Showing posts with label herbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label herbs. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Georgia Caprese Salad

The classic triumvirate of tomato, basil and mozzarella is nothing short of divine. I can just imagine Michelangelo snacking on this delicacy whilst carving the David statue. The salad is such a quintessential, Italian dish yet it has become a major part of the American summer menu – especially with the resurgence of heirloom tomato growing! My Caprese Panzanella from Dinner on the Grounds evokes the freshness of the Caprese salad with the all too fabulousness of hunky bread cubes toasted to perfection so they can soak up the vinegary sauce. I digress… that salad is fit for another post!

My Georgia Caprese Salad has a fun origin and pays homage to the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention.” The necessity of mention was supper. A light summer supper for yours truly alone. I was hot. I was tired. I did not want to cook – the thought of being around more heat was as tempting as repeatedly running into the back porch screen – head first mind you – like the bumble bee was doing. My family was scattered with other activities, travel or who knows what and Ol’ Jimmy was home alone – and hungry!

Not only was the thought of cooking with heat unappealing, the thought of eating something hot was equally unappetizing. Enter the “necessity… invention” moment. I rummaged through the fridge and saw I had a block of Pepper Jack cheese from M&T. I said to myself, “Self, you can at least have cheese and crackers.” Then I got to thinking – a dangerous pastime. 

There was a basket of peaches on the island awaiting my attention. I had a mess of basil in a Mason jar on the windowsill and a Caprese Salad  - a GEORGIA Caprese Salad began running wild in my mind. “Could it work? Will it be good?” spun around my head and the next thing I knew, I had sliced that peach open, layered a slither of the Pepper Jack cheese with a basil leaf atop the peachy wedge and was eating like the Prodigal Son on the fattened calf. As fresh and delicious as it was, it needed something. The creaminess of the soft cheese with a little peppery heat was marvelous with the tangy sweetness of the peach. The basil gave that green zing and herby wow-factor only fresh herbs can do but there was something still lacking. It needed a vinegary bite but with a hint of sweetness. Lucky for me, I had a jar of balsamic vinegar that I had reduced for my balsamic barbeque sauce – oooh…another post idea! Drip, drip, drip – drizzle, drizzle, drizzle – dunk! That was just what it needed!

The intensified sweetness of the balsamic reduction was syrupy in viscosity and just the right sweet with a vinegary tang. So after making a pig’s ear mess at first, I thought that I should try again and make it pretty. And then, I had to coin it for sure as a truly Georgian dish – Georgia-grown peaches, Georgia-made cheese, my Georgia-garden-grown basil with a balsamic glaze made right in my kitchen… Italy helped with the origination of the vinegar proper! As Mimi said, “we eat with our eyes first…” thus, I had to make it visually pleasing. This part was not difficult mind you – a peach is, well, pretty as a peach on its own! So here it is y’all, my Georgia Caprese Salad!

Georgia Caprese Salad
Photography by Helen Norman

1 peach
lemon juice
4 small, think slices pepper Jack cheese
4-6 large basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar*

*Reducing the balsamic vinegar on the stove over medium heat intensifies the flavor and thickens the vinegar too.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Video: Mint Juleps

So with mint growing wild in the summer garden, why not use it for a drink or two? Mint juleps and mojitos are my go to Southern summer drinks. I love to collect julep cups and relish in the cold silver in my hands on a hot summer day. As for mojitos, well, this south of the border flavor is perfect for a south of the Mason/Dixon line too!

A big shout out of thanks to my friends at Onward Reserve for hosting this Farmer (and outfitting too!!!) for this segment. It sure is handy to have friends whose store has a bar too!

I hope your summertime has been filled with fantastic flavors like mint. It is easy to grow, delicious in salads and the perfect drink all summer long! From this Farmer’s garden and table, enjoy ya’ll!

Athens- Part 3 from Dynes Media on Vimeo.

Monday, August 19, 2013

More of the Farmer to Table Series: Peach and Goat Cheese Salad

This is my go to summer salad, y'all! I loved making it with my pal Gena Knox, and I enjoyed this dish all summer long! It's delicious mixed with white peaches and any other peach for that matter, and this dish dresses up for fall and winter with pears or citrus or pecans in lieu of peaches! Enjoy!!

Athens- Part 2 from Dynes Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

From the Farmer's Table: Southern Classic Recipes with a Garden Twist {VIDEO}

These recipes will carry you across what I like to call the Southern Social gamut: wedding showers, baby showers, luncheons, Garden Clubs, you name it. Starting with a fresh herb dip, I'll walk you through simple Southern finger foods that bring the garden into any event! For recipes, click here. Bon appetit, y'all!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter Herbs: Take Home Favors with Farmer Style {VIDEO}

This new video is all about bringing the garden to the table, y'all. I'll show you how to put together some simple take-home favors for your dinner guests using winter herbs. From this Farmer's garden to yours!

Special thanks to Room Eleven Media for producing this video.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Herbal Ice Cubes and Sparkling Water

It is often the simplest of gestures in life that make for elegant entertaining. With amazing refrigerators and ice machines galore in our homes, the old fashioned method of freezing water in ice trays has almost gone to the wayside. I keep some of those ice trays around for to make herbal ice cubes for drinks. My friends and family are always glad to have a treat in their ice and the presentation is both memorable and aesthetically pleasing.

The crisp shapes and forms of the lovely aromatic leaves bound in ice is the perfect accouterment to sparkling mineral water. Whenever I travel outside the country, I love being asked by the servers if I’d like water “with gas” or “no gas”  and this drink reminds me of those travels.

As the ice melts in the sparkling water, the herb leaves release their essence and the scents , bouquets, and flavors meld with the fizz for beverage of pure delight and refreshment. Flavor with a syrup or citrus but trust me, this clean tasting drink is fine on its own.

Fill an ice cube tray with a leaf or two of your favorite herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, basil, and mint, and then cover with water. Place in the freezer until frozen and use for sparkling water or any drink for that matter.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Herban Gardening Part II: Bouquet Garni

The French term for a bundle of herbs used in cooking, a bouquet garni is the perfect complement to any meal, and should have its place in your kitchen. Nothing beats the flavor of fresh herbs in a dish and what better place to gather these herbs than your very own garden. Take it from this Farmer, a bouquet garni prepared from the garden and waiting to flavor your meals is definitely the vehicle to a garden living lifestyle.

Gathering a few herbs from the garden and arranging them in a jelly jar or simple container makes the kitchen prettier and smell good as well. Since my stems of rosemary, thyme, and basil are literally at hand, all I have to do is snip or pluck or pick the leaves I need and my dishes become infused with the essence of the garden.

Since I know my palette and the flavors I like to use, I keep bundles of said flavors close by for convenience and aesthetics as well. When making a stew or boiling water for pasta, having access to these bundles of herbs makes my kitchen prep time a breeze. I love the savory smell, taste, and flavor of rosemary, thyme, and oregano in my pasta and beef dishes as well; so when I know I’m going to cook one of these meals, I like to have the bouquet garni on call and ready for action. A bundle of sage and bay will wake up a chicken dish or soup in an instant, layering the dish with richness and freshness. What better place to collect these herbs than from your own garden and kitchen counter! Besides, the stems will root after a few days in water, so transplant your new herb plants back to the garden or share with friends…a bouquet garni makes a lovely hostess gift or housewarming token.

Often, a bouquet garni is tied with some kitchen twine and immersed into the stock or stew and fished out once the dish is ready for serving. The bouquet may also be bound, simply bagged into cheesecloth or a tea strainer and removed before consumption. Vegetable shavings or julienned pieces of veggies are often placed within a bouquet garni, such as leeks and carrots, to flavor a chicken stock. One of my favorite bouquets consist of thyme, parsley, and lemon peel – this combo fares well with poultry, pasta, and pizza and is a staple in this Farmer’s garden and kitchen.

In mentioning one of my favorite bouquets, note that there is no true recipe for a bouquet garni…the cook’s palette is the way to determine the bouquet’s constitution. Parsley, thyme, and bay leaves are traditionally used in bouquet garni and rightly so, for these flavors blend very well and create a wonderful base layer of flavor to expand upon. Next time you are making a pasta dish or chicken stock, throw in some of these herbs and liven up your dish and awaken your palette. You can even toss some thyme leaves into pizza dough or on toasted bread to coordinate the flavors throughout the meal.

Of course, this Farmer has to have his Southern twist on gardening and cooking and a bouquet garni is of no exception. I like to keep a bouquet of mint close by to flavor and garnish tea… sprigs of ‘Kentucky Colonel’ or ‘Spearmint’ just waiting in a julep cup like pretty maids in a row! This is my kind of bouquet garni… Southern style for Southern style!

Sometimes I’ll throw a bundle of mint into the boiling water or infuse the simple syrup with the leaves. Garnishing a glass of tea with mint is perfectly elegant, but this dose of the garden is not only aesthetically pleasing, but aromatic as well. And since so much of our taste is derived from the olfactory sense, the smell of the mint as you are sipping your tea is just a part of the whole experience. We eat, and drink, with our eyes first so why not drink from a pretty glass of tea?

Take it from this Farmer, a bouquet garni is a welcomed addition to the kitchen counter as well as your dishes’ flavor. Discover you flavor palette, plant your herbs accordingly, and keep a bouquet garni on hand for a dose of garden living. From this Farmer’s garden and kitchen…enjoy!

Herban Gardening Part I

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Herban Gardening

This begins a series of posts on Herban Gardening…growing herbs, cooking with herbs, and even decorating with herbs. In short, let’s develop a dialogue between your herbs and your kitchen, and thus your life.

I love herbs. I grow them, I cook with them, I eat them and sometimes just smell them for instant links to memories and tastes. Growing up in Hawkinsville as a child, our farm provided space a plenty for me to dabble in herb cultivation. It was there, on our farm, that I first learned what organic gardening was, though I did not know my “organic gardening” was “organic gardening.” I knew our cows ate our grass, drank our spring water, and breathed our surrounding air. So, I knew, somewhat instinctively, that their manure was just good… basic, natural fertilizer – the byproduct of the cows’ natural digestion. What better fertilizer, compost amendment, and soil conditioner could there be?

But what truly struck me was the saying, “you are what you eat.” Since my cows were eating our natural grass, I knew their manure was safe. Same theory went for their meat and milk. Of course, I composted the manure and thoroughly washed the produced, but that simple, basic cycle of good things in, good things out stuck with me and I still believe it today. Those tomatoes, melons, herbs, squash, cucumbers, peppers, and corn were just amazing, and nothing beats a farm fresh produce basket!

As with my Herban Gardening today, I firmly believe in “you are what you eat” moxie. Whether I’m planting herbs grown by a grower I know or starting from seed, I know what is on and in my herbs, thus I know what will be on and in my kitchen, plate, and tummy! So with this in mind, let’s discuss a few of the gardening basics when it comes to growing herbs.

  • Light and water…lots of light but not too much water. Herbs prefer a well-drained soil, which means not a soggy, soupy, mushy growing medium. Water thoroughly and often, but be sure your herbs have enough time to soak up the water you give them each time, developing healthy, deep roots. In the heat of the summer, water in the morning and again if your basil begins to look peaked. Wider leafed herbs such as basil, mint, salvias, and sage will show wilting more so than little leaf thyme and rosemary.
  • Pinching and pruning…the green new growth is definitely the freshest, so pinch off new shoots for cooking and arranging. The woody stems of rosemary and thyme can be used for BBQ skewers, stew flavorings, and bouquet garni. The flavor, essence, and oils are in the leaves, so use them for your culinary creations. Basil and oregano make lovely bolts of flowers that I love to use in arrangements. Allowing your herbs to bloom does make them focus their energy on flower and seed production, rather than foliage…pinch off flowers for arrangements and allow new shoots of leaves to sprout.
  • Companion plantings…thyme, rosemary, and the like, can take hot, dry weather better than the others, thus they make good companions in the garden or container. Mint is very aggressive, so keep it in a pot or let it have its own plot in the garden. It will take over. By grouping herbs that need the same or similar water and light requirements, you will be able to provide your herbs with a more uniform care regimen.
  • Plan for your palette…I grow the herbs I like to eat. I like some better than others, thus more of those. Think also on the different varieties of herbs that abound i.e. Chocolate Mint, Orange Mint, Margarita Mint, Kentucky Colonel Mint – each one a mint, but distinctively different flavors nonetheless. If you cook with a more savory palette, have a heavier garden plot of savory herbs. Plan and plant for your palette, and you’ll be more than thrilled to incorporate your specific herbs into your menu.

I hope you discover your favorite herbs and combos of flavor to bring in from the garden. A lifestyle of garden living is an enriched way of life – complete with the fruits of your labor and tastes of your very own garden. Stay tuned for specifics on several herbs in particular coming soon, from this Farmer’s garden to yours!

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