Herbs & Spices

Since ancient times herbs and spices have played important roles. Wars have been waged and the New World discovered in their pursuit. They transform and glamorize every day foods into a new experience for the palate. Ordinary becomes “wow”… children actually eat their vegetables (what a concept!) and hors d’euvres become an exploration of taste and style. Here are a few fast favorites from the 1999 Herbs & Spices Calendar (available from Avalanche Publishing & Judd Publishing) Each recipe is followed by some growing and other interesting tid bits of information for the herb/spice that was used. Bon appetite!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Now that the 2nd harvest is coming in, here’s a great way to serve your carrots. This combination of fragrant ginger root and sweet honey makes this tuber splendiferous!

2 tablespoons butter (real)
1 inch fresh ginger root (diameter of a quarter), peeled, chopped
1 ½ pounds baby carrots, steamed al dente
2 tablespoons golden honey
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large, heavy saucepan, over a medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the ginger. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add the steamed carrots and toss. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 more minutes, tossing occasionally. Add the honey and toss until the carrots are coated. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 3 minutes until the butter-ginger sauce thickens. Serves 4.

GINGER develops from a bulbous root, and in good conditions will grow to three feet. It produces narrow leaves about an inch wide and up to 12 inches long. Their flower is dense, three-inch cone shaped spikes that are yellow with purple lips — not unlike that of an Iris. Although it’s a tropical plant, some gardeners have had success growing ginger in portable containers. When the weather grows cool, bring the container indoors to a window with full sun. The growing outcome isn’t guaranteed but it’s fun to try. Buy some fresh looking roots from the market. Plant them at an angle with the sprout ends up, in a pot filled with dryish, sandy soil. Soak the soil with warm water and maintain that moisture as the plant develops. Place in a window with full sun. Remember, humid means happy. If you are fortunate, within 10 days, bamboo-like stems and leaves will emerge. In six to nine months the roots will have substantially matured enough for you to dig some up, harvest what you need and then replant what’s left. Good luck!

Combined Prep & Cook Time (total, beginning to end) 45 Minutes

This divine little number is fabulous for entertaining – unusual and rich. Save what ever left-overs you have to spread over hot, toasted bread for a luncheon treat!

1 lb. portobello mushroom tops
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
2 rounded tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh pepper
2 teaspoons medium sherry
2 tablespoon light mayonnaise
3 small sprigs parsley
Water Crackers or similar

Break the portobello caps into thirds and finely chop in batches in a food processor. In large skillet melt the butter. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat until all of the liquid is absorbed (about 10 minutes). Add the sherry. Cook stirring constantly until the sherry evaporates – about two to three minutes. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Return the mushroom mixture to the food processor. Add the mayonnaise and process for about two minutes, or until the mayonnaise is mixed in completely. The mushroom pate should be smooth, but still retaining texture. Turn into a small-medium serving dish. Garnish with parsley sprigs. Serve at room temperature with water crackers or similar. Makes two cups.

(TIP: Can be made a day ahead, covered and saved in the refrigerator.)

PARSLEY is used the world over by amateur and gourmet cooks alike to garnish and add lift to many dishes. It is also jam-packed with nutrients: 1 cup of parsley contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than a cup of milk, more beta carotene than a large carrot, and 20 times more iron than a serving of liver!

Parsley is not strictly a garden dweller. It will happily grow in a container placed in a sunny window planted in average soil and kept moderately moist.

CILANTRO & AVOCADO SALSA with BALSAMIC (1998 Herb & Spice calendar)
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Rest Time: 30 minutes or more

To some, cilantro and/ or chilies are an acquired taste. This recipe calls for moderate amounts of each that everyone will agree is delightfully refreshing. Add more of either to suit your taste if so desired.

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
4 scallions, finely chopped white part
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1-4 oz. can skinned, mild green chilies, drained, rinsed, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (or more to taste)
4 medium ripe, red tomatoes finely chopped
1 ripe, yet firm large avocado, skinned and diced
Salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl whisk together the balsamic, scallions and garlic until well combined. Add the chilies, cilantro and tomatoes. Combine well. Toss in the avocado and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and allow to sit for at least 1/2 an hour or more. Can be served at room temperature or chilled. Makes approximately 4 cups of salsa.

CILANTRO is an ancient Asian herb that resembling flat-leafed parsley, but with a significantly more pungent and musky flavor. Cilantro is grown just like parsley: Buy a small seedling from your local nursery early in the growing season (from seed takes too long for most zones). Plant it in dry soil and full sun. Keep an eye on it when the weather gets hot or it bolts and become more or less useless.

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