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Recipe: Cooking with fresh herbs

By Suzanne Martinson, Post-Gazette Food Editor

EGGS SCRAMBLED WITH SAGE EXTRACT
This is based on a very old recipe of the Veneto and is simple enough. Fresh sage leaves are pounded or minced to render an extract that is used to flavor scrambled eggs. The combination of eggs and sage is very pleasing.

  • 1/4 cup packed fresh sage leaves, finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons boiling water
  • 7 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a teacup, combine the sage and boiling water and let steep for about 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend on high speed for about 15 seconds. Pass the liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel. Squeeze the cloth to extract as much juice as you can. Measure out 2 teaspoons of the sage extract to add to the eggs.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, cheese, salt, and the 2 teaspoons of sage extract.

In an ample skillet, warm the butter over medium heat until it is melted and hot but not brown. Immediately pour the egg mixture into the pan. With a wooden spoon, begin to mix the eggs after they have just set, as for scrambled eggs. Continue to mix the eggs until they are evenly and lightly cooked. Take care not to overcook them.

Turn the eggs out immediately onto a warmed plate and serve at once. Serves 4.

"Veneto" by Julia Della Croce

BITE-SIZE CHEDDAR AND CHIVE GOUGERES

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives (or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh
  • English thyme)
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar or Gruyere cheese (2 ounces)

Dough: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the water, salt and butter into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the flour all at once, and beat vigorously with a sturdy wire whisk, still over heat. It will form a very firm mass of dough that should pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat. Crack an egg into a small cup. Pour the egg into the saucepan and immediately beat it into the dough using the whisk or a handheld electric mixer. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs, incorporating each one thoroughly before adding another. The mixture will be satiny and sticky and have a consistency between soft dough and thick batter. Stir in the chives and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Forming and baking: Line 2 baking pans with parchment paper. Using 2 flatware teaspoons, drop balls of dough (each measuring 1 teaspoon in volume) in rows on the paper, allow 1 inch of space between them for spreading. Or use a pastry bag with a large plain tip and pipe the dough in 1/2-inch mounds. Place a pinch of the remaining cheese on top of each gougere. (At this point you can cover the pans tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours.) Bake the gougeres until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve while still warm.

Note: Once the dough is formed, you can put the baking sheets in the freezer until the little mounds are solid, then transfer them to resealable freezer bags. When you want to bake a batch, transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes about 72.

"The Herbfarm Cookbook" by Jerry Traunfeld

THREE-PEPPER OREGANO PIZZA

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 recipe pizza dough (or use premade crust)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heatoil in medium skillet. Saute bell peppers until tender-crisp. Season with oregano and salt. Line pizza pan with pizza dough; sprinkle with half the cheese. Spoon pepper mixture evenly over cheese.

Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Makes 6 servings.

"Along the Garden Path" with Bill and Sylvia Varney of Fredericksburg Herb Farm

ROSEMARY WALNUTS
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

2 tablespoons very finely minced fresh rosemary

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

2 cups walnut halves

Combine butter, rosemary, salt and cayenne in foil-lined jellyroll pan. Bake at 400 degrees until butter melts; remove from oven. Add walnuts; toss to coat. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes or until walnuts are lightly toasted, stirring at 3-minute intervals. Cool slightly before serving. Store in airtight container.

Yields 2 cups.

"Along the Garden Path" with Bill and Sylvia Varney of Fredericksburg Herb Farm

LEMON BASIL COOKIES

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 box lemon cake mix
  • 1 1/4 cups golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil (see substitutions note)

Cream butter, cream cheese (we used lower-fat cream cheese), egg yolk and lemon juice (next time we'll use 1 tablespoon) until well blended and fluffy. Blend in cake mix, 1/3 at a time, mixing last portion by hand. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Drop by level tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet. If smaller cookies are desired, use a smaller amount. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes or until lightly browned.

Substitutions: When substituting fresh herbs for dried, triple the amount. In this case, use 3 tablespoons fresh basil.

Note: For bar cookies, spread dough into a 9-by-13-inch pan.

"The Herbal Palate" by Herbal Thymes Club

Sunday, September 14, 2003

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