Log Cabin Chronicles

greg duncan

© 1998 John Mahoney

The Gallivanting Gourmand

A little herb will do you

GREG DUNCAN

i know you are thinking about your garden already. I am. While I've never been classified as having a green thumb, I do appreciate those magical people who successfully produce fresh vegetables and, more important, fresh herbs for the table.

Nothing adds flavor to a dish more than a handful of the fresh stuff. Begone the wintry, dried-up and stale contents in little bottles on that dusty shelf. Sprinkle that pasta and marinate to your heart's content with herbs. Make your salads more succulent and do your body and spirit a favor with a handful of herbal blends. Add pizzazz to a pizza and replace salt with herbal spice.

Hungry yet? Then start planting, although watch for frost until June 12.

Before you plant anything you might want to try a little trick that I came across and I classify as an old wive's tale. It just might work.

Drag a speckled toad by its hind leg around your herb garden and your herbs will grow abundantly.

Plant an elder hedge around the garden; then if you stand still as a mouse beside it on Midsummer's Eve, you will see the king of the elves and all his court go walking by.

Hey, I'm a believer, aren't you?

Here is a list of what goes with what when using herbs.

  • Soups take well to chervil, bay, tarragon, marjoram, parsley, rosemary and savory.

  • Poultry is enhanced by garlic, oregano, rosemary and sage.

  • Beef loves chives, cloves, cumin, garlic, rosemary, marjoram and savory.

  • Lamb does well with mint, oregano, basil and thyme.

  • Pork takes coriander, cumin garlic, ginger, hot pepper, sage and thyme.

  • Fish goes great with chervil, dill fennel, parsley, tarragon and thyme.

  • Salads are improved by the addition of fresh basil, chives, garlic, parsley, sorrel and tarragon.
Plan your herb garden to include these and all will be well.

Here is how to store fresh herbs. Tie stalks together in a tight bunch and wrap herbs in wet paper towels tucked into a plastic bag, leaving the end open to the air. Keep in the refrigerator for a few days. If you dry them at the end of the season (or midway) simply tie small bunches of each herb together and put them, heads down, in a brown paper bag.

Don't touch for a few weeks until completely dry. Microwave tip: put a single layer of herbs between three or four thicknesses of paper towels and microwave on high for two minutes until they are dry. Add on a few more seconds as needed.

I previously suggested replacing salt in recipes with herbs and here are a few ideas on how to make your own saltless flavor picker-uppers.

Saltless Surprise

2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon each dried basil and oregano
1 teaspoon lemon rind

Put ingredients into food processor and whirl. Store in a jar and add a few grains of rice to prevent herbs from clumping.

Fresh Salt Substitute

3 tablespoons chopped basil
2 teaspoons each of summer savory, marjoram and sage
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 teaspoon thyme

Combine in food processor or blender and whirl until combined. Use in marinades or sprinkle on everything.

My favorite way of using herbs is to add them directly to the barbecue. I soak dried and fresh herbs and place them on whatever meat I'm barbecuing at the time. Sometimes I toss them directly onto the coals to add a smoky fresh flavor to everything. I close the lid and the resulting flavor that these herbs impart can't be beat.

No rocket science here, my friends. Experiment with as many herbal combinations as you wish and feel free to grab a handful from your garden and munch away. Parsley will make you smell sweet and garlic will make you a better lover.

Just ignore the toads unless you want to be a prince or a princess.


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Copyright © 1998 Greg Duncan/Log Cabin Chronicles/6.98