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Back to the Kitchen: Herb Extravaganza!

Posted By Karen Young On July 14, 2009 @ 11:10 pm In Featured,Food,Recipes | 1 Comment

gwen-upper110x110BY GWEN KENNEALLY

garden-herbs200 I have the perfect spot to grow container herbs right outside my kitchen door. All you need is a big container, seeds or starter packs, potting soil, water and about four to six  hours direct sunlight. I have a few 13-inch clay pots that are about 10 inches deep perfect for root growth. I have one pot with annuals like basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, dill and nasturtiums. The thyme, rosemary, lemongrass and sage are in another pot and I have one pot with about six varieties of mint, as it will take over a container. When I entertain I can bring them in the house and the fragrance is glorious and the flowers stunning. Tossing freshly clipped herbs into anything makes the flavors pop and makes everything taste alive and better.

Summer Herb Focaccia

sage1501 package active dry yeast

1/4-tablespoon sugar

1 cup lukewarm water

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2-teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons olive oil

Minced fresh rosemary, sage and basil

½ cup Parmesan Cheese

In small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in water. Set aside for 5 minutes. Mound flour on work surface. Make a well in center and pour yeast mixture, salt and 1-tablespoon oil into it. With your fingers, gradually incorporate flour into liquid until dough forms. If mixture is too dry to hold together, sprinkle a little additional water over dough and mix well. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Place dough in oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Spray cookie sheet with Bakers Joy. Punch dough down. Place dough in center of prepared pan and spread out evenly to cover pan, using your fingers to “dimple” surface. Brush remaining 3 tablespoons oil over dough. Sprinkle with herbs and cheese. Let rise in a warm place, uncovered, 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake until top is a light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cut into slices to serve.


6 seeded ripe plum tomatoes, diced

1 red onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2-cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

basil150Gently combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Let stand at room temp for 1 hour before serving. Serve with a baguette sliced thinly on the diagonal, rub with garlic, brush with olive oil and bake or grill.

Red Hot Flaming Pasta

1/2-cup vodka

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups marinara sauce

1/2 stick butter

3/4 cup half and half

1 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Fresh ground pepper

12 oz pasta of your choice

(Also great with Ravioli)

Parnassian cheese

Soak the crushed pepper in the vodka for 1 hour. In a large pot bring salted water to a boil add pasta and cook until andante about 10 minutes. Meanwhile pre heat a large skillet and when it is hot pour in the vodka mixture. Swirl it around then light it with a match. Be very careful it will really flame. Add the butter, half and half and marinara sauce. Bring to a light boil. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce and coat well Sprinkle with basil, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve at once.

Marinated Roasted Pepper, Olive and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

oregano1506 large red bell peppers

1 cup whole Greek or pitted ripe olives

6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes

1/4-cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves

1/2 Cup chopped fresh basil leaves

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven set on broil. Broil bell peppers with tops about 5 inches from heat, turning occasionally, until skin is blistered and evenly browned. Place peppers in a plastic bag and close tightly. Let stand 20 minutes.

Remove skin, stems, seeds and membranes from peppers. Cut peppers into 1/4-inch strips. Place peppers, olives and cheese in glass bowl. Shake remaining ingredients in tightly covered container; pour over pepper mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

Poached Salmon & Cucumber Dill Sauce

dill1501-cup sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

3 cloves garlic. Finley chopped

1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1 bunch dill, finely chopped

Mix together in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Poaching fish:

4 cups water

2 cups white wine

1 small onion, white or yellow, sliced in rings

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon pickling spices

Two fresh sprigs dill

1 stick butter

Pinch freshly ground pepper

4 salmon steaks or fillets

In a large soup pot bring water to a boil. Add all of the ingredients, but the salmon. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer 5 minutes. Add salmon, cover and simmer 6-8 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. Lift fish out, drain, and place on serving plates. Lift onions out, drain and lay over fish. Serve immediately with chilled cucumber sauce.

Spicy Noodles

cilantro1501 pound dry pasta- spaghetti or angel hair

1-cup smooth peanut butter

3 Tbsp. Sugar

1/2-cup soy sauce

1 tsp. Chile pepper flakes

3 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame oil

3 Tbsp. Minced garlic

3 Tbsp. Canola oil

Garnishes- slivered carrots, green onions, red peppers, fresh cilantro, and sesame seeds, toasted peanuts

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water. Drain the noodles, let stand and use the warm pot to make the sauce. (It helps with the thickness of the peanut butter)

Wisk the rest of ingredients until blended. Mix in the pasta. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Before serving toss with the garnishes of your choice

mint150xxMint Soba noodles

12 oz dried soba noodles

1/3-cup rice vinegar

1-tablespoon canola oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/4 teaspoons sugar

1-teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

1 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions

Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes, then drain in a colander. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking, and then drain well. While noodles are cooking, stir together vinegar, oil, soy sauce, sugar red pepper, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Toss noodles with dressing, mint, and scallions. Serve at once.

Watermelon and Mango with Limes and Mint

1 (4-lb) watermelon cut into 1-inch chunks

2 mangoes (1 3/4 lb total), peeled, pitted, and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest

1/2-cup mint leaves

Toss together all ingredients and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, 2 hours

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. Check out her website and blog www.Backtothekitchen.net and www.gwenkenneally.blogspot.com. She wrote for the Sun Community Newspapers.

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