Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer Herbs

When I moved from my house with a big garden into a town home the thing I missed the most was walking outside and clipping the fresh herbs that I needed for a meal. I have two sunny baloneys in my new place a perfect spot to grow container herbs. All you need is a big container, seeds or starter packs, potting soil, water and about 4-6 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
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 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

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.

Poached Salmon & Cucumber Dill Sauce
1-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

Mint 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

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