Saturday, March 5, 2016

Herbs for Change

Herbs and spices are a way to add interest, flavor and nutrition to your diet.  Changing your relationship with food should be an adventure, after all, this is becoming a permanent change.  For some, change can be overwhelming, so let's keep it simple.  For the adventuresome, it's time to start experimenting.

We will start with basic culinary herbs.  Basil is an all time favorite.  If you have access to a health food or natural food store, you can purchase dry herbs in bulk.  These herbs will be more flavorful and cost less than the bottled selections at the market and you can purchase the amounts you need, always keeping your dried herbs fresh.  But again, we start where we are and bottled herbs and spices from the market is a good place to start.  This is the way I started many years ago and I loved the pretty bottles, so I saved them and they came in quite handy for storing the herbs as I begin buying them from the bulk section of the co-op where I shopped.

Now back to basil.  You can also grow basil, even if you are a city dweller with limited space. Find a window sill with good light and basil has found a home.  Most supermarkets carry potted herbs, so give it a try.  They may also carry small bags of potting soil and pots in the flower section so you can repot your herb as it grows, check it out.  One thing about basil, the more you use the better it grows,  so go ahead and snip what you need and then watch the new growth start.  It is this way with herbs, they love to share their wonderful flavor with us humans.  You an can also add oregano and thyme, now you have extra tasty spaghetti, pastas and salads, plus the pleasure of using fresh, live herbs.

If growing herbs is not for you, the produce section also has fresh herbs, some are prepackaged and some are  in bunches.  You have lots of choices when it comes to herbs, just pick the one or ones that best suit the way you prepare your meals.  Personally, I like having dried herbs on hand, in case I'm in between growing seasons and haven't been to the market to pick up a fresh stash.

A few foods that pair well with basil are tomatoes, potatoes, salads, shellfish and poultry. The recipe for this week is Pesto.  It is versatile and can be used in several ways.


Pesto may be added to soups and stews as is.  It may also be blended with milk, cream or wine to make a sauce for pasta, fish, chicken or fresh vegetables.

Basic Recipe
   1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh or frozen herb leaves*
   2 large cloves garlic
   1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
   2 teaspoons freshly grated Romano cheese
   1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine herbs, garlic and cheeses in a food processor.  Turn on the processor and slowly add oil and nuts.  Blend until a paste is formed . Season to taste. Pour into a glass container with 1/4 inch skim of plain oil (or olive oil) on top and cover tightly.  Store in refrigerator.

You can leave out the cheese and garlic and freeze the  pesto in serving-size portions (spoon it into ice cube trays, freeze, remove promptly and permanently store them in tightly sealed freezer containers)  add cheeses and garlic when ready to use.

*Use any one of the following quantities and combinations
Option 1:  2 cups basil
Option 2:  1 cup basil and 1 cup watercress
Other options: 1/2 cup oregano (savory, sage, tarragon or thyme) and 1 1/2 cups parsley.

Recipe taken from the publication:

Herbs    A guide to Growing, Cooking and Decorating
    Contributing Writer:  Carol Landa Christensen
    Consultant:  Kathi Kerville
    Projects Coordinator:  Don Newcomb
by Publication  International, LTD

Next time we will look at paring basic culinary herbs with foods and the health giving values of these wonderful and tasty herbs.

Herbs to your health from the
Black Wal-nuts.