Category: herbs

Raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Did you know how many types of basil there are? In my short life experience with growing it, I’ve grown Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet basil, amethyst basil, Greek basil & cinnamon basil. And there are plenty more varieties. This year, we kept it to 3 kinds; sweet basil, purple ruffles basil (which has deep purple ruffled leaves & has an almost anise smell to it) and cinnamon basil. And it’s not just basil I love experimenting with. We have two types of dill, two types of oregano, three types of sage…

I love having them around, especially to sneak into jams and preserves. They’re always unexpected, and leave the taster saying, “Wait.. what is that flavor?!”

Small-batch raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Two years ago I did it with blueberries and regular basil. The year before that? I popped some cilantro into raspberry jam with jalapeños. Last year I made my dad an experimental small jar of mixed berry jam with cinnamon basil, and it was such a hit I decided to try it again. This time, I’m doing a plain raspberry jam… with a sneaky little bit of cinnamon basil strewn in.

Cinnamon basil -which is also known as Mexican spice basil- smells like a strange combo of basil & cinnamon; moreso cinnamon. It’s a very unique smell & flavor. It actually contains the same chemical (methyl cinnamate) that gives cinnamon it’s flavor. When popped into a jam, it really helps the jam straddle that line between sweet & savory.

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Oui, oui: savory cheddar madeleines.

Savory madeleines with cheddar, dill & onion!

Have you ever had a genius idea and had to act on it immediately? Okay so maybe my idea for these madeleines wasn’t really genius, but either way I had to act on it immediately. I had just gotten inspired by flipping through the book Madeleines: Elegant Tea Cakes to Bake & Share by Barbara Feldman Morse.

In the book, there are recipes for both sweet & savory madeleines, as well as ones with fruit & nut and other unexpected varieties. I was sent the book to review back in October, but then I got sick, so I kind of put it back on the shelf (literally). But I saw it on my shelf and decided to get crackin’ on something delicious.

Savory cheddar, dill and onion madeleine recipe!

This recipe is not in the book; instead its an adaptation of one of the recipes plus ideas from my head and from another recipe in the book. I wanted to make a savory madeleine, one that you could eat with soup or as a snack. And one of my favorite types of biscuit or scone is a cheddar/dill kind. Jay always has fresh dill around- he not only makes homemade chicken soup from scratch, but also likes to eat it on sandwiches (seriously). And the onion? Well I just thought that it’d be a great addition.

And as far as the book goes… it’s great. While I didn’t use an exact recipe from it this time, I’m sure I will be in the future. A lot.

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Ail je ne sais quoi; or “garlic I don’t know what.”

French pickled garlic with herbes de provence.

Garlic. The most potent flavor packed into the teeniest package nature could possibly create.

It’s amazing isn’t it? The things you can do with garlic. The possibilities are endless. Roast it, sauté it, bake it, slice it, crush it, mince it, puree it, whatever it. Clearly, the only thing I can’t do with garlic is write a decent blog post about it. No, really. I have no idea what to write about this. True story.

Usually I just blabber so much I have to stop myself before I write a novel, but for this post- nothin’. Its not that I have something against garlic- I don’t, I love garlic. But I just really have no idea what to say. So with that in mind… I’ll just make up a story. Pretend you’re at your summer house in Provence. Yeah, that Provence (in France). It’s a warm summer day & you’re hosting an outdoor dinner party this evening.

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Pseudo-Dutch potato salad.

It just so happens, I am part Dutch. Not Pennsylvania Dutch, just Dutch. From the Netherlands. Land of the wooden shoes. I’m many things actually- but yes, Dutch is one of them. However I’m not a big fan of potato salad (Dutch or otherwise). I come from a family who LOVES all kinds of mayonnaise-dressed carbohydrate salads; macaroni, potato, etc. And coleslaw too. I did not inherit the love.

But ’tis the season to have barbecues, picnics and eat outside in general. And those usually include a type of salad; be it made with lettuces & greens or potatoes, macaroni or eggs.

Pseudo-Dutch potato salad.

I used farm fresh eggs from Queens County Farm. Obviously, any eggs will do. But just in case you were wondering where I got the blue egg, that should explain it. *wink*

A few of the farm eggs were on the small side, so I made an extra few. If you’re using regular store-bought large eggs, use only 5. For me, the farm fresh unpasteurized eggs seem to boil quicker, maybe because they’re sizes are so varied its hard to figure out the exact timing for boiling a bunch but I always end up with a bit of a darker circle around the yolk when using them. It’s harmless (it’s just ferrous sulfide) so it doesn’t bother me.

Easy pseudo-Dutch potato salad with hardboiled eggs, pickles & optional bacon.

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Garden vegetable quick pickles.

It’s nearing the end of a quiet, still, warm summer day. Its just about 5 p.m. The birds are still chirping, and it’s still light out, but the light is diffused; not so strong as it was just two or three hours ago. Everyone is just getting home from work or the beach, and kids are just pulling up on their bikes after a day out with friends.

And me? Well, I decide to make pickles.

What can I say… it cures what ails me. If I’m stressed or worried or angry, making something helps. When my Nana passed away I basically spent the whole summer pickling. It just kind of helped with the anxiety & grief. Same goes for that weird unsettled feeling. And it just so happens sometimes on really nice summer days… I get unsettled.

Who knows why. Either way, there’s pickles.

Garden vegetable quick pickles- no canning!

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Garden’s last hurrah: nectarine basil preserves (+ a salsa).

It’s September, and the weather is changing. My little herb garden is still growing, but it’s struggling. I know it’s short-lived: the temperatures are dipping down into the 50’s at night, and they’re starting to show the signs that it’s too cold for them. So I’m using every last bit that I can. Making sauces & throwing in extra basil, making cilantro rice, and making rosemary-herbed chicken. Because before I know it, I’ll be drying them all for use over the winter.

When I was a kid, this time of year used to depress me. Back at school for weeks already, time in the pool getting cut drastically short (or disappearing altogether), the weather changing, etc. As an adult I find it doesn’t anymore… sure, I miss the summer. But after long, swelteringly hot days where my face feels like it’s melting off, I look forward to the coolness of the fall. The quietness. The changing leaves. The awesome fall TV lineup. The ability to bake a cake & not have it be too hot to breathe or have the frosting form nothing but a sad, pathetic puddle of sugary mush.

I definitely always miss my garden once the fall weather moves in. Using dried herbs just isn’t the same. And I miss all the fresh produce, too.

But right now… it’s still just warm enough, and it’s all still fresh.

Beautiful, fresh Washington State nectarines.I mean, come on… really now… they’re insanely beautiful!

I made the following recipes after receiving a second massive box from the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission. You might remember that the last time it was a huge box of beautiful peaches. This time, it was half ‘Sweet Dream’ peaches, half ‘Honey Royale’ nectarines (shown above); grown in an orchard right outside Yakima, Washington. They were so stunningly picture perfect, I couldn’t help but snap some photos before they were gobbled up. The nectarines were so big & perfect they almost looked like apples! Just gorgeous. I swear, I have never seen such beautiful fruit before. Not even at farmer’s markets, or gourmet food stores. The fruits I’ve received from them have been some of the best produce I’ve ever had.

So of course, after I took photos… a few of them got eaten fresh. And my parents took some. Gave a few to lucky neighbors.

And the piles of fruit that were left were all for me to play around with!

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A fairy tale of eggplant proportions.

Magical trees.

Funny thing, memories are. When I was a wee little tot, there was a tulip tree on my property that had a hole in the bottom. It was one of the original trees from when the house was built, so by the time I was a kid it was already not only over 30-something years old, but massive. Right where the trunk met the grass, the roots grew in such a way that made it look like there was a doorway leading into the tree. A little cave, or “fairy house.” It intrigued me so much, that little door. I used to imagine that little creatures lived in there, and had a whole little tree house with furniture made of twigs & carpets made of woven grass. Maybe fairies, maybe gnomes, maybe even mice or squirrels. Preferably the kind that wear little vests & glasses.

Sadly, I grew up… & the tree was removed because it got too big.

Keeping that in mind, think of what went through my mind when I saw this recipe for “Pickled fairy tale eggplant” over at Food in Jars. It immediately conjured up images of fairies & that little door in the tree. It brought back memories that had absolutely nothing to do with eggplant. So of course, I had to make it. However- I do not like eggplant. In the past, I’ve made things like melanzane sott’olio & passed ’em along to my mother. So I figured why not do that again… who could turn down a pretty pinkish jar of something called fairy tale eggplant?

(I know, I’ve been stalking Food in Jars lately. I can’t help it)

Sicilian eggplant. Close enough to "fairy tale" eggplant for a jar of pickles, right?

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