Herbs are wonderfully plentiful in the summer. I have a backdoor herb garden with many perennial (and a few annual) herbs waiting to be snipped as I need them. Favorites are several varieties of thyme, winter savory (meaning it’s perennial, unlike its cousin, summer savory), oregano, and tarragon. Annuals that I plant every year include rosemary, lemon verbena, and marjoram. This year, I’m also trying out Thai basil.
I also have a few basil plants interspersed between the cherry tomatoes in the vegetable garden. To be honest, I call it the vegetable garden, but it’s really the cherry tomato garden as that’s the only vegetable I’m growing (except for one zucchini plant in the hopes of getting some blossoms to stuff and fry). We also grew a bed of sugar snap peas earlier in the summer. So, back to the herbs.
In addition to what’s growing in my backyard, as part of my farm share, I can pick handfuls of several types of annual herbs each week: basil, parsley, cilantro, and dill. Other than the basil, these aren’t ones I bother to grow at home. The quantity I use and the schedule of readiness just don’t map with practicality.
I’ve had mixed results with storing fresh-cut herbs in the fridge. Even in plastic bags, with or without wrapping the stems in damp paper towels, they only last a few days before yellowing or drying up or rotting.
I’ve finally settled on a method that keeps the herbs fresh for a week or more with the added bonus of providing a decorative touch to my kitchen counter. I simply treat the bouquets of herbs as I would fresh flowers, using small pitchers or jars as vases.
In the case of basil, where sometimes, I’ve pinched the tops so there isn’t much of a stem, I float the cuttings in a bowl of water. The herbs stay green, and occasionally the basil tops will start to roots after a week.
Sometimes I hesitate to use the herbs (though only for a moment) because of how pretty they look!
Chimichurri, the Argentine sauce, is a wonderful way to use a variety of mixed herbs. This recipe calls for equal amounts of cilantro and parsley with smaller amounts of mint and oregano, but that is just a guide. I find it best to stick with the recipe’s use of a large quantity of parsley and/or cilantro for the base and accent with your favorite herbs or the ones you have on hand. Chimichurri is delicious served on fish, chicken, steak or roasted or steamed vegetables.
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup cilantro
1 cup parsley
½ cup mint
¼ cup oregano
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
Red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil
Sauté minced garlic in a little olive oil for a few minutes to soften. Place herbs and sautéed garlic in the food processor until roughly chopped (do not puree). Transfer to a bowl or jar. Add lemon juice and vinegar. Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in olive oil, and let it sit for an hour or more so flavors can blend. Store chimichurri in the refrigerator, but let it come to room temperature before using.
According to the dictionary, coddle means “to treat in an indulgent or overprotective way”. So, you might wonder, what does coddling have to do with eggs? If you intend to prepare the egg with foie gras, as we were challenged to do for French Fridays with Dorie this week, that’s certainly one way of being indulgent. However, I would argue foie gras counts as indulgent treatment for you, the eater, not for the egg itself.
I suppose we need to examine the second definition for coddle which is “to cook an egg in water below the boiling point”. That makes much more sense. This week’s recipe has you place pieces of foie gras mousse on the bottom of a ramekin, break an egg on top, spoon cream over the white, sprinkle with chopped tarragon and parsley, and steam it all over simmering water (i.e. coddle the egg).
OK, I’ll admit that I didn’t find foie gras mousse. I’ll also admit that I didn’t look that hard. My first stop was Trader Joe’s. I didn’t expect to find foie gras there, however, on my way to the cheese case, I spied some chicken liver mousse with truffles. It was only $5 for 7 oz. My pragmatic side told me that this was a fine substitute for the probably more elusive and certainly more expensive foie gras. I put it in the basket and never looked back.
Howard also scored a dozen freshly-laid eggs. There’s a tiny farm stand on his way to work, on the property of the former governor’s mansion. It’s one of our favorite sources for fresh eggs. Perfect for this dish (and any other).
Back to coddling… I’ve scrambled eggs, fried them, boiled them, poached them, and baked them. I had NEVER coddled them. I vaguely remember my grandmother having a beautiful set of porcelain egg coddlers with Victorian flowers painted on them, but she never prepared coddled eggs for me. I’m excited to discover this new preparation for eggs (with or without the pâté). It’s more elegant than poached, but less kitchen-warming than baked eggs on a hot day. I’ll definitely experiment with this technique again.
This recipe is in the Starter chapter of Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table, but I chose to serve this as the main event for dinner. An arugula and tomato salad and a piece of toast rounded out the plate. Howard and I both enjoyed the fancy eggs. Bella wanted some, but we didn’t succumb to her begging.
The eggs only used half of the pâté. Even at a reasonable price, I didn’t want the leftovers to go to waste. No problem. I’ve recently fallen in love with the Vietnamese sandwiches, banh mi. The protein can be flexible to work with what you have around, like chicken or sliced steak, but my favorite is liver, typically leftover chopped liver. I’ll tell you my sandwich with the chicken liver mousse was outstanding.
To make your own, cut a roll in half and spread both halves with mayonnaise and sriracha. Place the protein on one half and top with sliced cucumber and springs of cilantro and basil (Thai basil is best). On the other half, spoon some pickled carrot and daikon and maybe some sliced jalapenos if you want more heat (these candied jalapenos are amazing). Put the two halves together, slice, and enjoy!
I’m really excited to be hanging out in New York City this weekend with some of my Dorista friends: Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler, Kathy of Bakeaway with Me, and Diane of Simple Living and Eating. Stay tuned for photos and stories of our adventures! Happy Weekend!