Gazette Gardener: Herbs, edible flowers can spruce up Labor Day barbecue
Chances are there’s a barbecue in your plans for Labor Day weekend. And I’ve got some recipes to share that use the herbs from your garden.
Let’s start with a refreshing drink: rosemary lemonade.
5 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice
Make a simple syrup by adding sugar to half the water in a saucepan and letting it boil for a few minutes. All the sugar will dissolve. Add the rosemary, turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool completely. Pour the liquid through a sieve and into a glass pitcher. Add the rest of the water and the lemon juice. If you want, you could add a little vodka at this point. Stir well and serve over ice. Garnish with sprig of rosemary.
It is worth experimenting with herbal lemonades. The basic recipe remains the same, just change the herb you use. I can’t keep enough basil lemonade around on a hot day. Everyone comments on how thirst-quenching it is. I follow the recipe above, substituting a cup of basil leaves for the rosemary, You could also try lemon balm or mint.
If you really want to dress up a drink, freeze some edible flowers such as borage or rose petals in your ice cubes. Other edible flowers you may have growing are chamomile and bee balm. Of course, never use anything that has been sprayed with pesticides or fungicides.
Suppose you are serving something hot and spicy for dinner and want to soothe the palate by offering a cool vegetable side dish. How does Chive Blossom and Tomato Sorbet sound? This recipe came from herbalist Jim Long’s book of “Fabulous Herb and Flower Sorbets.”
8 ripe tomatoes, cut up
1 tablespoon chopped sweet bell pepper
6 fresh chive blossoms (or 3 to 5 tablespoons fresh chive leaves, chopped fine)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and puree until very smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend together. Strain through sieve, pressing to get all the juice out. Discard solids. Chill liquid for 2 hours, then freeze in an ice cream maker.
Another nice way to use the herbs we grow is in biscuit and butter recipes.
Because of food allergies in my family, I bake biscuits from scratch all the time. This recipe is a family favorite and was taught to me in the 1970s by a friend who worked at the Irish House in Loon Lake, Franklin County, in the Adirondacks. Thus, I have always called these “Ruth’s Biscuits.”
2 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter cut into small pieces
3⁄4 to 1 cup whole milk or light cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add cold butter and mix until butter is the size of little peas. Add milk a little at a time, mixing until dough holds together. Don’t overmix. Turn out on slightly floured board and briefly knead. Roll 1⁄2 inch thick and cut your biscuits using the rim of a glass. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Makes 12 biscuits.
To this basic recipe, I have added a teaspoon of thyme, parsley or rosemary depending on what I am serving as the main course.
If I’m cooking pork, the herbs I would consider are dill, rosemary, sage, fennel, savory or thyme.
Rosemary is especially good with chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews and tomatoes.
Tarragon is tasty with chicken, eggs or fish.
And thyme goes well with eggs, potatoes, poultry, summer squash and tomatoes.
If you want to create Ruth’s Biscuits without herbs, you can always add herbs to butter that can be slathered on the biscuits or on corn on the cob.
To make herb butter, you’ll need:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs
A pinch of salt
To the softened butter, add the herbs. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Then place the softened herb butter onto a piece of waxed paper and roll it into a log that will fit nicely onto a your butter dish.
The butter log goes into the refrigerator to firm until dinner is served. I like the log because it looks nice and guests can slice off a pat.
I have made herb butters with mint, parsley, basil or oregano. For corn on the cob, try a basil or cilantro butter.
One of the reasons I garden is to be able to use the things I grow in the foods I enjoy.
I hope you enjoy them, too. If you have a way of using herbs that you would like to share, e-mail the recipe to me. I would love to try it.