Friday, July 9, 2010

Confession: A Pinch of Fresh Herbs

“Well, I do declare!”

One hears this phrase and instantly an image appears: a banana curled, corseted, hoop skirted Southern belle sitting on the lanai of her antebellum plantation fanning herself while sipping mint juleps and talking about the lahf-stahyle to which she has become acc-uh-stomed.

While this particular chromosomally challenged, Foghorn Leghorn/Scarlett O’Hara hybrid exists only in my head, it is true that Southerners, as a rule, are a declarative people. Whatever is stated is done so with the fervent passion of one speaking gospel…even if the speaker changes their mind within the duration of the conversation.

My dear friend, CSGPW, is one such declaration spewing Southerner. She is an incredibly talented actor, director, and writer. A gifted storyteller (ask her to tell you about that damn monkey, Jinx) and self-proclaimed rock star, she will tell it like it is or how it should be without a hint of hyperbole, irony, or doubt in her voice. Her porch is the location for the weekly tent revival/hippie love-in/food orgy of trashy, yet delicious, dips and random potlucky goodness attended by a dear circle of friends. It is here we talk, laugh, eat, and drink, and, as we move into a food induced rhapsodic state, we gleefully wait for the evening’s words of wisdom to come forth from the mouth of our hostess.

“Life is too short to suffer through mediocre theatre!”
Here, here!

“There ain’t nothing worse than hearing the tsseeee tsseeee of a gah’ tam skeeter buzzin’ around your ear in the middle of the night!”

Amen, sister!

“Nothing pisses me off more than having to pay for fresh herbs in the summer.”
I totally agree.

Nothing pisses me off more than having to pay for fresh herbs in the summer, too!

That’s why, this morning, I snuck into your garden and raided your herbs.

I promise to make you dinner.

Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Lemongrass and Thyme

4-5 lbs yellow squash, halved and chopped
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 stalks lemongrass
Small bundle of thyme, about 6-7 sprigs
6 cups chicken stock
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbl olive oil

Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender but not browned (roughly 5-7 minutes). While onions sweat, remove ends of lemongrass stalks. With the back of your knife, give those stalks a good whack to release oils. Once onions are tender, add garlic and sauté for one minute. Add squash and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add lemongrass and thyme. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat.

Fish out lemongrass stalks and thyme. Working in batches in a blender or using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. In batches, pass soup through a sieve, using the back of a ladle to help things along. Thoroughly mix in zest, juice, and yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until completely chilled.

Basil Pesto

2 cups loosely packed basil
5 cloves garlic
¼ cup walnuts
1 lemon, zest and juice
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¾ cup olive oil

In a small food processor, combine basil, garlic, walnuts, and lemon zest. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese. Store in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on top.

Grilled and Marinated Zucchini

I first encountered this method while working at Bari Ristorante e Enoteca in Memphis, TN. The process is a little time consuming but well worth the work. These bad lads are great on an antipasti plate with a variety of cured meats and cheeses or thrown into a salad or couscous. Play around with different vegetables and herbs.

This is a method; you decide the quantity.

Zucchini Eggplant
Garlic, thinly sliced Oregano (or Mint)
Capers, drained
Basil, finely chopped
Olive oil

Preheat a grill pan over medium high heat. Using a mandolin, slice zucchini length wise in thin, ¼” strips. In batches, grill zucchini until grill marks just barely become visible through the side remaining up (about 3 minutes). Flip and grill for another minute. Set aside to cool.

In a flat container, create one even layer of vegetables. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a few slivers of garlic, a few capers, and basil. Drizzle with oil. Continue to layer until all of the vegetables have been treated. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the vegetables to marinate for at least 3 hours.

Repeat process with eggplant substituting oregano or mint for the basil.

The key to this is moderation. Don’t go too crazy!

Lemon Herb Vinaigrette

1 shallot
1 clove garlic
1Tbl fresh parsley
1 Tbl fresh basil
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh tarragon
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
Juice of 3 lemons
¾ cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small food processor, mash up everything except the oil until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in oil until combined.

Flatbread Pizza

Again, this is a method I use a lot. You could make your own dough, but who has the time?! Flat Out Flatbread makes the perfect crust and it’s slightly healthier than regular pizza dough. You can pretty much top it with anything, so show your creativity and play with your food!

Preheat oven to 400. On a baking sheet, place flatbread and drizzle with olive oil. Flip it over and mush it around to get off excess oil, and then flip it again. Light salt and bake for roughly 7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. This crisps it up. Top it with your choice of goodies, then back in the oven it goes until cheese is ooey, gooey delish.

Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant
Sun-dried tomatoes (oil packed)
Oil cured olives
Red onion, sliced
Goat cheese

Top with arugula tossed in Lemon Herb Vinaigrette. There is no picture. J, my Valentine and photographer, was talking on the camera...I mean phone...and we wuz hungry! But trust me, it was real purty like.
Returning to the scene of the crime! Very attractive, no?

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, never tried the flatbread for pizza but that sounds good the way you do it. I guess I will try it then!