Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|FRENCH ONION FABULOUS| 01/02/2012

Filed under: Crockpot,GARLIC,Savory,Soups,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:32 pm

I love French Onion Soup. Love it. Of course I love the melted cheesy crouton on top (who doesn’t?)…but I love the savory flavor and sweet, soft onions too. A great cold weather dish…that is even easier in the crock pot. I’ve been wanting to try a crock pot version for a long time and I seized the opportunity today. Carpe diem for the new year!

Most FOS recipes call for beef broth which won’t fly with hubs so I modified the beef broth in the original recipe with chicken broth and worcestershire sauce. Combined with the tang of the balsamic vinegar, I didn’t miss the flavor of the beef broth at all. The finished soup was really rich and caramel colored.

4 thin-sliced onions (your eyes will water!)

Crockpot French Onion Soup
Makes a huge crock, probably 8 servings.

4 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tb of butter
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
2 Tb brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 Tb flour
8 oz of beer (I used Stella Artois because that’s what I had)
64 ounces of low-sodium chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon and made 8 cups of broth)
1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
1 Tb dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper

Garnish: baguette crostini or croutons + grated cheese (parm, cheddar, or swiss)

Set your crock pot on high and add the butter to melt, then add garlic, brown sugar, butter, salt and balsamic and mix until combined. Add onions and stir to coat the onions with the balsamic mixture.  Cover and let cook for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are a bit caramely and brown on the edges.

Balsamic coated onion love.

While the onions are softening, make your broth (if not using cartons) and add the Worchestershire sauce to the broth and set aside until ready to add to your soup. When the onions have softened after an hour add in flour, stir thoroughly, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add in beer, broth mixture, thyme, and pepper, then you have two options:

Option #1: turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 6-8 hours.

Option #2: keep the heat on high, cover and cook for 4 hours.

You can totally drink the rest of that beer!

[I opted for #2 since I wanted to have this for dinner.]

To serve, turn your broiler on low and ladle your soup into oven-safe bowls. Float your crostini or croutons on top of your steaming soup and cover with sliced or grated cheese of your choice. Broil for a few minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly.

And the end result is a really flavorful, delicious FOS that is good enough to make it, well, here. Even hubs cleaned his bowl (and that’s a huge compliment!). This soup will leave you French Onion Fabulous in less than 6 hours (including prep) so it’s a great option for a weekend meal.

[Cook often, and eat well!]

 

|C’MON IRENE!| 08/27/2011

Filed under: CILANTRO,PARSLEY,Picnic,ROSEMARY,SAGE,Savory,Soups,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 3:26 pm

Well, so far it’s a beautiful sunny day here…hard to believe that we’ve spent the majority of the afternoon preparing for Hurricane Irene. Hubs has pulled all of our deck furniture into the basement where we’ve piled it high with the things that we don’t want to get wet should the sump pump fail. {banish the thought} While he was busy preparing outside, I felt the need to contribute to the prep in the kitchen…

Just because you may not be able to use the oven (micro, toaster, or otherwise) doesn’t mean that the impending possibility of lost power means that you have to eat PB&J (though I’m not knocking a good PB&J). The trick is to make use of the power while you do have it! So while the chicken breasts were baking and the french baguette dough was in the bread machine, I tackled the mound of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers (thanks Lisa & Ken!) and other assorted vege and turned it into the perfect storm food- gazpacho! Think about it. You eat it cold, or even room temp, so if the power goes out there’s nothing to heat up. Serve it with some bread or crackers and you have the most delicious, and nutritious, easy meal. So here’s my version of a great summertime dish…

garden fresh tomatoes

Fresh from the garden tomatoes!

Hurricane Gazpacho

3 large fresh tomatoes, rough dice
1 roasted red pepper (I used jarred.)
1/2 large red onion, rough dice
1.5 Tb herbed vinegar (see below)
1 Tb evoo
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 small jalepeno
1 large garden cucumber
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried cilantro (all I had!)
4 turns of my pepper mill

I put all of this together in one batch in my blender and found that blending it in stages helped me to fit it all in so the recipe is broken into parts. It honestly doesn’t matter which sections you blend together, as long as you start with the tomato base. I started with the tomatoes through the evoo and blended. Then I added the garlic, lime, jalepeno and cuke. Last I just stirred in the seasoning and put it in my fridge to chill for at least one hour (though my plan is to have it when the storm rolls in tomorrow so I’m not going to dig in for at least 24 hours).

Now for some notes…I used dried cilantro instead of fresh because I’ve used up all of my fresh. While I love the bright flavor of |fresh herbs| I always have a pantry stocked with a ready supply of dried herbs. For a soup like this, I’d probably opt for fresh if I had it, but dried always works in a pinch.

Mom's herbed vinegar with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!

As for the vinegar I used, as I’ve posted before my mother is an herb enthusiast and she gave me this beautiful bottle of “Simon and Garfunkle” vinegar with |fresh herbs| floating in it…yup, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I’ve honestly been at a loss for how to use it (other than salad dressing of course) so added it to this recipe as I was creating it and it really does add some flavor. If you didn’t have an herbed vinegar on hand I’d opt for red wine vinegar.

The end result, dear readers, is a super easy, super nutritious, and super delicious summer recipe that works for storms, picnics, lunch at your desk, or a day at the beach. Gazpacho is a traditional Spanish dish which typically includes raw vegetables and bread. As you can see, I’ve omitted the bread in the recipe in favor of serving the soup with bread. It’s packed with vitamins and has an acidic bite that’s very refreshing in the summer. It’s also a great way to use up the pile of cukes and toms that your garden is spewing forth right about now. So while you still have electricity, plug in that blender! Cook often and eat well!

Hurricane Gazpacho!

 

 

|PIZZA FRIDAY: TOPPINGS| 06/29/2011

Filed under: BASIL,cheese,OREGANO,Pizza,Savory,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 8:52 pm

Well now, I’ve gone and given you pizza dough without anything to put on it! {hand slap} But before we get to that, a word about the right equipment. I can’t tell you how many times I spent the wee hours scraping blackened, sticky, gooey “piles of would-be-pizza” off my really lovely W-S pizza stone. Ah, the trials and tribulations of the home chef… My mother has always sworn by a well-oiled stone. Not for me. I always found the more I oiled, the more rancid the smell which permeated the kitchen/oven/other baked goods. [If you know that rancid smell of which I speak, and have a high quality stone, you can actually clean the stone quite well by running it through the self-cleaning oven cycle.  The super high temp bakes the crappies right out of the stone. Looks practically new!]

The best way I’ve found to get pizza on and off the stone is to actually assemble the pizza and cook it on tinfoil. I still get the crispy goodness that pizza crust is capable of without the mess and residue on my stone (plus you can wrap leftovers in the foil). The key is to heat the stone up with the oven. Putting cold dough on a cold stone then putting it in the hot oven just fuses the dough to the stone. THAT’S where I was going wrong all these years. You will need to use a peel (that paddle thing that pizzerias use to slide their pizzas in/out of their pizza ovens) to get your tinfoil/pizza combo onto the stone. I don’t have a peel so I use an air bake cookie sheet. Presto!

So rolling out your dough is key. Liberally flour a clean space on your counter, and dust your dough ball. Flatten the dough by hand into a thick disk (or square if you prefer) and then get out your rolling pin. The dough will have a tendency to shrink back into itself as you roll if it’s too cold, so make sure its close to room temp. Roll the dough out into your desired shape, flipping the dough to roll on both sides. Transfer to your peel lined with enough foil to cover your stone and fit your dough. And now, we top…

If I discover a really good recipe for homemade pizza sauce I’ll share it {mental note to look for one} but I’ve found a favorite store bought sauce that I adore so I keep it simple [remember, it’s PIZZA FRIDAY!]. I’ve experimented will all kinds of pizzas flavor combos and that’s the great thing about having pizza every week- experimentation! I sometimes even smear the dough with pesto before I add the sauce.

I like to sprinkle a little grated parmesan  over the sauce and then on top of the pie before it heads into the oven. Gives it a nice, cheesy depth of flavor. I like experimenting with mozzarella (store bought and from-scratch), pizza cheese combos from the market, and goat cheese. Those are my go toos.

As for toppings beyond the basics, I’m all for |Fresh Herbs| like basil, but I make a dried herb topping that I call “pizza shake” that’s an eyeballed mixture of:

dried oregano
garlic powder
dried basil
dried thyme 

I shake that all over every pizza I make. So grab your sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, leftover chicken, artichokes, caramelized onions, peppers, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers… you get the picture.  Experiment, have fun!

Do I run the risk of eating too much pizza? Of taking the fun out of looking forward to pizza because I know its coming every Friday? Maybe, but I’m willing to take the risk…what are you having for dinner this Friday night? Cook often and eat well!