Food For Thought: Herbs! Truly the Spice of Life…

Today I noticed that my oregano is going strong in spite of the unusual Spring weather, along with sage and parsley. Each year I add a few herbs to use fresh and to dry for use all Winter. (For the essentials of herb drying, click here.)

Sometimes when I pick too many herbs, I dry them in a bowl on the counter or in the fridge. A small amount of loose, fresh herbs dries nicely this way. I move them around every day or so to keep the air circulating. Works great!

[Foodie Tip: Herbs are the leaves of the plant, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, or cilantro. Spices come from the non-leafy parts, including roots, bark, berries, flowers, seeds and so on. Cilantro leaves are an herb while the seeds, coriander, are a spice.]

One of my challenges is that my fresh herb garden is far away from my kitchen. So this year I am growing herbs in pots on the front and back porches. Some herbs repel bugs, too, so its good to have them near my doors. For example:

• Bay leaves: Repel flies
• Chives: Repel carrot flies, Japanese beetle and aphids
• Dill: Repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers and tomato hornworms
• Fennel: Repels aphids, slugs and snails
• Lemon balm: Repels mosquitoes (Borrowed from mnn.com)

“We do eat with our eyes and first impressions (of a food) are everlasting.” ~Chef Ranveer Brar
Fresh herbs are part of food presentation as well as great for flavor. Sometimes the addition of herbs is the easiest way to create a “look” that is more appealing or to add a contrasting color to your plate. I use parsley because its very mild and you can eat it raw.
Since my oregano is really going to town right now, I am making Oregano Pesto. It’s so easy and keeps in the fridge for a week or more, or you might try freezing in ice cube trays, then just thaw when ready to use it. Add it to your favorite meats, pasta, crackers or potatoes. I coated boneless chicken with it last night for a quick baked meat dish. I am very surprised by the mildness of this pesto. Of course this recipe will work fine for making traditional pesto with basil leaves instead of oregano.

[Foodie Tip: Oregano: “… the essential oil was found to be effective in killing Staphylococcus bacteria. It was also equally as effective in its germ-killing abilities as common prescription antibiotics.” wellnessmama.com/8409/oregano-herb-profile/]

For interesting info about Oregano, including medicinal uses, search Mercola.com for oregano benefits. I transplanted some oregano into a pot for my young hens. They love it and oregano acts as an antibiotic for poultry too: bonnieplants.com/library/herb-garden-for-chickens/.

Now, check out these herb potatoes! OMGosh they are the best!

I spiralized the potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil, and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and my favorite herbs. You might try finely chopped rosemary, thyme, oregano and even a little chili or chipotle powder. Then I stood them up on a baking sheet lined with parchment and roasted them for 10-15 minutes at 400° or until tender. What a great addition to any meal and they look great too.

You can also use potato wedges if you don’t have a Spiralizer. (Write to me for info about a Spiralizer.) Wedges take a little longer to roast and need turning halfway through roasting! Worth the wait!

[Foodie Tip: Dill – “is also an anti-inflammatory substance, which means that it can protect you against arthritis. Furthermore, it can reduce excess gas, and is considered a carminative. Dill, scientifically known as Anethum Graveolens, has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for hundreds of years.” (www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/dill.html)]

Another easy favorite is Salmon with Dill Sauce. (Also makes a nice salad dressing)

How about a dairy-free Crème Brûlée that is easy to make and will impress your taste buds because the coconut cream is infused with lemon thyme? I have always seen Crème Brûlée as somewhat of a luxury and generally don’t make it at home. I mean, how many people have a torch to create the crust on top? Well, I now add it to my “easy as pie” list of desserts.

Tip: “Palm sugar is a nutrient-rich, low-glycemic crystalline sweetener that looks, tastes, dissolves and melts almost exactly like sugar, but it’s completely natural and unrefined. It’s acquired from the flowers growing high on coconut trees, which are opened to collect their liquid flower nectar. This nectar is then air-dried to form a crystalline sugar that’s naturally brown in color and naturally rich in a number of key vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, iron, and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.” via Naturalnews.com.


 
Oregano Pesto
 
1 cup of fresh oregano
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1 large garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or pine nuts
1/2 cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Combine the oregano, cheese, garlic, almonds and salt and pepper in a food processor or high-powered blender, until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
 
Slowly add olive oil in a stream until the mixture become smooth.
 
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/grongar/


 
Dill Sauce
 
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp Dijon
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 T finely chopped scallions
1 tsp lemon zest
1 – 2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil, for richness
¼ tsp salt or to taste
½ tsp honey
 
Combine in food processor or high-powered blender and refrigerate.
 


 
Crème Brûlée
 
5 large eggs
1-14 oz can organic coconut milk
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons honey
*3-5 large sprigs fresh lemon thyme
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 T Lemon Zest
2-3 T coconut/palm sugar or a mixture of white and brown sugars
 
*The amount of lemon thyme used determines intensity of flavor.
 
Place coconut cream in a small saucepan and heat until it just starts to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in sprigs of lemon thyme. Cover and let steep for 30-60 minutes. Remove lemon thyme sprigs and strain if necessary.
 
Preheat oven to 300°. Whisk honey, salt and vanilla into cream. Whisk eggs in a bowl and then whisk into cream.
 
Pour into 4 ramekins (about 3/4 C of cream in each). Put ramekins in a baking dish and add an inch or two of water in bottom of dish. Bake about 30-35 minutes until knife comes out clean.
 
Remove ramekins from oven and carefully place close together on baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of each custard with a generous amount of palm/coconut (see note below) or regular sugar if you must.
 
Heat broiler on high. Place baking sheet with ramekins under broiler and broil until tops are nicely browned and crispy.
 
To serve, sprinkle tops with freshly grated lemon zest (Optional). Garnish with sprigs of fresh lemon thyme.


Sandy McCall’s day job is working as the Broker/Owner of Southern Life Realty. When she’s not being the “mad scientist” in the kitchen or loving-up her cat and dogs, she enjoys being the Food Editor for WNC Woman Magazine and volunteering in the community. Check out my Blog at SandysFoodForThought.com and Search FB for Sandy’s Food for Thought

Sandy@SouthernLifeRealty.com | 828.273.9755 | SouthernLifeRealty.com

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Sandy McCall
Written by Sandy McCall