Herb-an Studies: Experiments with Rosemary and Thyme
I recently bought fresh rosemary and thyme to season some vegetables I was roasting. Typically I just settle for the dry variety since these are “second-tier” herbs for me. Needless to say, I had plenty to spare once the dish was done.
One of my nasty habits is buying things I only need for one dish and then forgetting about them until they’ve gone bad and I have to throw them away. Determined not to let the leftover herbs go to waste, I decided to experiment with a series of recipes that would use them up (or at least make a dent) while they remained fresh. To up the ante, I vowed to accomplish this using only ingredients I already had in hand.
Here’s what I came up with.
Roasted summer vegetables
This was the dish that started it all. I diced a fresh Lebanese White Bush Marrow Squash that my generous neighbors gave me from their garden, along with 2 large carrots, a small zucchini and 2 red bell peppers. I used about 1/3-1/2 of a small red onion sliced thin and halved to form small strips. And I cut about 20 grape tomatoes in half. I tossed it all into a large bowl and massaged light olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) to coat everything, then spread it all out on two baking sheets. I combined rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and ground it all up with my mortar and pestle. (I didn’t measure here but guessing I went through about 4-5 tablespoons between the two sheets.) I then grated parmesan across both sheets and roasted one sheet at a time for 12 minutes at 400°.
RESULT: The variety of vegetables gave a lot of great textures and the taste was nicely complemented by wild rice. Overall, the meal was filling, but light.
I found a great recipe online that pretty much nailed it, down to disliking the shape bread bakes into using a bread machine pan. I used the machine to mix the dough: pouring 1 1/4 cups warm water in first, then 3 cups bread flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons dry milk, 1 tbsp each of rosemary and thyme chopped really fine, 2 cloves of garlic, and finally 2 1/4 tsp. dried yeast. I totally spaced it and forgot the 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp salt. So after the dough was mixed and rose, I just coated my hands in the butter to transfer it to the pan. Ghetto, I know… Also the dough was sooooo very sticky, I also added a little bread flour just to make it manageable as I transferred it to the bread pan. I brushed some more butter on top just to be sure, then I set the oven to 375° and baked for 30 minutes (until golden brown).
RESULT: A tasty bread, especially with (even more) butter spread over it. Not a sweet snack bread, per se, but great as part of a meal. My choice was angel hair pasta with chunky red sauce.
I heated 2 tbsp olive oil and sautéd 1 cup diced onion and 2 cloves minced garlic in sauce pan over medium heat until translucent and just starting to brown. I then stirred in 3/4 cup quinoa and toasted for a few minutes. I poured in 1 1/2 cup vegetable stock and increased the heat to bring to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered until stock was absorbed (about 20 min.). After a quick stir, I added 1/2 cup or so frozen peas, 1 tbsp each of chopped fresh rosemary and thyme, 1/2 tsp red pepper and 1 tsp kosher salt. I gave it a quick cook uncovered on low for another 2 minutes, then served.
RESULT: Those red pepper flakes really put some kick into this (and guarantee that Taran won’t touch it). A lot of quinoa recipes I’ve tried have been somewhat bland, but this one really had character and filled me right up at lunch.
Salted Rosemary Chocolate Cookies
For this one, I followed — to the letter — a recipe I found on a blog called The Fresh Sheet. Mine spread a little more than the ones pictured on that blog, but they taste wonderful. Per the recipe, I whisked together in one bowl 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli), 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Then setting my standup mixer to medium, I creamed 1 cup butter (I brought it to room temp, then cut it into cubes first), 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark), and 2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary. Once the mix was nice and creamy, I set the mixer down to low speed and added one egg, and then the other when the first was completely blended. Next I added 2 tsp vanilla, then 1 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Nestle). I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and then the recipe says to roll 1 inch balls, but I found the mixture too goopy, so I carefully spooned instead. Dipping a glass in the cocoa, I flattened each ball, then used McCormick’s sea salt grinder set to course to sprinkle on the top. I baked on 375° for 10 minutes and yielded 45 cookies.
RESULT: This is a weird cookie! It’s a little chewy, but with crunchy bits from the salt, making the texture one I’m not used to. I don’t typically go for all chocolate cookies (though I’m obsessed with chocolate, and dark chocolate in particular). This is definitely a sum of its parts kind of cookie. The tanginess of the rosemary is subtle and the super-chocolate is toned down by the refreshing sea salt hitting the tongue. Very rich, it’s not the kind of cookie I’ll binge on, which is a good thing!
Honey and Thyme Roasted Carrots
For a sweet side dish, I slightly adapted this member recipe from Jamie Oliver’s site. I cut 5 medium carrots (left over from the summer vegetables recipe) into 1 1/2″-2″ pieces (quartered) and spread them out in an 8×8 baking pan, I poured 1 tbsp olive oil and massaged it into all the carrots. Then I heated 1 tbsp honey for 30 seconds in the microwave to make it runny (probably could have gone for less time as it was bubbling by the time it beeped), then I added the juice from 2 small lemons to cool it down and stirred them together. I poured the lemon honey evenly over all the carrots, then sprinkled about 10 sprigs of thyme and finally used my salt and pepper grinders to spritz over the top. I cooked for 20 minutes at 400°, and upon tasting realized WHEW! a little too much lemon. So I sprinkled 1 tbsp dark brown sugar over everything, stirred things up, and put it back in for 10 minutes.
RESULT: Perfect! The extra time made the carrots a little more tender. The brown sugar undid the extra lemon juice. This is gonna be a tasty accompanying dish for veggie burgers or Taran’s meat entrees.