Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 10th Menu Served at The Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Dear Folks,

Here are the recipes I served on Sunday the 10th -- The wonderful Annual Herb Festival was rained out on Saturday, but I still had all that food . . .

For more recipe ideas using herbs check out my publishers site for the recipe book "101+ Recipes From The Herb Lady" available in both print and ebook formats.  The books are also available at the BTA gift shop.

A final word about my recipes - treat them as a guide not a bible.  Make them yours and your family will talk about them for years :-)

. . .

All the herbs used the day of the BTA event were picked from my garden fresh for preparation.  You can used dried - decrease the amount of herbs when using dried instead of fresh by about 2/3rds.  Dried have more intense flavor.  While dried will work with the turkey recipe, instead of mixing the dried into the ‘fat’ spread the turkey with the fat first, then sprinkle the crushed and mixed dried herb mixture all over, gently pat in to make sure they don’t fall off.  The dried would not work well with the Tabouleh - it requires fresh herbs and dried parsley is not a good version of this always available herb.

Herb Crusted Turkey
Use this same type of herb-crust on any roast-type meat*

8 pound turkey breast (butterfly the bird by cutting through the backbone to open up the cooking surface)
2 tablespoons of butter - softened
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or other coarse salt (you can omit the salt if you prefer
2 cups of mixed herbs of choice, rinse well, small stems okay with leaves and flowers (I used rosemary, parsley, thyme, conehead thyme, and green (young fresh) garlic)

FAST HERB PREPARATION:  In a blender place the herbs and enough water to cover the herbs by about 2 inches.  Blend on high for 10-15 seconds - immediately drain in fine mesh strainer.  Keep the drained herb-enriched water for making soup from the turkey leftovers!

While the herbs are draining, place the turkey in a roasting pan.  If you like, instead of using a rack, you can make a rack of thick sliced onion, carrots and celery to act a bed.  They additionally flavor to the great broth/stock you can make from the leftovers (keep the drained herb water in mind for this also).

In a bowl place the softened butter and oil and mix together very well.  Add salt if using and make sure you get it thoroughly blended into the fat mixture.  Now add the drained herbs and mix the fat completely through the herbs - you want a paste.

Pat the herb paste over the entire top of the meat.  Try to get as much covered as possible.  The purpose is to both flavor the meat and keep it moist.

Place on grill with indirect heat, covered.  This 8 pounder took an hour and 3/4 to grill.  In the oven set temperature at 350 and check for temperature (or popup) at 1 and half hours.

Let the meat sit for 10-15 minutes before carving.

* Tofu Bars (very a firm tofu block into approximately 4-5 - 1/2 inch thick pieces) can be grilled, pan friend or roasted with this herb paste.

Quinoa/Barley Tabouleh
Traditional tabouleh is made with bulgar wheat, cracker or whole.  I like to mix and match grains for different taboulehs and this one is high in protein and fiber.


Zest and juice 1 lemon (or 2) to get about 1/4 cup of juice
equal amount of olive oil
half a teaspoon of salt (you always need a bit of salt with grains)
2 cups each loosely packed parsley and spearmint leaves - can use tender stems.
Optional: 2 scallions very finely slivered; 1 spring of oregano leaves only.

Mix juice, oil and salt, shake well in a small jar and set aside.

Grind all the herbs as noted above in the turkey recipe for fast grinding.  OR, very finely mince all herbs. Set aside.


1 cup of barley
1 cup of quinoa (rinse well in cold water and allow to drain)

Bring 4 and a half cups of salted water to boil.  Add barley, stir, reduce heat, cover and cook barley for 28 minutes.  Add quinoa, stir, recover and cook for 12 minutes longer.  Add additional hot water if the grains are getting too dry before finishing.  The water should all be absorbed by the end of 40 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Stir about a tablespoon of olive oil into the hot grains to keep them from sticking together.  You can dress the grains while hot, but I like to allow them to cool completely - takes about 35 minutes, fluffing occasionally.  Spread the drained herbs on top of the grains.  Give the dressing a good shake and pour over and gently fold in the herbs and dressing with the grains.

Serve and enjoy this complete meal with a glass of apple juice with a sprig of spearmint to give sparkle to the juice

Marinated Olives & Artichoke Hearts
I don’t know anyone who does not enjoy the marinated artichoke hearts sold in stores – and they are really good for you too, if you can control the ingredients.  Ditto with olives.

While I don’t have my own olive trees for curing my own (wish I had the room), you have many choices for finding whichever olives you enjoy for this recipe.  When invited to a party, I am often asked to ‘bring the olives you make.’

For the BTA event, I began with a half gallon of olives, and a package of frozen artichoke quarters,

21 oz jar of small spanish, pitted olives (can have pimento in them), drained.
2 12 oz jars of pitted kalamata olives drained, reserving only this olive liquid**
1 14 oz package of frozen artichoke hearts
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 orange, zested and juiced
half to 1 cup of fresh herbs, finely minced - for this recipe I did not grind them in the blender technique (I used rosemary, parsley, thyme, and conehead thyme – in the past I have also used a bit of fresh ginger, and garlic is always an option)
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
There is plenty of salt in the olives

Finely mince the herbs on a board or plate, zest the citrus over the herbs to catch the essential oils that are always released.  Squeeze the citrus juices together and set aside with the kalamata liquid.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the artichoke hearts for 5 minutes, drain immediately and let cool.

Fold the artichoke hearts and olives together in a container for marinating - I like to use a half gallon mason jar because I can cap it tightly for the shaking process.

Add the herbs to the olive mixture.  Mix the citrus juices and the reserved kalamata liquids together an pour over the olives and herbs.  Cap tightly and begin to turn the jar upside down and back again every 10-15 minutes to give them a good flavoring.  Let them sit turning as stated for about an hour - it is okay if you let it sit for a couple of hours.  Add the olive oil to cover completely, cap and turn a couple of times.  If serving that day, you can leave them out at room temperature.  If you need to refrigerate before serving, bring them out to sit at room temperature for an hour to soften the harden olive oil.  Give them a couple of good turns and you are ready to serve a great appetizer.

Because of the acid and salt in this mixture they will keep for a couple of weeks.  Just make sure the liquid is always covering the remaining olive/hearts.  Add more olive oil if you need to.

** This brand of kalamata olives was packed in a wine and vinegar solution with some herbs, so I used that as part of the marinating liquid

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lasagna - a Different Version

Dear Folks,

A note about the 'thrillin' grillin' substitute day yesterday at Boyce Thompson Arboretum (due to the Herb Festival being rained and colded out Saturday).  If you didn't make it out folks, the turkey turned out awesome!  I will post the recipes here in the next day or so.

. . .

I posted recipes for making ricotta and a unique reduction cheese several days ago, with the note that I made the ricotta for the vegetable lasagna I was making.  Here is the lasagna and what I did to make it.  Deane declared it has to be on the regular menu!  He also observed that without actually intending to, the lasagna turned out gluten-free!  Also low-carb.

First, why vegetables?  I saw a reference to making a garden fresh lasagna replacing the noodles with vegetables like zucchini and we had - among other ingredients fresh asparagus from the garden. I had some russet potatoes, and picked up some zucchini from the store.  I had fresh basil from the garden, "sauce tomatoes" from the farmers market, my fresh ricotta and my friend Kathy's mozzarella and I was almost set.

I spent a lot of time preparing the ingredients for this recipe, but you certainly do not have to.  Pick up really quality ingredients at the farmers market or favorite store.  In the future I'm going to can my sauce (we keep running out freezer space), so I have it ready to make this any time I want.

FYI - I did not have nearly enough cheese because I got overly generous with the veggies, but I made due.

For the sauce I adapted this sauce several years ago when I read about Marcella Hazan's "crasy sauce" famous for having only 3 ingredients.  (Her recipe called for canned tomatoes removing the onion from the sauce at the end.)


6 pounds of tomatoes (mix and match for different flavors - cut into quarters or half
1 stick of butter
1 onion, diced
Optional: 1 whole sprig of oregano; slivered basil added at the end.

Melt the butter in a good size sauce pan, add the onion, stir and add all the tomatoes and juice.  Simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.  You will know when it is done.  It reduces down to a thick sauce. That's it the most incredible sauce you will ever taste.  This time I left my sauce whole, you can also puree at the end with an immersion blender.

If you do not want to add meat, double the cheese.  OR, you can add grilled or ungrilled tofu in place of the meat.

1 pound ground turkey
1 pound of natural milk Italian sausage meat

Mix the two meats together and brown in a large frying pan.  Use a potato masher to keep them broken up.  Set aside when browned.

Potatoes (2 good size)
Zucchini (3 good size)
Asparagus (8-10 - depending on the width/length of your pan you want enough for a row)

Cut potatoes into long planks (I leave the skins on) about a half inch thick.  Cut zucchini into similar width planks (all length size). Trim hard ends off the asparagus by bending and snapping at the 'tender' point - save the hard ends for flavoring soups and broths.


Ricotta - I had about 1 cup - I would double that
Mozzarella - I had about 2 cups shredded - I would add at least another 50%.

READY to assemble.
Have all ingredients ready:  Sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, meat, vegetables, fresh basil (optional).

You are going to start and end with sauce, so make sure you divide it accordingly for 3 layers.

Place a thin layer on the bottom, layer the potatoes (I do not show that layer in the picture above, just imagine the large lasagna noodles and you will get the idea.).  Place a layer of meat, top with ricotta, fresh basil slivers (put the basil on the meat, ricotta, or on the sauce - does not really matter), sauce and mozzarella.  You have the first of three layers.  Next arrange the asparagus in the opposite position (note picture), add layer of meat, top with ricotta, fresh basil, sauce and end with mozzarella.  Repeat with the last layer of zucchini arranged end to end as pictured, layer meat, basil, ricotta and end with sauce and mozzarella.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 60 minutes.  The timing will depend on whether the sauce and meat were hot when you assembled the lasagna.  If cold it will take longer.  If you want to shorten the time, you can cook the potatoes in the microwave for about 4 minutes (don't forget to pierce the skin) and blanch the zucchini and asparagus for 2 minutes in boiling water.  Then all the oven is doing is heating the sauce and melting the cheese.  I left mine in for 45 minutes - I could have taken it out about 5 - 10 minutes sooner.

This recipe can be a lot of work, so make a big batch because not only does it keep well, but it actually gets better tasting in the frig over the next 2 or so days -- the initial feast is delicious!

Because I did not puree my sauce there was 'juice' a factor I did not mind, but you may wish a very thick sauce to proceed accordingly.  We started calling it a "lasagna stew" - worked for us :-)

What vegetables do you have in the garden to make a vegetable lasagna?  Think outside the noodle!

P.S. There is no reason not to combine noodles and vegetables.  Lasagna is one of those recipes where you can be as creative as you want (purists please allow creativity in the kitchen - new / young cooks need all the encouragement they can get :-)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady