Sunday, March 4, 2012

I Love the Smell of Rosemary in the Morning

I haven't left the house all weekend, except to go to work on Saturday, and if you know me very well, you understand this is my idea of a good time.  The unfortunate part is that I am nursing a very sick little boy, but the bright side is that he seems to be feeling a little better.  So, of course this has left me with all kinds of time to run around the house and find and/or dream up stuff that needs to be husband loves these days.  The only thing that makes it even better for him, is when I have been watching HGTV.  By the time I am forced to turn off the television, I usually have very detailed plans to completely renovate the back yard or demolish the bathroom....The Engineer loves HGTV. 

Today after I swept and mopped the floors and completely overhauled my pantry, I started to get a little dreamy eyed about the day I will get to plant my garden this year.  I love gardening, and believe me I never thought I would.  When I was a kid, I detested gardening.  I grew up with a huge garden and at some point during my summer I had to help pick and break green beans, shuck corn or pull pesky weeds.  This obviously causes a severe time crunch in any kid's schedule of climbing trees and wrecking bikes.  I always swore to myself that I would never have a garden when I grew up. 

What turned me around was when I started to get more interested in cooking.  My friends tell me I am an awesome cook. They flatter me. Don't get me wrong..I think I am an okay cook, and  I definitely do have a love of cooking and trying new things, so I am constantly looking for fresh or unusual ingredients.  This is how I started getting interested in herbs. 

I love herbs.  I love to walk out the back door in the summer and reach down in my flower bed and pick something off a stem and get a delightful whiff of lemon, mint, lavender or (my favorite) Rosemary. I love to break off a bunch in my hand and walk back in the house, chop it up and add it to whatever the "special of the day" is that is cooking on my stove.  I have made butters, jellies and pestos out of my herbs, and of course, have come up with many recipes that center around them. 
Lemon Verbena Jelly

If you decide to learn about herbs, you will probably do what I did, and start with the Internet.  The one thing I discovered about this approach is that a lot of the herb sites get very "granola". (This is a term I use for very natural and organic people, that sometimes tend not to wash and want to stay "one" with mother know who I'm referring to..we all know someone like this.)  They want to give you recipes for cleanses and balms that tend to get very complicated and intimidating.  I don't do this...I am strictly a kitchen herbalist.  I want to eat them, not wear them.  This being the case, I have found a few websites that I really like that are more my style ( I have them listed in "what I am looking at..."), but the one person that really changed the way I use herbs is my friend Susy.

Susy is a fun, loving person, who happens to be the Mother of a very good friend of mine from high school.  She is a retired school teacher and principal.  She and her husband breed the most beautiful golden should check them out... .  Susy loves herbs and we often talk about them while I am doing her hair.  We share recipes and advice and I even saved the lives of some of her herbs while she was on vacation.... (no really, I did.... her hubby was letting them wilt and I pointed it out to him....that counts.)  Susy told me about Marge Clark and her glorious books and I bought all of them.  Marge Clark authored several cookbooks that are mainly based on herbs and all her recipes are delicious.  Susy and I often talk about these recipes and how we've made them our own.
my Rosemary plant
my new babies starting in my kitchen window

Herbs were my gateway to gardening and since I can't go outside and play with them in March, I have done the next best thing and started some new purple and green Basil seeds.  My kitchen window is getting a little crowded, but it will be worth it.  So in honor of my basil seedlings, I have included my recipe for pesto.....I hope I have inspired you to try some herbs of your own this summer...enjoy.

Val's Pesto

2-3 Cups fresh Basil leaves
1 Cup roasted almonds
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 cloves of Garlic
Approx. 1-2 Cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt

In a food processor, pulse together Basil, almonds, cheese, and garlic. Then slowly stream in olive oil while the processor is on until it reaches a marinara sauce-like consistency. Add salt to taste. Use immediately or store in fridge for a couple weeks or freeze for 6 months.  If storing or freezing:  Once the pesto is in an appropriate container pour a layer of olive oil over the top to prevent it from turning black. I use this pesto in a number of dishes, I spread it on bread and toast in the oven, I use it as a sauce for pasta, and I use it in my Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, which I will share the recipe for soon!

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