Back to the Kitchen: Cooking With Herbs

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When I moved from my house with a big garden into a townhome,  the thing I missed most was walking outside and clipping the fresh herbs that I needed for a meal.  However, I have do two sunny balconies  in my new place —  perfect to grow container herbs. All you need is a big container, seeds or starter packs, potting soil, water and about four to six hours of direct sunlight.

I have a few 13-inch clay pots that are about 10 inches deep and perfect for root growth. I have one pot with annuals like basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, dill and nasturtiums. Another houses thyme, rosemary, lemongrass and sage.  Mint is on its own because it can take over, so I have a pot with about six varieties.

When I entertain I bring them in the house — the fragrance is glorious and the flowers stunning. Tossing freshly clipped herbs into anything makes the flavors pop.

Summer Herb Focaccia

1 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 18 squares. Serves 6-8


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

Gently 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.  Also great with goats cheese! Serves 6.

Baby Greens with Tarragon Vinaigrette

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

1 shallot, minced

4 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

4 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves

1/2-cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 bag mixed baby greens

In a large bowl whisk together the mustard, the shallot, the vinegar, the tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste, add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the dressing until it is emulsified. Add the greens and toss the salad well. Serves 4-6

Marinated Roasted Pepper, Olive and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

6 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 o

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. Serves 6.

Lobster and Tarragon Salad

2 pounds cooked fresh lobster meat

1 pound small red potatoes

3 ears corn

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/4-cup olive oil

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

4 cups mixed greens

3 scallions, thinly sliced

Pre- heat oven to 350. Pierce potatoes with a fork and roast until tender about 40 minutes. After 10 minutes add the corn and roast for 30 minutes. Cut meat into 1-inch pieces. Cut potatoes in half, and cut corn from cobs. Whisk together lemon juice, tarragon, mustard, and salt until combined, then add oil in a thin stream, whisking. Just before serving, toss together lobster meat, potatoes, corn, vinaigrette, tomatoes, mixed greens, and scallion in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Serves 4-6

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. Serves 4


Lemon Tarragon Snap Peas

2 pounds snap peas

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

In a large kettle of boiling salted water blanch snap peas in two batches 2 to 3 minutes, or until just tender. With a slotted spoon transfer snap peas as blanched to a large bowl filled with ice and cold water. Drain well. In a large bowl whisk together lemon oil and tarragon. Add snap peas and toss well. Serve snap peas garnished with tarragon sprigs. Serves 4-6.

Poached Salmon With Cucumber Dill Sauce

1-cup sour cream

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

3 cloves garlic, finely 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. Serves 4.

Shrimp Linguini in a Mustard Tarragon Cream Sauce

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

4-tablespoon tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste

1-pound linguini

In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Add the cream all at once. Cook and whisk until thick and bubbly. Reduce heat and cook for one minute longer. Add vinegar, mustard and tarragon. Cook for one minute longer and then simmer to keep warm while cooking pasta and shrimp. In a large soup pot bring salted water to a boil and add linguini and cook 7 minutes. Drain. Cook shrimp in boiling water about 2 minutes until opaque. Drain. Toss shrimp, pasta and sauce. Serve at once. Serves 4-6

Lime Tarragon Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1/4-cup olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh limejuice

4 teaspoons tarragon, finely chopped

Arrange chicken in single layer in glass casserole or pie plate. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk oil, limejuice and tarragon in small bowl to blend. Pour marinade over chicken and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.
Preheat broiler or prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Transfer chicken to broiler pan or barbecue. Season with salt and pepper. Broil until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Serves 4

Mint Soba Noodles

1 pound 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. Serves 4-6

Peanut Noodles

1 pound dry pasta- spaghetti or angel hair

1-cup peanut butter

3 tbsp. sugar

1/2-cup soy sauce

1-teaspoon chili pepper flakes

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

3 tablespoons peanut oil

½ cup fresh cilantro

Garnishes- slivered carrots, green onions, red peppers 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 four hours. Before serving toss with the fresh cilantro and the garnishes of your choice. Serves 4-6

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

1 pound pasta of your choice
(also great with ravioli)

Parmesan 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 preheat 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. Serves 4-6

Chocolate Basil Cake with Chocolate Cream Frosting

1-cup sugar

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (plus addition leaves for garnish)

8 tablespoons butter

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large eggs

1/2-teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4-teaspoon salt

3/4-cup all-purpose flour

1/2-cup hot water

1 cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips

1 recipe chocolate cream, frosting (below)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with Bakers Joy. Place the sugar and basil in a food processor. Process until basil is chopped fine and uniformly green in color (it will look slightly wet). In a large bowl whisk the melted butter, cocoa powder and basil sugar until well blended. Whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time, until blended and smooth. Stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and salt.

Gradually add flour to bowl, stirring just until blended (do not over stir). Add hot water to mixture, stirring just until blended. Add chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 22-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares. Cool completely, Prepare sour cream frosting. Spread over cake and garnish with basil leaves.

Chocolate Cream

1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

6 tablespoons butter, softened

½ cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips

1-teaspoon vanilla

In a medium bowl whisk the powdered sugar and cocoa powder; set aside. In a separate medium bowl beat the butter and melted chocolate with an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Gradually add sugar mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until well blended. Add vanilla and beat well for 1 minute until very smooth and creamy. Cake serves 8-12


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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