herbs and scallions and drain with a strainer. In the empty saucepan, melt half the butter over moderately low heat. Return the rice to the pan and add the remaining butter. Stir gently and season with salt. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with fork before serving. 

Tuscan Herb Bread
2 tbsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp honey
4 cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for kneading)
4 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 cups warm water
4 tbsp olive oil
Generous 1/4 cup fresh minced Italian parsley
Generous 2 tbsp fresh minced sage
Generous 2 tbsp fresh minced rosemary
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup cornmeal

Combine 1/2 cup lukewarm water, yeast, and honey in a small bowl and allow to stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. 

In a large bowl, combine both flours and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in yeast mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine a little of the flour. Add half the remaining water and continue to stir. Add the oil and the rest of the water and continue mixing, until most of the flour is mixed in and it becomes hard to stir. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. 

Gather dough together and knead for 5-10 minutes, sprinkling with flour as needed, if sticky, Dough will be heavy. Turn into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise. If allowing to rise overnight, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. If doubled, punch down, knead a few times, turn it over, and either allow to rise again or prepare to shape the loaves. 

Combine the herbs and onion. Divide the dough in half and knead each portion, gently flattening the dough. Spread 1/4 of the herb mixture on the flattened dough; fold in half to cover herbs and knead. Flatten the dough again and spread another 1/4 of the herbs; fold and knead until the herbs are well worked into the dough. then shape into a loaf. Repeat with remaining dough and herbs. 

Lightly sprinkle a cookie sheet with cornmeal. Places the loaves on the sheet with space in between and sprinkle tops with cornmeal. With a sharp knife, make 2 or 3 diagonal slashes, about 1/2-inch deep, across the tops of the loaves. Place a towel over the loaves and allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack. 

Roasted Parmesan and Herb Potatoes
2-1/2 lbs baby red potatoes, halved (or quartered, if large)
2-1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
3/4 cup shredded parmesan
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (can use any combination of herbs)
3/4 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a large mixing bowl, toss potatoes with 2-1/2 tbsp olive oil. Add parmesan, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat. Spray or drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil and spread potatoes evenly. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes, then remove and toss (use large spatula if potatoes stick). Return to oven for 20 additional minutes, until golden and crisp on the outside. Serve immediately. 

Now go get picking and then go get cooking (and then go get eating)!!!

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