This Past Week at La Domestique: Herbs

This past week at La Domestique was devoted to the herbs of late summer: thyme, oregano, basil, mint, rosemary, and sage.  Cooking with herbs adds freshness and life to food. Their fragrant aroma and texture stimulates the senses. Herbs are freshest when they come from your own garden, and anyone with a sunny windowsill can grow a pot of thyme or mint. More than just a garnish, herbs are the star in sauces like pesto and salads like tabbouleh. Capture what’s left of summer by enjoying herbs before the garden goes quiet and cold.

In case you missed anything, I’ve got a recap for you!

Monday:  Announcing herbs as ingredient of the week.

Tuesday:  10 Ways Tuesday! Creative ideas for cooking with fresh herbs. Also, check out my weekly column at the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder website. This week I write about using a molcajete to make pesto.

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Bruschetta & Herbs 3 Ways

It’s Friday! Let’s celebrate with antipasto, also known as an appetizer. According to the Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, the word, antipasto, means “before the meal” in Italian. Bruschetta is an Italian appetizer made with grilled bread and pretty much any topping you can think of. It can be simple, like grilled bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, or more involved, topped with a handful of ingredients like a pizza. In the Babbo Cookbook, Mario Batali writes when making bruschetta, “let your imagination run wild.” Today I prepared three different types of bruschetta inspired by three different herbs: rosemary, thyme, and mint.

Choosing the right bread and cooking it on a grill is very important to authentic bruschetta. Look for handmade loaves with a hard crust. Day old bread from a local bakery is perfect. I picked up a small Italian loaf. Slice the bread thin, about 1/2 inch or less, so it’s easy to eat. Brush the bread with olive oil and cook on a hot grill until it’s a bit charred with good grill marks. This method results in a crunchy outside and soft inside. You gotta have good bread to make good bruschetta, people.

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Storyboard: Fresh Herbs

Herbs (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

 

The Pleasure of Growing Herbs

This week at La Domestique has been devoted to the fresh herbs of summer. Cooking with fresh herbs is an easy and affordable way to add life and flavor to food. Herbs stimulate our senses with their pungent aromas and varied textures. Cooking with herbs is using your hands to pluck leaves from the stem. Chopping herbs with a knife releases their potent essential oils. Using herbs in the kitchen makes food more gratifying and interesting.

In The River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes:

“I find herbs incredibly rewarding, and it’s not just the cooking. To be in the garden and to be able to grab, on a whim, a few leaves to tear in the fingers, to release their distinctive, dependable scent, provides the gardener with regular tiny moments of tiny bliss.”

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Cook in the Moment: Sea Bass with Salsa Verde & Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes

One of my absolute favorite summer flavor pairings is fresh herbs with a sweet, white fleshed fish like sea bass. Today I’m inspired by Italian salsa verde, or “green sauce.” Salsa verde is simply chopped herbs mixed with something briny (in this case I’m using capers), shallot, red pepper flakes for heat, chopped preserved lemon rind and olive oil to bind it all together. This last minute sauce is perfect for basic pan-seared fish. I picked sea bass because I wanted a special treat (sea bass is pricey, but so worth it), but you could make this dish with any white fish like halibut or cod. Cherry tomatoes are everywhere this time of year, and I enjoy them sautéed in a screaming hot pan. This cooking method concentrates their flavors and when you bite into the little tomatoes they burst in your mouth- so good! Black quinoa provides a stunning visual against the red tomatoes, white fish, and green sauce. It cooks just like regular quinoa, just a different color. Quinoa is gluten free and contains all essential amino acids to form a complete protein source. That means it’s good for you and it won’t spike your blood sugar.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Herbs

Thyme (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

 

I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with fresh summer herbs:

1.  Chimichurri

According to the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, chimichurri, is “an herbed chili-vinegar mixture used everywhere in Argentina.” It’s most commonly used on grilled meats but at the Zuni Cafe chimichurri is also enjoyed like a salsa. Judy Rodgers writes  that while everyone seems put their own touch on chimichurri, oregano and dried red chili are hallmark ingredients. Her recipe involves pouring warm oil over oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, charred jalapeño, paprika, garlic, and red wine vinegar. Saveur also has a recipe for chimichurri with asado, or grilled steak.

2.  Rosemary with Seafood, Italian Style

In the River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall refers to the Italian fondness for rosemary with fish. Here in the United States, we don’t often think of combining the strong, evergreen flavor of rosemary with delicate seafood- maybe it’s time to try something different? For example, Hugh suggests serving red mullet with a rosemary and anchovy compound butter or threading scallops with a sprig of rosemary and cooking them on the barbecue.

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