Let dried herbs enhance season’s dishes, desserts


Since moving my rosemary plant into the house for the season, I find myself availing myself of it’s tangy, pungent needled leaves to enhance everything from roasted root veggies (see our illustration) to perking up the pasta.

Here are a few more ideas for this versatile herb, beginning with a savory pesto good for stirring into homemade minestrone to the aforementioned pasta.

Rosemary Pesto

2 large garlic cloves

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Leaves from a 5-inch sprig of rosemary

pinch of salt

1/2 dried chilli pepper, crumbled OR

1/2 teaspoon dried crumbled chili/seed mixture

6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a mortar, combine the garlic, parsley, rosemary. salt and chilli. Pound and mix well, then add Parmesan, mixing till a crumbly paste is formed.

Stir into fresh-drained, still-moist pasta, or into minestrone. (If using in soup, you may forego the salt, since it will already be seasoned.)

The Italians have it right where olives are concerned. Large bowls of marinated black and/or green olives take equal places on the table with salads and vegetable side dishes.

Here are two suggestions for your own use, one with rosemary and the other showcasing tarragon.

Black Olives with Rosemary and Parsley

(About 1 cup)

2 cups of water

2 tablespoons sea salt

1 large clove garlic,

quartered lengthwise

1 can pitted small/medium black olives, drained

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Make brine of the water and sea salt, bringing to boil in a small saucepan and stirring until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.

Crush each garlic quarter and place into a sterilized 3-cup glass jar with a non-reactive lid. Add olives, rosemary, lemon zest, juice and vinegar.

Cover jar and shake well to blend ingredients, then add brine, cover and shake again.

Lastly, uncover and pour over enough olive oil to cover the surface with a layer 1/2-inch deep. Cover tightly and refrigerate for a week.

To serve, bring to room temperature and with a slotted spoon, transfer olives to a pretty serving bowl. Add parsley and toss to mix. You may store olives in the jar for up to a month.

Green Olives with Tarragon and Bay

(About 2 cups)

Brine:

2 cups of water

2 tablespoons sea salt

1 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves

1 fresh or dried bay leaf, broken into 4-5 pieces

Grated zest of 1 orange

1 tablespoon cilantro seeds

Olive mix:

1 can pitted green olives, drained

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Juice of 1 orange

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

Make the brine by mixing all brine ingredients in small saucepan and bringing to a boil. Lower heat to low and simmer uncovered 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, place olives in a sterilized wide-mouthed glass jar with a non-reactive lid. Add remaining ingredients except olive oil.

Cover and shake well to mix. Add cooled brine, shake again, then pour in enough olive oil to cover with a 1/2-inch layer.

Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1 week.

To serve, follow instructions for black marinated olives.

Parsley still stands perky in my big wicker vegetable garden.

Use yours—or buy some at the market for this wonderful autumn-y cornmeal bread.

Parsley Batter Bread

(1 loaf)

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons dry yeast

1 1/2 cups very hot water

1 cup cornmeal (stone-ground best)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached white flour

1 packed cup thinned parsley leaves

Combine honey, lukewarm water and yeast in small bowl. Let stand until yeast becomes foamy. In a large bowl, combine the hot water, cornmeal, oil and salt; let sit till warm. Add yeast mixture, then flours, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir the parsley into the batter.

Set bowl, covered with a damp towel in a warm place until tripled in bulk.

Beat batter down with a wooden spoon and turn into a standard-size oiled loaf pan. Let rise for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bake loaf for 10 minutes (set timer!) then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 50 minutes of until top is a rich brown. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving with your own honey-butter, if you wish.

Tip: Make sure parsley is dry when you pack it into the cup. When wet, the leaves stick together and make it difficult to incorporate into the batter.

Note: Want a change of pace? Stir in 1/3 cup of minced rosemary to replace part of the parsley!

(Editor’s note: For many years, Valle Novak has written gardening and cooking columns for the Daily Bee. “Weekend Gardener” and “Country Chef” became renowned for their humor, information and common sense advice on how to do everything from planting to cooking . While she recently retired, she has shared a number of columns to delight her many fans. This is a compilation of such columns which ran in November 2011.)

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