Creamy Oregano Pesto

A wonderful summer pesto, especially with tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant.  Add a little parmesan and toss with fresh pasta.

1 cup fresh oregano leaves
1 ½ cup fresh parsley
6 garlic cloves
½ cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup walnuts or pine nuts
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp whipping cream

Combine oregano, parsley, garlic, cheese, nuts, lemon juice, water and whipping cream in food processor.  Process to blend.  With machine running, slowly add olive oil. Season to taste and process to desired consistency.  Yield:  About 1 ¼ cups.

Fruited Lemon Biscotti

We can’t get enough lemon verbena in our diet!  This biscotti has a delicious hint of lemon that is great with tea or ice cream!

¼ cup whole lemon verbena leaves
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp coarse salt
1 cup chopped dried or candied fruit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor, whiz together lemon verbena leaves and sugar until leaves are ground.  Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in eggs and vanilla until blended.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt;  stir in dried fruit.  Fold into egg mixture with a rubber spatula until incorporated.  Dough will be sticky.

Divide dough in half.  Wet your hands and shake them off, but don’t dry them.  On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, press each half into a log that measures 11 inches long by 2 inches wide; press down on top until it’s ½ inch high.  Leave about 2 inches between logs.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden.  Remove from oven; lower heat to 325 degrees.  Cool pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Transfer logs to a cutting board and cut crosswise with a serrated knife into ¾ inch slices.  Return slices, standing up, to the parchment-lined baking sheet, spaced slightly apart.  Bake 15 minutes more, until crisp.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Chocolate Chip-Basil Batter Bread

Brush the top with a little milk just before baking to give it a little glaze.

2 ½ cups plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour, preferably unbleached, divided
5 tbsp minced basil leaves (we used cinnamon)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 ½ tsp instant yeast or 1 envelope active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups warm milk (about 120 degrees)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Grease or butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  In a large bowl, beat 2 ½ cup flour, basil leaves, sugar, cinnamon, and yeast on low speed unti blended. Beat in milk and butter on low speed to blend.  Raise speed to high; beat 2 minutes.  Toss chocolate chips with 1 tbsp flour; beat into batter on low speed just to combine.  Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth top gently; cover pan with a piece of greased plastic wrap.  Set near, but not on, oven; let rise for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove the plastic wrap and bake bread for 35 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom.  Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack before cutting.  1 loaf.

Apple-Anise Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are soft and chewy; bake them a little longer if you like crisp cookies.

2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp minced anise hyssop leaves
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups rolled oats
1 medium tart apple, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add flour, anise hyssop leaves, baking soda, and salt; beat on low speed until combined.  Beat in oats and apples until just combined.  Drop scant tbsp of dough on parchment paper-lined or lightly greased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool pans on wire rack; cookies should be almost completely cooled before removing.  Store in an airtight container, separating the layers with waxed paper.  4 dozen cookies.

Lemon and Lime Basil Butter

Herbal butters are a great place to showcase delicate herbs whose flavors get lost in cooking, and a good place to test herb combinations.

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 – 4 tbsp minced lemon and lime basil leaves
Coarse salt as desired
Freshly ground black pepper as desired

With a mixer or wooden spoon, beat together the butter and 2 tbsp of herb leaves.  Taste and adjust flavor with more herb leaves and salt and pepper as desired.  Pack into a small ramekin to serve casually, or form into a log:  Place the butter in a line down a sheet of waxed paper and use the paper as a guide to shape a log.  Roll it up in the waxed paper and chill; slice into thin pats to serve.  Makes ½ cup.

Try other combinations such as salad burnet and chives, salad burnet, thyme, and marjoram, or chervil, chives and tarragon.

Creamy Herb and Spinach Vegetable Dip

This is a fresh and tangy dip, excellent with vegetables or chips.

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
½ cup chives or scallions, chopped
½ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped dill
1 small chopped shallot
½ small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp celery seed
½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups cooked spinach, drained and squeezed of excess water

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, parsley, dill, shallot, garlic, salt, celery seed, and lemon juice.  Process for several seconds until blended.  Add the spinach and process until thoroughly blended.  Adjust the seasoning and add a little more sour cream if you find the dip too thick.  Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours, or even overnight, before serving.  Makes about 4 cups.

Basil and Eggplant Pesto

A delicious variation on a traditional pesto.

1 large eggplant (about 1 ½ lbs), halved lengthwise
½ cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp pine nuts
2 tightly packed cups basil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly score the cut surfaces of the eggplant halves, brush with 2 tbsp of the oil, and sprinkle generously with salt.  Place in a baking pan face up and bake until very soft and tender, 30 to 45 minutes.  Scoop out the roasted eggplant flesh and set aside; discard the peel.  In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the garlic, pine nuts, and a pinch of salt.  Process or blend to make a smooth paste.  Add the basil leaves a few at a time, and continue to process.  Drizzle in the remaining ½ cup oil, and gradually add the cheeses, continuing to process, until the oil, cheese, and basil are incorporated and no large pieces of basil are visible.  Add the eggplant and process to a smooth puree.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  To serve with pasta, dilute the pesto with 1 to 2 tbsp of pasta cooking water and toss.

Lemon Thyme, Rose Petal, and Lavender Glazed Tea Cake

An unusual combination of herbs, this is an easy recipe to create a special treat.

3 tbsp buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sifted cake flour
¾ cup sugar
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon zest, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme, finely chopped
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter at room temp
6 tbsp sugar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh lavender flowers, crushed
½ cup unsprayed edible rose petals

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan or a 9 or 10 inch round cake pan.  Combine the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Combine the cake flour, ¾ cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add the lemon zest and lemon thyme.  Using an electric mixer on low speed, or by hand, beat the dry mixture for a few seconds to blend.  Add the butter and half the egg mixture.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Turn the speed up to medium and beat for 1 minute.      Scrape the sides of the bowl down and add the remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.  Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with a spatula.  Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes in a round pan, 10-15 minutes longer in a loaf pan.  The cake is done with a toothpick or knife inserted in it comes out clean.  Cover the cake loosely with some buttered foil or parchment paper to prevent over-browning after it has been in the oven for 30 minutes.

Shortly before the cake is done, prepare the glaze.  Combine the remaining sugar, lemon juice and lavender flowers in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved completely, approximately 5 minutes.  As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, place the pan on a rack to cool.  Poke the cake all over with a skewer and brush with half the glaze.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Loosen the sides of the cake with a spatula and invert it onto a lightly greased cooling rack.  Poke the bottom of the cake with the skewer, brush with glaze and flip the cake back over onto the rack.  Brush with the remaining glaze and allow the cake to cool completely.  Serve at room temperature with a sprinkling of rose petals on top.  This cake will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, or 2-3 days at room temperature.

Cheese Torta with Basil, Olives, and Sundried Tomatoes

Serves 6-8.  This can be prepared in advance, so it’s great for entertaining.

Large basil leaves
About 10 oz goat cheese, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ to ½ cup milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
½ cup finely chopped basil leaves
About 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
½ cup finely chopped Kalamata olives

Use a 1 quart domed bowl (not flat like a soup bowl) and a piece of dampened cheesecloth to line the bowl.  Arrange some basil leaves, face side down on the cheesecloth.  In another bowl, mix the goat cheese and cream cheese together and add enough milk so that the mixture is smooth and fairly easy to spread.  Add one clove of the minced garlic, season with salt and pepper, and mix well.  In a third bowl combine the rest of the basil with the remaining garlic and add olive oil to make a thick paste.

Spread one-fourth of the cheese carefully over the basil leaves in the bottom of the domed bowl.  Evenly add the sundried tomatoes, spreading them to the edge of the cheese, and press down gently.  Spread one-fourth of the cheese over the tomatoes.  Spread the basil and garlic over this layer, pressing lightly.  Add a third layer of cheese, and cover it with the olives, spreading them evenly to the edge and pressing gently.  Finish with the remaining layer of cheese, cover this with whole, large basil leaves and press down gently.  Fold the cheesecloth in to cover the cheese torta and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.  To serve, fold back the cheesecloth and turn it out onto a serving plate.  Carefully remove the cheesecloth from what is now the top of the torta.  Let the torta stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Scented Geranium Lemonade

½ cup sugar
6 cups water
8 rose scented geranium leaves
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Bring the sugar and 2 cups of the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the rose scented geranium, cover and remove from the heat.  Let the syrup steep for at least 30 minutes.  Strain the syrup into a pitcher.  Stir in ½ cup lemon juice and the remaining 4 cups water.  Taste and add more lemon juice if necessary.  Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  Makes 1 ½ quarts.

Garlic Butter

Great in the fridge of freezer for making garlic bread in a hurry.  Also great for fish or steaks.  Use parsley, lemon juice and garlic as constants, adding other fresh herbs when available.

½ cup salted butter
1 tbsp chopped garlic
3 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp of one of the following chopped herbs:  thyme, oregano, marjoram, chervil
½ tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp ground black pepper

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients, then mix with a wire whisk until thoroughly blended.  Transfer the butter to a ceramic ramekin or other small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate; or roll butter mixture into a log shape, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use.  Makes ¾ cup.

Charred Pineapple Relish with Thai Basil and Orange Mint

Serve with grilled seafood, poultry or pork.

1 pineapple
1 red onion
2 sweet peppers (any color), stems and seeds removed
1 cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp finely minced Thai red chilies
A few dashes of Thai fish sauce
salt
black pepper
1 bunch Thai basil, stems removed
1 bunch orange mint, stems removed

Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat the broiler or a stovetop grill pan.  Cut the pineapple into quarters lengthwise, slice off the rind and the core, and use a paring knife to cut out the ‘eyes’.  Grill or broil the pineapple quarters until charred and browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes total.  Set aside to cool.  Dice the onion, sweet peppers, and pineapple.  In a small saucepan bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil; add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, until soft.  In a mixing bowl combine the pineapple, sweet peppers, chiles, and fish sauce, and pour the vinegar mixture over.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and let cool to room temperature.  Chop the herbs; add to the relish and stir to combine.  Serve at room temperature.  Makes 5 cups.

Sweet Marjoram Papaya Marmalade

Yummy for breakfast or dessert!

25 fresh sweet marjoram leaves
2 ripe medium papayas, peeled and seeded
1 ½ tsp grated lemon peel
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ¼ cups sugar
6 four oz canning jars, sterilized

Rinse the marjoram under cold water.  Pat dry.  Finely chop.  Slice the papayas in half, lengthwise.  Cut the fruit into small cubes.  In a medium saucepan with a tightly fitting lid, combine the papaya, lemon peel, and lemon juice.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the fruit is translucent, about fifteen minutes.  Stir in the sugar and marjoram.  Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade thickens, about thirty minutes.  Ladle the marmalade into the canning jars.  Screw the lids on tight.  Turn the jars upside down and set aside for 5 minutes.  Turn them right side up and set aside to cool to room temperature.  Label and date the jars.  Stored in the refrigerator, the jars of marmalade stay fresh for two months.  Makes 3 cups.

Buttermilk Corn Muffins with Sage

A nice herbal change from regular corn bread.

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups buttermilk
5 tbsp melted shortening
3 eggs
3 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped or 1 tbsp dried sage

Line or spray 12 3 inch muffin cups.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda.  In a separate, medium sized bowl, mix together the buttermilk, melted shortening, and eggs.  Add the chopped sage to the liquid mixture; incorporate well.  Stir liquid mixture into dry ingredients until just combined.  Don’t overmix.  Fill muffin tins three-quarters full with batter.  Bake at 425 degrees until the muffins are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.

All Season Zesty Zucchini Rosemary Pickles

Zucchini never tasted so good!

three 6 inch zucchini
one large red or sweet onion
two red bell peppers
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers (optional)
three long sprigs rosemary
2 tsp pickling salt
2 cups vinegar
2/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp pickling spice in a spice bag or tea ball

Wash zucchini thoroughly and cut off ends.  Thinly slice zucchini and onion.  Mix the zucchini and onion thoroughly with salt and let stand 30 minutes.  Rinse and drain.  Meanwhile, seed and thinly slice the red peppers.  Combine vinegar, sugar, and pickling spice; cover and gently simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove spice ball.  Add all vegetables immediately (with jalapenos if desired).  Stir, cover tightly, remove from heat, and allow to cool.  Pack into a clean jar.  Blanch the rosemary in boiling water until it turns brilliant green, about 30 seconds; immediately plunge into ice water.  With a fork, work the rosemary down the sides of the jar.  Refrigerate.  Pickles may be used within 24 hours but will retain great flavor and texture for up to 2 months.  Yields 4 cups.

Triple Lemon Tea

Easy to make, delicious hot or iced!

1 part lemon verbena
1 part lemon balm
1 part lemon grass

Combine all three ingredients, either fresh or dried.  Pour boiling water over the leaves, cover the cup or pot, turn off heat and let steep for 15 to 20 minutes.  Steep longer for iced tea.  As a rule of thumb, use 1 tsp dried herb or 1 tbsp fresh herbs per cup of water.

Ajo

Ajo means garlic in Spanish, and you can’t miss the flavor of it in this spread. This is a recipe Rose’s grandmother brought from Spain, and the original doesn’t include any herbs except garlic. Dress it up with some oregano and thyme and a little lime juice, or mix in spicy bush basil, or enjoy it as is.

1/2 cup almonds, blanched
9 garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil
5-6 slices dry stale bread, without crust (French bread is best)
2 Tbsp vinegar
1/2 tomato, peeled
1 egg

Put blanched almonds and garlic into the food processor and grind well. In a bowl mix a little water with vinegar. Place slices of bread one at a time into liquid, squeeze out liquids well. Discard liquids. Alternate adding bread and oil to the almond mixture in the processor and mix well. Add egg and mix well. Chop tomato and sprinkle on top. Keep refrigerated.

Marinated Herbed Olives

A quick way liven up plain olives.

2 6 oz cans black olives, drained
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 onion, julienne
1 tsp coriander seed, crushed
½ tsp ground cumin
2 sprigs lemon thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
½ tsp fennel seed
dried red pepper flakes

Put olives in a glass quart jar.  Combine all other ingredients except thyme and rosemary in a saucepan, and heat gently over low heat.  Pour over olives and top with a little warm water if necessary to cover olives.  Marinate for several hours before serving, or refrigerate for up to 2 months.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Basil Cream Sauce

Serve over pasta, steamed vegetables, or grilled chicken or fish.

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 cup fresh basil
1 cup fresh parsley
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup basil white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 tsp hot red pepper sauce
½ tsp salt

In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and process until smooth.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.    Makes 2 ½ cups.