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Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

I’ve been a little distracted lately, so haven’t been posting very much.  A new quarter started so I’m teaching again, work is pretty busy and the rest of my time is taken up with caterpillar war.  The important things.

Because there’s been so much happening outside the kitchen, I’ve been throwing together old favorites and easy improvisations, none great enough to share.  I may have made another carrot cake.  Or two.  What?  Totally rich in beta carotene.  Don’t look at me like that.

The one accomplishment I’ve made in the kitchen this week is to put together single-serve meals for a friend who’s been under the weather.  Nothing says love like mini lasagnas, right?

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You can look here for the recipe.  Other than that this weekend, I’ve been taking a cue from Norman.  My position of choice at the moment looks a lot like this:

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Zzzzz….  See you on the flip side.

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You can already tell this one’s going to be good from the ingredients, right?  I might have considered the heat outside when crafting this meal, but it used up so many of our veggies, I couldn’t resist!

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Pot au feu is a term for a French boiled dinner (literally “pot in the fire” – brilliant summer dish, huh?), typically made with cheaper cuts of beef, various veggies, and lots of fresh herbs.  This version uses chicken.  Perhaps there’ll be a cold snap coming soon, when this recipe will come in handy for you.  After enjoying this dish while fanning myself, I’ve tucked the recipe away for a few months to warm up a cold winter’s night.

Chicken Pot au Feu

olive oil

small potatoes, such as fingerlings (or if you’ve got bigger ones, cut them into bite-sized uniform pieces)

about 1 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs – I chose basil, rosemary, thyme and garlic chives, all from the garden

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Preheat oven to 400° (maybe crack some windows, flip on a fan, change into a tank top).  Toss the potatoes with olive oil to coat, 1/2 of your herbs and salt and pepper to taste.  Roast the potatoes about 15 minutes, or until they’re tender to the touch.  Remove and set aside for later.  Turn off the oven!

Now for the stovetop portion of the evening:

olive oil

2 chicken breasts (this can easily be doubled for more servings of meat)

1 leek (white part only), cut into 1/2 inch slices

about 2 zucchini, quartered then halved to make sticks

about 2 carrots, quartered then halved to make sticks

1 cup small crimini mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water

4 cups swiss chard, stems removed and coarsely chopped

Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, and the other half of your choppped herbs.  Heat enough olive oil to coat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chicken breasts and sear 2 minutes on one side, then turn over.  Add the leek, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms and garlic and stir for about 1 minute until they too are seared.  Add the wine and cook until it is reduced by half.  Add the broth or water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (mine took about 12 minutes).  Move everything to one side of the pot and add the chard, letting it braise in the cooking liquid until wilted.  Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board and slice.

Serve in bowls, setting a bed of chard at the bottom.   Top chard with a few chicken slices and a heaping portion of vegetables (don’t forget your potatoes here).  Top it all off with a spoonful or two of the pan juices.  Think cool thoughts.

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A couple of weeks ago, on our first hot Saturday of the year, I met my friend Lynelle at an organized herb walk through Tecolote Canyon in San Diego.  It was fascinating to recognize the magnitude of plants that can be used for medicinal purposes growing all around us.  Since this day, my sight has opened up to more plants around me – on a recent bike ride, I discovered that my regular route is teeming with wild fennel!  I took some pictures and notes, but I make no guarantee as to their accuracy because I might have been a little heat-sensitive and loopy that day…

The first and probably most prolific herb we came across was horehound – our guide let us know that this can be used for a congested cough, and encouraged us to chew a bit of the leaf.  Ahem.  Not recommended.  Most of the herbs we munched were pretty bitter, in order to warn you to not ingest too much.  Plants are smart. 

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The next herb was wormwood, which, as its name suggests, is used to kill worms and parasites.  This stuff was everywhere!

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All in our community backyard, we kept strolling and came across salvia (black sage), monkey flower, golden yarrow, fennel, buckwheat, gooseberry, ragweed and the dream-inducing mugwort.  We headed down to a river bed, where the Cuyamaca Indians had gathered – they left behind some grinding stones:

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Down by the water, we saw burdock, plantain and this beautiful yerba mansa:

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I have to admit, this is about the time when I started to tune out.  I had gone on a hike earlier in the day, so when hour three started rolling around on the herb walk, I was less than charming.  I do remember seeing something called the lemonade berry tree, which sounded quite intriguing at the time!

I was tempted enough by my discoveries that I found this recipe from a master forager, and may have to give it a shot – watch out, wild fennel!

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