Monday, December 7, 2009


Roses in December

If you grow roses and are not conscientious about deadheading them, you know that you will have plenty of rosehips right now. I cut them from the plant and hang them upside down to dry before using them in all sorts of ways– in scented mixtures and spice blends, tea blends and as a flavor ingredient in icing, cakes and jelly.

Do you have rosehips? How do you use them?

If you don't have access to your own organic rosehips, you can still make rosehip jelly. Look for dried and cut organic rosehips at whole foods or health food markets or in commercial tea blends. For the fragrant jelly left, I combined dried hibiscus flowers with dried cut rosehips in equal amounts. If your rosehips haven't completely dried out yet and you want to use the following recipe, double the amount so that you would be using 1 cup chopped fresh rosehips.

Rosehip Jelly
Makes 6 cups

3 or 6 rose stems with rosehips attached, optional
4 cups water
1/2 cup chopped dried rosehips or combination petals and rosehips
6 cups granulated sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

1. Wash and immerse 6 1-cup or 3 two-cup canning jars in a large pot of water. Bring to a boil and let simmer until ready to fill. If you are planning to float a stem with whole rosehips still attached, cut the stems to the height of the jar. Using a razor, remove the thorns from the rose stems and set aside.
2. In a deep-sided saucepan or canning kettle, bring the water to a boil. Add rosehips, cover the pan and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
3. Over a large bowl, strain off and discard the rosehips. Return the rosehip infusion to the saucepan and add the sugar. Over low heat and stirring constantly, bring the liquid and sugar to a hard boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard for 1 minute. Stir in the pectin and stir the liquid for a minute.
4. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Ladle jelly into hot jars, one at a time. Add a rosehip stem to the jelly. Add more jelly until 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim clean and cap with the flat part of the canning lid. Screw on the band and return the filled jar to the canner. Fill remaining jars.
5. Top up the water in the canner if necessary to bring the water at least 1-inch above the tops of the jars. Cover and bring to a rolling boil and boil constantly for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

studiopatro

You MUST see these amazing fabric designs.
Christina Weber screen prints gorgeous designs on linen tea towels.
Check out her site for tea towels and aprons .

go here, then come back and tell me what you think.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Name That Herb

Jerusalem Artichoke
Thanks to Simon, who dropped off these little gems. Congrats to Herrick Kimball, who knew: ..Those roots look like Jerusalem Artichokes. I have a bunch of them here. They are good sliced up raw on salads. That's the only way we have eaten them.

Some people call them Sunchokes, I guess because they look like and actually are sunflowers and the other common name, Jerusalem Artichoke is a bit confusing because many people assume that they are related to artichokes of the thistle family. In fact, Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is a native American plant. The common name may have come from the Spanish word for sunflower, girasol...Jerusalem. I don't know.
What I do know is that they are delicious and filled with energy and good food value.
I roast them with other root vegetables and have shredded them for salads as Herrick does.
This week, here's how I cooked my gift from Simon.

Jerusalem Artichoke Scallop
In a skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add 1 chopped onion and 1 cup chopped mushrooms. Reduce heat and cook, stirring frequently for 10 minutes. You can add fresh or dried sage, rosemary or oregano to this as it cooks.
Meanwhile, using a mandolin or food processor, slice about 6 Jerusalem Artichoke roots, 1 carrot and 1 parsnip.
In a greased casserole dish, arrange 1/3 of the sliced artichokes, carrots and parsnip. Spread 1/2 of the onion-mushroom mixture over. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 3 tbsp flour over and pour milk into the casserole to cover the vegetables.
For this scallop, having just come back from the foodbuzz festival, I had a beautiful, triple cream Brie, which I sliced very thin and arranged half over the vegetables.

Like a true scallop, the second 1/3 of the sliced artichokes, carrots and parsnip are arranged over the brie. The remaining onion-mushroom mixture goes over that layer. More salt and pepper, flour and milk to cover the vegetables. Remaining brie and the final layer of vegetables, flour, small pieces of butter and milk to cover it all. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and bake in a 350°F oven for about 1 hour.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

THANK YOU FOODBUZZ

THANK YOU FOODBUZZ
It was a foodie frenzie! It was a culinary herbalist's heaven! It was the first Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco, and I am just back and filled to the brim with good food, great memories and contacts to fabulous new foodie friends.
So for the rest of the month of November, I would like to dedicate this blog to Foodbuzz and all of their sponsors, who provided an absolutely outstanding festival.
The pict on my banner above was taken with a long exposure and no tripod, but I really liked the dreamy lights and the clouds and the blaze of orange off the building--sort of a symbol for the experience. The shot is from the outdoor rooftop of Hotel Vitale, which was the first event in our whirlwind weekend. Cocktails by MIDI and drinks by SKYY, the mood was perfect.
Our stay at the Galleria Park Hotel was divine, a perfect boutique hotel for the perfect weekend.
THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANK

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pat Does Claudia's Baked Eggs

What was that thing that comes just before THE FALL?

Right. The PRIDE thing.

So. How did I get from this...

...to this?

This may not have disaster written all over it, but in MY world, a plate looking like this spells DISASTER.
The Big Guy ALWAYS cleans his plate. Especially at noon on a Sunday when the Saturday paper still holds lots of interesting tidbits. And today, it was the paper not the plate that had the interesting tidbits.

I thought, 'easy'. This will be an easy Sunday Brunch. My friend Claudia has her incredible 'Baked Eggs with Spinach and Pancetta' on her blog now, and since she loves this dish, and I do have spinach in the refrigerator, I thought, "this will be a snap and The Big Guy will be hungry by now since we both have been working. Well. He has been working, I have been on the phone with Claudia talking about the FoodbuzzFestival next weekend. (Is anyone out there going?)

First, I heated 2 tbsp/25 mL oil and 1 tbsp/15 mL butter in my favourite cast iron skillet, which btw, I'm still cleaning as you read this- no matter WHEN you are reading this.

Claudia uses onion and garlic sauteed in oil and some balsamic. Thinking, or NOT as the case turned out, "TBG likes potato", I'll add one here, so I shredded 1 onion- not the sweet Mayan, I only had yellow- and 1 potato. Add to the pan, stir constantly...because once the starch in the uncooked potato hits the hot oil, it is going to glom up the bottom of the pan. YUP. Big time! No problem. I will just take my sharpened fish lifter (my fave tool, btw) and scrape the bottom. Key is to tell everyone to keep the pan on LOW. EGADS. I've got it on medium-high. Oh well. This is why we TEST recipes, eh?

I rubbed in some of my just-dried sage and rosemary, now all safely inside for the winter. Claudia didn't add any herbs. OOOOPS. just checked her blog. She added balsamic vinegar, oh well, it's in the oven now. That little slip won't make a difference.

Claudia doesn't actually tell us how much spinach to use, but hey, I write cookbooks. I KNOW these things. I added a 6 oz/227 g bag to the pan because I love spinach. I forgot that The Big Guy isn't all that keen on spinach.
When she say's "break 2 eggs into the 'nest' of spinach", I thought, aha, I'll clear out little spots right down to the pan so that the eggs nestle in the vegetables while they cook. I used 3 eggs: 2 for The Big Guy, he's working today. This could be where I began my descent...or was it way back when I decided to add the potato?

I was going to serve it with my Red Pepper Sauce- Tune in next blog for the recipe.

I added a bit of Turkish Paprika, but only to MY egg. The Last thing I wanted to hear was, "hm. What's that red stuff?". Oh, no. This dish was going to be my Sunday Brunch House Special, just like Claudia makes...

I Was SO PROUD! It looked GREAT.

What is YOUR little red flag when you know people are just telling you they like what you just cooked? Mine is "hm. What's that green stuff?"

Today I sort of snapped, "It's spinach. Just like that green stuff, pesto that you guzzle by the gallon."
So, right then I knew it had to be spectacular or TBG wasn't going to go back to the gallery raving.

It was OK. Perhaps not a FALL, but a stumble for sure.

The egg yolks were too hard (I like them runny) and I definitely added too much spinach. For success and raves, you will need to follow Claudia's recipe.

And if you have any questions about how to do this better than I did, ask her. I'm still trying to figure out how she gets the yolks to stay runny...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Herb Paste

Herb Paste

Similar to pesto, but with more body, herb pastes can be made from any flavour combination- hot/pungent spices, lemon herbs, Mediterranean herbs, and on and on. Hot chiles are often combined in a paste for rubbing on meats destined for the BBQ. I have made pastes with spikes of cinnamon and cardamom for Indian inspired dishes. The point is that having a concentrated hit of flavour at hand can be a time-saver in the kitchen.
By now, most of the North American garlic crop has been harvested, dried, braided, festival-ed and tucked away in cool, dry places for fall and winter meals to come. So with all this stinking rose at our disposal, I would like to share one of my favourite recipes for preserving and using the king of herbs.
For more fall garlic recipes and to read more of my article about garlic, visit Vitality magazine.
Questions about growing/using garlic?
ASK ME!
oct09_herbfeat1pic2

Mediterranean Herb Paste

Make and use this in several different dishes in a week. It can form the basis for a vinaigrette dressing, soup, dips, spreads and even be used as a flavoring for savoury muffins and scones.

10 garlic cloves

1/2 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped

1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves

1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, snipped

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp sea salt

1 Tbsp tarragon or white wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

Pulse garlic in food processor three or four times or until garlic is finely chopped, or pound in a mortar and pestle. Add sage, thyme and rosemary. Pulse three or four times (or pound until mixed in) until finely chopped. Add mustard and salt, pulse until blended.

Gradually add three tablespoons of oil, processing as blended. Add vinegar and remaining olive oil and process until well blended.



Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hitting the Wall


Hitting the Wall
Just wondering if anybody has hit the wall with their blogs? I would love it if you would TELL ME ABOUT IT.

I started out in the spring this with great enthusiasm, hit my stride and found that even though I am writing now for long hours, I could still muster up the words to keep in touch on a weekly basis. Although I do have to admit it: my blog did become a bit boring and predictable. OK it got tedious and REALLY academic.
Then my computer crashed. Funny how the physical world gives us a gentle nudge. I took my 'forced vacation' while the techies replaced my hard drive and I slowly got my computer's data back up. I wanted to tell you about that and just jump right back into the blog routine, but I didn't.
Then I went to Hudson Valley to speak at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, stayed a week and I wanted to tell you about that, and still, I didn't.

I am totally re-thinking the nature and purpose of this blog and while I don't want to make any promises I can't keep, hang in there with me and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
I want to make this the best HERB weds FOOD blog in the ethernet.

You be the judge. Just give me some time and any SUGGESTIONS for what you would like to know would be very helpful.

Meantime: Check back here soon and I will tell you about the herb gardens and my lunch at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). That's me above in the American restaurant enjoying one of the finest meals I have had in a long time.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Big Taste of Bay

The Big Taste of Bay
sept09_foodfeatpic1

With its sweet, slightly pungent balsamic aroma and spikes of nutmeg and camphor, the beauty of cooking with bay is that it releases its flavour slowly, which makes it an essential herb for slow, long cooking techniques.

Indeed, stocks, soups, stews, sauces, marinades, stuffing and pickles benefit from the addition of fresh or dried bay leaves. Garnishing cooked or cold-pressed paté or terrines with a leaf or two infuses the spicy essence of the Mediterranean, its native homeland. Fish dishes are enhanced by the combination of bay and fennel. Lamb and other robust meats may be stewed or grilled with bay as a key ingredient. Bay adds the characteristic flavour to béchamel sauce; while tomatoes, oregano, thyme and bay are the foremost ingredients in tomato sauce. Bay is a popular herb used to flavour wines and it is positively brilliant in baked bean and lentil dishes.

Go visit Vitality magazine for original recipes and read the rest of my article on using bay in cooking.



Monday, August 24, 2009

NAME THAT HERB WINNER


Clove Pink - The herb of Shakespeare
Books go out to all who wrote and correctly identified this week's NTH.

Chuck writes: This little flower takes me back to my Aunt Bea's (yes not only Andy Taylor of Mayberry had an Aunt Bea) little front garden planter. Both she and Mom liked all forms of Dianthus, but especially those with lots of fragrance. Bea had a hardy clump of clove pinks there in the planter alongside old-style petunias that became really fragrant about dusk. They were big fans of porch sitting, so as a kid not much interested in their grownup conversations, I got plenty of time to check out what was growing there, before it got totally dark or the mosquitoes drove us inside.

Your photo looks like a very primitive, single carnation, especially the foliage, but I suppose it could be one of the other Dianthus. I can almost smell the spicy fragrance from down here below the border.


But I thought true pinks were the primitive, single variety and the big, showy versions are referred to as carnations?

One of this week's winners, Keena used my hint about gillyflower. Here's what she has to say:

a quick internet search of "gillyflower" brings up a Encyclopedia

Britannica article: "any of several scented flowering plants,

especially the carnation, or clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus), stock

(Matthiola incana), and wallflower (Cheiranthus cheiri). However, the

gillyflower of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare was the carnation."

your image is specifically that of the pink, though.

Clove Pink (Dianthus caryophyllus) What's in a name, eh? Well in this particular name, as in most, a lot. First off, the term 'pink' doesn't refer to the color of the plant, instead it is referring to the serrated edges of the flowers. To create these edges in fabric, one uses 'pinking sheers', pink meaning zig-zag or serrated.
Anyone who has ever smelled these delightful herbs knows that they emit the most delicious odor resembling cloves, caryophyllum being the Latin name for the spice we call cloves.

Many of you mentioned that they were most familiar with the salmon-colored pinks and I am as well, this vibrant pink color you see in my photo above, being unexpected in the plants I put in the garden this year. I can tell you, that when I made my clove pink syrup from my salmon pinks, the syrup turned a beautiful burgundy color, so the deep red pigments must somehow be lurking in the petals of even the salmon-colored pinks.

For those of you who are surprised to learn that you can eat these wonderful flowers, they have been used in the past to flavor wine. A word of caution: do not try eating the carnations in your next floral arrangement. They will have been sprayed and treated with chemicals to make them last longer.

If you grow clove pinks, try my recipe for syrup. You can use it to flavor drinks in the same way as you would use Grenadine. Drizzle it on ice cream or puddings or use as a coulis. The color is amazing. Gently rinse the flowers under cool water and pat dry. Gently pull the petals away and discard the sepals and stems. You can half this recipe if you only have 1/2 cup petals.

This is essentially a simple syrup that will thicken as the sugar is heated in the water. Don't over boil or you will get soft candy.

Clove Pink Syrup
1 cup fresh clove pink petals
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

1. In a saucepan, combine clove pink petals, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the syrup thickens, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Pour into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Label and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.







Wednesday, August 12, 2009

NAME THAT HERB WINNER


Calendula - The edible healing herb.
Congratulations to Wendy- send your address and claim your prize. I will mail you one of my little herb handbooks or the Summer Recipes book, your choice.
Cheery and bright, these prolific annual flowers jump around the herb garden in colors ranging from orange to yellow and every shade in between. Their seeds look like something out of the dinosaur age.
When you pluck the flowers for a salad or to make calendula butter, they give off a very delicate and pleasant floral aroma and taste. This lovely aroma strengthens on drying the flowerheads. Jane Hawley-Stevens, who uses calendula in creams and other cosmetic products dries calendula that she grows organically. Here we see the drying cabinet she uses:
The nice thing about drying the flowerheads is that we get tons of seeds to plant for next year. Actually, unless you are vigilant in deadheading the flowers, you will get a good crop next year anyway. In fact, I have heard of gardeners ripping the plants out (along with their hair!) after a few years of calendula going to seed. But that won't happen to you because you will be drying and using all those beautiful petals in soups, stews, butters and using them fresh in salads.
Here they are growing wild on a tiny Atlantic island off the coast of Brittany France:
...and planted out in an Arizona garden in the middle of a Pecan Farm:
One summer day in 2007 I think it was, I visited Four Elements Herbals in Wisconsin about an hour drive from Milwaukee. It was one of the most enchanted places I have ever seen. Owner, Jane Hawley-Stevens took me on a tour of the Chakra Garden and then delighted me with a lunch (pictured below) of homemade bread, Wisconsin cheese, cauliflower and pickled beet salad and a beautiful summer salad made with cabbage and other greens and flowers she grows on her beautiful land. The large flowers are nasturtium and the petals are calendula.
Feast your eyes and enjoy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

NAME THAT HERB WINNER


GOOSEBERRY This Week's Featured Herb
Congratulations to Chuck and Heather-
here's what Chuck has to say about Gooseberries: At first glance, I thought the herb of the week was a white currant, but currants aren't usually green, so it must be a gooseberry. It lacks the striping that I'm used to seeing on gooseberries, but green, golden, red, or white sounds a lot like a gooseberry. I had some of the thorny devils for a few years, but never really got excited about either the flavor or the pain of the thorns. Once in a while, I'll read a catalog description of one, "as big as a plum" and think about trying again. I do like the ripe fruit, all by itself, but the unripe ones made into a pie don't thrill me at all.

...and Heather-i don't have gooseberries anymore, but we had several bushes when i was growing up. i love the flavor, and think gooseberry pie is one of the best desserts on the planet.

So there you have it - Love it/Hate it.

I have actually been fooling around a bit with the thorny devils myself, and here's my take on Gooseberry Cordial, a very nice drink syrup to have on hand if you, like Chuck donk't want to make gooseberry pie:

Lemon-Lime Gooseberry Cordial

This is an adult lemonade. Sharp and fragrant with citrus and sugar lingering on the tongue, it makes the perfect mix for summer cocktails at the pool, barbeque or deck.

Makes 4 cups 1 L

4 cups gooseberries

1 L water

Juice of 1 lime

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh lemon verbena

4 cups caster sugar

1. In a Maslin pan or canning kettle, combine the gooseberries, water, lime, lemon juice and lemon verbena. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Stir in the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The gooseberries should be soft.

2. Remove from the heat and pass through a colander, pressing down firmly on the fruit with the back of a wooden spoon. Pour the syrup into a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Serve: mix with carbonated mineral water in a 1/4: 1 ratio.

Friday, July 24, 2009

NAME THAT HERB WINNER


ANGELICA- this week's NTH
It's difficult to identify plants from such a small picture, I know. This week was a bit more difficult because the flower resembles other plants, Queen Anne's Lace being the most popular guessed.
At the very last moment, Susan came through with this week's herb: ANGELICA. She collects one of this week's books as her reward. Tune in Monday for next week's NTH and your chance to WIN.

Angelica archangelica grows wild where I live, but I never use it from the wild because it so closely resembles deadly hemlock (Water Hemlock), which grows in the same locations, in wet, boggy areas. ALWAYS USE CAUTION WITH WILD PLANTS. Hemlock is toxic.

If you purchase angelica from a local herb farm, you know that you have the correct herb.
I have candied the young stalks in a simple syrup. This takes several days where you simmer the stalks in the sugar/water mixture for 30 minutes to an hour and then cover the saucepan and let it sit for 24 hours in the syrup. Next day, you repeat the process. After 3 or 4 days, the stalks have absorbed the sugar and the next step is to let them dry before storing in an airtight container.
I use candied angelica in drinks, to decorate cakes or cupcakes and to flavor desserts. Its anise flavor is mild and fragrant.
In the summer when the huge leaves are abundant, I use them to wrap salmon and trout for grilling. I soak the leaves in a bucket of water for at least an hour or overnight, prepare the fish with pesto or tapenade, and wrap the angelica leaf around each portion. The fish steams inside the leaf pocket, lending its light anise flavor to the fish (you could use vegetables in place of the fish).
Of course, the leaves may be eaten cooked or raw like any leafy green.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ELDER


Elderberry Trees
Some very early translations of the Bible mention a small, stringed musical instrument named sambuke. The frame of this instrument was made from the hollow branches of the Sambucus or elder tree. There are many different varieties of Sambucus, most being more shrub than tree. The variety that grows wild here in Bruce County is Sambucus canadensis, which bears dark purple, almost black berries. This variety has naturalized here, the elder tree being native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.

I have used both the flowers and the fruit in recipes and there are many recipes for elderflower or elderberry wine. The flowers form in large, creamy-white flat-topped clusters and their taste is somewhat bitter when nibbled right off the tree. (DON'T try eating any wild plant until you have verified it as edible. There is a dwarf elder that bears poisonous berries!). The fragrance and pleasant taste of the flowers is developed with the syrup or wine-making process, or in cooking them. I have made elderflower fritters by dipping the flowerheads in a light batter and frying them in olive oil.

The berries, which you see just forming in the shot below, taste a bit like blackcurrants and are made into conserves and jam. As the berries form and ripen, the stems that once bore the flowers turns from green (top picture) to dark red (picture below). You can substitute elderberries for currants or gooseberries in preserving recipes.

Elderberry Syrup ©pat crocker
In anticipation of the elderberries, which won't be ready to pick here until late August, early September, this is my recipe for a smooth-finished, rich and fruity, sweet-tart syrup. Splash it into white wine or champagne, sparkling mineral water, smoothies, milkshakes and all sorts of cocktails and mocktails.
1 lb elderberries or red or black currants
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 cups water
1 cups granulated sugar

1. In a saucepan, combine elderberries with orange rind, juice and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil for 2 or 3 minutes, crushing the berries with the back of a wooden spoon. Strain the juice through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a non-reactive bowl. Press the pulp to release as much of the juice as possible.

2. Meanwhile, sterilize a 1-pint (2 cups/500 mL) jar in hard boiling water for 15 minutes.

3. Return the juice to the saucepan and stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil hard for 1 minute. Skim and discard any foam. Pour hot syrup into hot jar. Cover with flat lid and metal screw band. Allow to cool completely. Label and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.


Friday, July 17, 2009

NAME THAT HERB WINNER

Name that Herb Winner
DMMCW
YOU were correct in naming this week's herb as Elder.
The picture is of an elder flower.
Congratulations.
Please e-mail me- pcrocker@riversongherbals.com
you can choose one of the following books:
The Gurus' Guide to Serenity
Summer on a Plate by Anna Pump and Gen LeRoy
or one of my herb handbooks:
oregano
kasbah herbs
pelargoniums (scented geraniums)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bay

The Big Taste of Bay
Congrats to the 2 individuals who knew that this week's NTH is Bay. This is the arbor in France from which the small detail on the right was taken. How wonderful it would be to live in zone 8 were it grows to be a tree, not the twig I have here in Bruce County.

Bay is one of my favorite herbs because with its sweet, slightly pungent balsamic aroma and spikes of nutmeg and camphor, the beauty of cooking with bay is that it releases its flavor slowly, so that it is an essential herb for slow, long cooking techniques. That's why I call it one of the Big Tastes- it hangs in there for the long haul, not like some of the other more delicate herbs that are really flash-in-the-pan tastes.

Indeed, stocks, soups, stews, sauces, marinades, stuffing and pickles benefit from the addition of fresh or dried bay leaves. Garnishing cooked or cold-pressed paté or terrines with a leaf or two infuses the spicy essence of the Mediterranean, its native homeland. Fish dishes are enhanced by the combination of bay and fennel; lamb and other robust meats may be stewed or grilled with bay as a key ingredient; bay adds the characteristic flavor to béchamel sauce; tomatoes, oregano, thyme and bay are the foremost ingredients in tomato sauce; bay is a popular herb used to flavor wines; and it is positively brilliant in baked bean and lentil dishes.

Boquet Garni is the French name for a bundle of cooking herbs tied together with string and used to flavor slow-cooked dishes. Whole fresh sprigs and leaves are preferred but dried herbs are a practical option. The traditional Boquet Garni combination is thyme, parsley and bay. Often the sprigs of thyme and parsley are wrapped in a large bay leaf, tied and hung to dry and stored in a cool, dark place for using throughout the winter months.

Sweet dessert dishes also benefit from the addition of bay. Custard, poached fruit, sweet sauces, simple sugar syrup, and rice desserts are richly complex thanks to the addition of bay.

Bay complements the following herbs in foods:

Allspice Oregano

Cardamom Parsley

Garlic Sage

Loveage Savory

Marjoram Thyme

I have found that many supermarkets are now selling fresh leaves in the produce section, so look there first–besides being more flavorful, the fresh will be larger and less expensive than dried bay in a jar. Fresh leaves store best if wrapped in a moistened tea towel and placed in a sealed plastic bag on the door of the refrigerator. Fresh leaves need to be rubbed or crushed to release their aromatic compounds. Eventually the fresh leaves will dry. Keep dried bay leaves whole in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Store dried bay leaves for one year and then replace with fresh because the essential oils dissipate over time.

Usually whole leaves are added to foods at the beginning of the cooking time and removed at the end. One or two whole leaves are enough to spice up a dish that serves 4 to 6 people. Rarely are bay leaves shredded before using, except when being used in a tea blend, because the smaller bits are too difficult to remove from the cooked dish. Even more rare is ground bay because the whole leaves flavor dishes without the trouble of grinding.

What people often overlook is Bay's big taste in desserts. Try these poached peaches with the Bay Custard and tell me what you think?

If you have any unusual ways of using bay in cooking, I sure would be happy to hear about them and post them here for other BayHeads.

Poached Peaches with Apricot Ginger Sauce

Use other fruit such as pears, nectarines, apples and plums in place of the peaches.

Makes 8 halves

1-1/2 cups apple juice

1/2 cup white wine

Half vanilla bean Half

1 3-inch licorice root, optional

1 bay leaf

4 peaches, halved and stoned

1/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots (or roughly chopped fresh)

1 tsp finely chopped candied ginger

1 cup yogurt, optional for garnish

1. In a large skillet, combine apple juice, wine, vanilla, licorice and bay. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Add peach halves, cut side down. Cover, reduce heat and gently simmer for 7 minutes or until peaches are crisp-tender.

2. Remove peach halves from poaching liquid, set aside. Remove and discard vanilla, licorice and bay from poaching liquid. Add apricots and ginger and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced and syrupy.

3. . Arrange peaches on individual plates, spoon apricot sauce over. Garnish with yogurt if using. Serve immediately.

Rosemary Custard

Infusing the milk as it heats imparts not only the flavor of the herbs but their medicinal benefits as well.

Serves 4

1/2 cup soy or rice milk

1 whole (3-inches) vanilla bean

1 bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

12 oz firm ‘silken style’ tofu

1. In a small saucepan, combine milk, vanilla, bay and rosemary. Cover and bring to a light simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and cool with lid on. Strain and discard vanilla, bay and rosemary.

2. In a blender or food processor, process tofu for 30 seconds or until smooth. With motor running, add infused milk through opening in the lid. Custard should be blended and smooth. Store: Cover tightly and keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

Serve: Spoon over poached pears, peaches, cherries or baked apples. Pass as a sauce for gingerbread or breakfast grain dishes.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lady's Slipper


A Northern Orchid
Driving into Cypress Lake Hiking Trails this past Monday, we spotted clumps of these beautiful native orchids growing by the roadside. A quick bound out of the car and I had some good shots.
Also called 'American Valerian' (probably due to its most common use, I'll get to that later), Lady's Slipper really does look like a dainty slipper. Well, I think it really looks like Minnie Mouse's shoe. The Latin name is Cypripedium pubescens or C. hirsutum, Cypripedium being Greek for 'Venus's slipper'. I have even seen it referred to as 'squirrel shoes'. A bit sloppy on their dainty paws I would think...
Not surprising that I would find at least one orchid on that trip up the peninsula in Bruce County even though it is late June. The Bruce Peninsula is rich in native orchids– some 44 wild species, giving the Bruce Peninsula the "distinction of having one of the greatest varieties of natural orchids in North America". WOW. The town of Tobermory hosts an Orchid Festival in the late spring every year.
Probably the best known of all the eastern North American orchids, Lady's Slipper is protected from picking or transplanting in many areas, so capture only on camera.
Here's a site that is actually cultivating Lady's Slippers and that sells the plants.

With a limited range: Nova Scotia to Ontario in Canada, Minnesota, Alabama and Nebraska in the United States (has anyone seen them in New England?) we need to be respecting their habitat: rich woods and thickets.
I found a great description in Stokes Nature Guides: A Guide to Enjoying Wildflowers by Donald ad Lillian Stokes. (My 1984 edition has a different cover, so hopefully the one listed on Amazon has the same information.) Does anyone have the book shown on the link? Does it have a 6 page description of Lady's Slipper?
As for uses, you can't eat the flower! And nowadays, you can't dig the roots, but I find it interesting to note that the roots of Lady's Slipper were once combined with and infusion of the bark of sassafras, along with cinnamon or lobelia and used externally as a liniment. [Native Plants by Richard Alan Miller. OAK Inc. publisher, Oregon, 1988]
Maud Grieve, in her book, A Modern Herbal says "The roots of several varieties...are employed in hysteria, being a gentle, nervous stimulant and antispasmodic, less powerful than Valerian."

And THAT is the reason the plant is sometimes referred to as 'American Valerian'.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Book Reviews


Vegan Cook's Bible
As you know, this book has just won GOLD in the first, annual Living Now Book Awards. Here are a couple of reviews for this book, now available at Amazon and independent book sellers.




Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's SCAPE Time!




The Scapes are Ready
Most professional garlic growers have taken off those long, goose-necked green seedheads by now, or they will do so very soon. Scapes are generally removed on or close to the longest day of the year (summer solstice), in order to let the plant concentrate on the business of growing fabulous garlic bulbs all summer.
All this labor-intensive activity means that chefs and home cooks are overwhelmed in their kitchens with the bounty of these fresh and tender vegetables because there are literally tons of them coming off the garlic being grown for market here in Ontario.
Like asparagus, fiddleheads and fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, scapes are around for such a brief window of time that I tend to use them in everything and I like to develop at least one new recipe every year. I always freeze scapes because they are so easy to keep that way: no blanching required. Simply cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces, or chop fine, measure into 1- or 2-cup amounts and pop into freezer bags, seal, label and freeze for use later in soups, casseroles and stews.
This year, I developed a Garlic Scape Pesto using some of the organic scapes so graciously given to me by Simon deBoer.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Wash scapes in cool water, drain and pat dry. Snip off the seedhead and tougher tips. You can eat the seedhead if it is very small and still tender. Cut the long stems into shorter lengths to fit the bowl of the food processor. Pulse for a few seconds until coarsely chopped. See photo above.
Add 1/2 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts to the bowl of the food processor. [Any milder nut such as blanched almonds or pecans can be used in this mild-flavored pesto. I like to use sunflower seeds in my pestos because they are grown locally and do not go rancid as quickly as pine nuts.]
Add 1/2 cup coarsely chopped Parmesan or Romano cheese to the bowl of the food processor.
Sprinkle 1/2 tsp freshly grated sea salt over, less or none if the sunflower seeds are salted
Measure out 1 cup of the best quality hemp or hazelnut or olive oil. Cover the bowl with the lid and turn the food processor on. Slowly drizzle the oil through the opening in the lid while the motor is running and keep adding oil until the pesto is the consistency you like.
Depending on how I will use the pesto, I add more or less oil. For example, for the Garlic Scape Potatoes above, I wanted a slightly thinner sauce and so I added more oil. For a dip or spread for bruschetta, I would want a thicker consistency and so would add less oil. Play around with the right balance for you.
Wait! What's MISSING?
Garlic, of course. The green garlic scapes have a deliciously mild garlic flavor combined with a slightly nutty, almost asparagus taste. I don't add cloves of garlic to this pesto, but you might want to. Taste first and then decide. In the same way, you can add other green herbs like basil, sage, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme. I would recommend adding a handful of any single or combination of herbs to the pesto, chop with the scapes, add the other ingredients and then taste to see if you need more.

Green Garlic Pesto Potatoes
1 lb small or fingerling potatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup Green Garlic Pesto

On a rimmed baking sheet, combine potatoes and Green Garlic Pesto. Roast in 375° F oven for 25 to 35 minutes, or until tender.

Friday, June 26, 2009


WINNER!
YAY! Thanks to all who entered the 'Name that Herb' contest. It was a riddle in a riddle. The last post was, of course, parsley. And CONGRATS to all who knew that pitcher of green was parsley. But the combination of 4 of the past herbs was "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme..." and congrats to Elle- who WINS the Deen Family Cookbook!

The garden is growing, so stay tuned to more chances to WIN as you Name THAT Herb!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Award


Vegetarian Cook's Bible wins Gold
The first annual Living Now Book Awards has awarded my Vegetarian Cook's Bible the GOLD MEDAL in the Cooking/Natural (Organic, Vegetarian, etc) category:

4. Cooking/Natural (Organic, Vegetarian, etc.)
Gold:
The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible, by Pat Crocker (Robert Rose)
Silver: Ten Talents: Natural Foods - A Diet from the Garden of Eden, by Rosalie Hurd, BS & Frank J. Hurd, DC, MD (Hurd Pictorial Edition)
Bronze (tie): A Good Catch: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from Canada’s Top Chefs, by Jill Lambert (Greystone) and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw, by Mark Reinfeld, Bo Rinaldi, and Jennifer Murray (Alpha Books/Penguin Group)

Thanks go to the whole team at Robert Rose publishing. Their health and healthy cookbooks are outstanding.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Award


The Gertrude B. Foster Award
It was with profound joy that I met new and longtime friends in Grand Rapids last week for the annual Herb Society of America Conference.
..And where I received the Gertrude B. Foster Award for Excellence in Herbal Literature. Thank you to my Herbal Friends-

THE GERTRUDE B. FOSTER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN HERBAL LITERATURE

The Gertrude Bates Foster Award is intended to encourage the dissemination of accurate herbal information and to recognize outstanding researchers, educators, and authors who exhibit exceptional scholarship in a published non-fiction book, which serves to inspire the “use and delight” of herbs. This award, established and funded in 1998 by the Connecticut Unit, honors Bunny (as she was known) and herpioneering role in the renaissance of herbal interest. She was known and respected in this country and abroad for her extensive contributions to the knowledge and interest in herbs and horticulture and for her generosity in sharing plant material, research, lecturing, and editorial leadership.

Selection of this recipient is done with the botany and horticulture chair, the communications chair, and the curator of The National Herb Garden serving in an advisory role.  

Friday, May 29, 2009

Riversong Garden




The 'P' Garden
Since moving to the country in 1987, I have always had a herb garden. BIG herb garden. We went from downtown Toronto to Riversong cabin: 18 acres on the Saugeen River in Grey county. There we planted the first of several 'teaching gardens' from which we gave our famous Herb Walk and Gourmet Lunch programs. 

The Herb Walks were an all-day affair, starting with a light herbal breakfast and introduction to the herbs of the season, and moving on to a tour of the roadside, meadow and riverbank wild herbs surrounding the cabin. The climax to the day came with a 6 or 7-course meal that featured all of the wild herbs we had gathered along our walk.

In fact, my first cookbook was a compilation of the three-season recipes I had developed over the 6 years of leading the Riversong Herb Walks. With subsequent moves, the herb walks became a memory only, and I moved on as well..

Which brings me to my newest herb garden. We call it the 'P' garden because TheBigGuy–landscape designer and head gardener poobah–decided that the center of the raised garden should be in the shape of a P (for my name, in case, like me, you didn't get it the first time).

First we tracked the sun as it came around the mill, which looms higher on the south side than even our building, because as everyone knows, herbs need 8 hours of sunlight to thrive. Then we designed the raised beds and TBG built them. Living in a small village with its own brewery has some definite advantages, and we were offered 21 25-kg bags of spent grain from the beer-making process, which we mixed with 3-way soil. [The soil was actually hot when we started planting out the herbs.]
While TBG was hauling around soil and grain mash, I was up on the second floor pouring over Richter's catalogue. About 200 plants were ordered, and last weekend, they went in. Here in southwestern Ontario, the golden rule of planting is "not before the 24th of May weekend" due to rogue frosts that are prone to devastate new seedlings.


A whole week later and two days of obliging gentle rain, and the plants are looking exceptionally healthy...enough so, that we have already enjoyed the first of many fine green salads...

Herb Society of America


I'm in Grand Rapids
I'm off on the annual herbal adventure with the Herb Society of America June 3 to 7 at their annual conference. This year is special for me because I will receive the Gertrude B. Foster Award for Excellence in Herbal Literature.

While there, I will be joining other herb experts and enthusiasts on garden tours, seminars and workshops. I am planning a guest blog for The Herb Companion magazine on the garden tour/s, and will highlight some of the events here and I will be on the prowl for new ways to use herbs in foods when I get back, so check back here the week of June 8.

For those of you who are always looking for my next herbal recipe, I do apologize–I have been developing, testing and photographing, but they are all recipes for my latest books and I can't make them public before they are published. Once back and settled into my routine though, I should be able to share one great herb recipe a week all summer. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NAME THAT FURRY THING



It's Alive!
Here are the first of the 'furry things' - Hope you had fun with them!
They were all photographed at the end of April, early part of May.
The fungus isn' t exactly a plant, but I threw it into the mix as a dried up thing.
Promise to get the last three up shortly.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Almond-Orange Cake



Sweet Cicely the Star of this Flour-less Cake

Gerarde (The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597) writes about Sweet Cicely, "It hath leaves of a very good and pleasant smell and taste like unto Chervil and something hairy, which as caused us to call it Sweet Chervil. The leaves of the Sweet Chervil are exceedingly good, wholesome, and pleasant among other sallad herbs, giving he taste of anise seed unto the rest. The seeds, eaten as a salad while they are yet green, with oyle, vinegar and pepper exceed all other sallads by many degrees, both in pleasantness of taste and sweetness of smell and wholesomeness for the cold and feeble stomachs. The roots are likewise most excellent in a salad with oil and vinegar, being first boiled, which is very good for old people that are dull and without courage."

For more information on both the cultivated Sweet Cicely (M. odorata) and the native plant (O. chilensis), visit my guest blog on Cuisine Canada .

Almond-Orange Cake

8-inch springform pan, lined with parchment paper and lightly buttered

preheat oven to 375° F

Serves 6

1-1/4 cups blanched almonds

4 eggs, separated

1 cup caster sugar, divided

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sweet cicely

grated rind and juice of 3 oranges (about 1-1/4 cups juice and 3 tablespoons rind)

1 tablespoon Anisette or other anise-flavored liqueur, optional

1. Using a food processor, chop the almonds until they are coarse. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with ½ cup of the sugar until thick. With the motor running, add the yolk mixture through the opening in the lid, processing until the mixture is thick and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the orange rind. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the orange juice, until it is of batter consistency.

2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar over and beat until the peaks hold their shape. Fold half of the meringue into the almond mixture until just evenly mixed. Fold the other half into the almond mixture, being careful not to over mix in order to keep the air in the whites.

3. Spoon the almond mixture into the prepared springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until set in the center and a light golden color. Cool and transfer to a serving plate.

4. Make orange sauce: In a saucepan, combine orange juice and remaining sugar. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Adjust heat and lightly boil for 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the liqueur if using. Drizzle the orange sauce over the top of the cake and let sit for 20 minutes or longer before serving.

5. To garnish, lay fresh sweet cicely leaves over the cake and sprinkle icing sugar or cocoa over the leaves to impart a leaf pattern. Garnish the serving plate with fresh sweet cicely leaves.


copyright

All photographs and recipes are original and copyrighted to Pat Crocker. Pat invites you to use her recipes and share with family and friends. Please contact Pat Crocker for express permission for commercial, internet, or other use of her photographs and recipes.