Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Herbs in Winter Continued - and Recipes!

Winter savory - a bit freeze dried, but still good!
We had our typical January thaw a bit early this year, so instead of a nice six inches of snow, we're back to bare ground.  Sigh.  Snow = mulch!  We also have made the decision to swap the bedrooms so (at last!) I'll have a south and a southeast window to grow things!  And I can still raid my mother-in-laws greenhouse.  She planted pots and pots of herbs this year for winter cooking and I've lost count of how many varieties of basil she's growing. I also noticed that the packaged fresh herbs in our little local produce stand were only a couple of bucks.

At any rate, I can now get at the winter and summer savory plants which are pretty much evergreen. Savory is a woodsy, piney, spicy herb similar to thyme and marjoram and is perennial.  We'll use it in soups, stews, shepherd's pie, and anything that lends itself to a richer flavor.  I've even tossed summer savory into pasta salads.  We've found that you can dress up almost anything with a bit of fresh herbs, especially things like bottled pasta sauce and frozen pizza.  Be fearless!  Fresh herbs can really brighten your meals.

Easy Pasta Sauce

1 Tblsp olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the sauce pan)
1 - 2 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 small onion chopped
1 large tomato chopped OR 1 can of chopped tomato
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs - parsley, rosemary, savory, or basil
1 jar of bottled tomato pasta sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of the sauce pan with olive oil and allow to heat so that you can see ripples in the oil.  Add onion and allow to cook until softened.  Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add tomato, wine, and herbs (unless you're using basil, hold on to that one).  Allow to cook down until about half the amount you started with.  This concentrates your flavors and reduces the water content.  Add bottled sauce and stir.  I like to rinse out the last of the sauce in the jar with additional red wine.  Simmer for about 10 minutes for flavors to meld.  Add basil just before serving.

If you are growing fresh basil on your windowsill, here's a summer favorite to try on those single digit days. It makes a large batch, perfect for entertaining.

Summer Bruschetta

4 tomatoes, diced
¼ red onion, diced
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup mozzarella, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Blanch garlic clove by pouring boiling water over it and letting it steep for 30 seconds before plunging it into cold water. Often, placing it on a skewer works well. This reduces the sharpness of the flavor. Dice tomatoes, onion, and mozzarella to a similar size. Combine all ingredients, and toss with the olive oil and vinegar. Serve on sliced toasted bread. Alternately, you may choose to add sprigs of basil over the tomato mixture just before serving.

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