Category Archives: herbs

Buttermilk Herb Dip w/ Fresh Vegetable Crudite

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Sometimes it is the easiest dishes that are the best.  This is often the case when it comes to appetizers. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat and make fancy bite-sized treats as much as the next person.  There is something special about a treat that you know took a lot of work and tastes great to boot.  But other times, simple is the way to go.  I think this is especially true as we move into warmer weather and want to put lighter, fresher, and yes, less time-consuming food on our tables.  And perhaps the easiest solution of all is good old-fashioned dip with vegetables.

But we’re not talking your grandmother’s rich dip laden with heavy sour cream and dried French onion soup mix.  Thanks to a combination of Greek yogurt and low-fat sour cream my dip, adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe, is lighter and filled with plenty of fresh herbs.  I used parsley, dill, and thyme but feel free to put together any combination that appeals to you.  The dip should sit for at least half an hour before serving but that will give you plenty of time to cut up the fresh veggies that you need for dipping.  Your results will be tasty with no stove required.

BUTTERMILK HERB DIP w/FRESH VEGETABLE CRUDITE

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup low-fat sour cream

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

3 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Crudite vegetables of your choice for dipping

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir until well mixed.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

Yields:  3 cups

 

Green Goddess Dip

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Packed with fresh herbs, green goddess dip is the perfect accompaniment to a crudite platter. Many green goddess dips are heavy with mayonnaise and sour cream but I prefer to use Greek yogurt as the base for my dip. It is naturally tangy and so much lighter than the alternatives. When it comes to the fresh herbs, make sure you use the freshest ones you can find. By using a variety adds complexity to an otherwise simple dip. If any of the following aren’t to your liking you can easily substitute them for other herbs or use more of another. Do stay away from heavier herbs such as rosemary though. Its strong flavor would overwhelm this dip.

Tender asparagus tips, cherry tomatoes, radishes and sugar snap peas are some of my favorite “dipping” vegetables but feel free to use whatever fresh vegetables you prefer.

Green Goddess Dip

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, minced

2 tablespoons chives, minced

2 tablespoons basil, minced

1 tablespoon tarragon, minced

1 tablespoon dill, minced

1 tablespoon mint, minced

1 shallot, finely diced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I like to use Miracle Whip)

Salt & Pepper to taste

  • Place the herbs, shallot, lemon juice, Greek yogurt and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Using a stick blender, process until smooth, approximately 1 minute.
  • Transfer to a small bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  • Refrigerate at least 30 minute or up to 3 days.
  • Stir well and adjust the seasonings again before serving if needed.

Yields: 1 1/2 cups

 

Tuscan Style Roast Pork Tenderloin

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I tend to think of roast meats as being slow cooked meals reserved for lazy Sunday dinners but this doesn’t have to be the case.  Pork tenderloin is tender, flavorful, and a one pound piece of meat cooks in less than half an hour making it a perfect weeknight dinner option.  This recipe is adapted from Williams Sonoma and uses quick cooking tenderloin instead of a full fledge roast.  The lively combination of fresh herbs, crushed fennel and pungent garlic ensure that each bite will be bursting with flavor.  The simple white wine sauce adds a sweetness that only enhances the meat.  Serve the roasted meat alongside a starchy vegetable–crispy smashed roasted potatoes or butter braised radishes and a leafy salad.  The result?  Fast perfection.

TUSCAN STYLE ROAST PORK TENDERLOIN

1 1-lb pork tenderloin, trimmed (If you are serving a crowd, use 2 tenderloins rather than 1 larger one)

4 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced

2 tablespoons fresh minced rosemary

2 tablespoons fresh minced sage

2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup dry white wine

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Combine the garlic, rosemary, sage, and fennel seeds in a small bowl.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Cut small slits along the surface of the tenderloin.  Using your fingers insert the herb mixture into the slits then rub the remainder of the herb mixture along the surface of the meat.
  • Transfer the tenderloin to a large rimmed roasting pan and place the sliced onion around the perimeter of the meat.
  • Drizzle the meat and onions with the olive oil.
  • Roast approximately 20 to 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the tenderloin reaches 155 degrees.
  • Remove the tenderloin from the oven and move to a serving platter.  Tent the meat with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • While the meat is resting, place the roasting pan on the stove top and turn the burner(s) to high heat.
  • Add the white wine to the pan and scraping the bottom of the pan, bring to a boil.
  • Allow the mixture to boil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the liquid is reduced and slightly syrupy.
  • Slice the meat into 1 inch thick pieces and serve topped with the wine sauce.

Serves 4

Herbed Lemon Butter Cheese Crepes

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I love crepes. They are essentially a thin pancake and here in Belgium are sold everywhere from sidewalk food vendors to high end restaurants. Crepes are incredibly versatile and can go from sweet to savory with just a few ingredients. Classic orange flavored crepe suzettes are probably the most well known dessert version but filled with fresh fruit they are a healthy breakfast or you can treat yourself to a decadent snack by adding a smear of Nutella (and perhaps some banana slices). And then you have savory crepes. Fillings can range from meats to cheeses and vegetables. The options are truly endless.

Cooking the perfect crepe takes practice and skill but once you’ve mastered the technique you will be able to cook up batches of perfectly thin crepes in no time. I’ve found that the trick is to have a hot, well oiled crepe pan and use a scant 1/4 cup of batter for each crepe. Any  more and the pancakes will be too thick. Once you have ladled the batter in the pan, quickly swirl it around to for a thin layer over the entire surface. When the outer edges curl a bit and turn crisp the crepe is ready to flip. The technique can be perfected with just one or two crepes.

These savory crepes from the Washington Post Food Section bring the filling right to the batter. With the grated cheese and fresh herbs mixed right into the batter, these crepes don’t need any filling. Of course, the lemon herbed butter sauce is a nice addition but if you are counting calories, you can omit the sauce. I used a combination of fresh parsley, thyme, and chives but feel free to substitute a combination of fresh herbs. Served alongside fresh steamed asparagus, these crepes make a perfect light dinner or brunch entree. Voila! Dinner is served.

HERBED LEMON BUTTER CHEESE CREPES

For the crepes:

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups low fat milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 cup flour

1/2 cup grated cheese (I used French Gruyere)

1 tablespoon fresh minced chives

1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme

1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley

For the Lemon-Herb Butter

4 tablespoons salted butter

1 tablespoon fresh minced chives

1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme

1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Freshly ground black pepper

For the crepes:

  • Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
  • Add the milk and the melted butter.
  • Sift the flour into the batter and stir well until incorporated.
  • Add the cheese and the minced herbs and stir until a smooth batter forms.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  • Stir the batter well to reincorporate the ingredients before cooking.
  • When ready to make the crepes, heat an 8 inch crepe pan over medium heat.
  • Lightly coat the pan with non-stick cooking spray then add a scant 1/4 cup of batter to the center of the pan.
  • Immediately swirl it around the pan to create a thin coating over the entire bottom of the skillet.
  • Cook for 60 to 90 seconds then use a thin metal spatula to loosen the crepe around the edges.
  • Flip the crepe over and cook for an additional minute or two, until the crepe just begins to turn a pale golden brown.
  • Slide the crepe to a plate and repeat until all of the batter has been used. You may want to keep the crepes hot in a 200 degree oven.
  • Serve the crepes loosely folded over and drizzled with the lemon-herb butter.

For the Lemon-Herb Butter

  • Melt the butter in a small pan set over low heat.
  • Add the herbs, lemons zest and a light sprinkling of black pepper; cook for two minutes.

Makes 12 crepes

 

Buttermilk Herb Dip w/ Fresh Vegetable Crudite

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Sometimes it is the easiest dishes that are the best.  This is often the case when it comes to appetizers. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat and make fancy bite-sized treats as much as the next person.  There is something special about a treat that you know took a lot of work and tastes great to boot.  But other times, simple is the way to go.  I think this is especially true as we move into warmer weather and want to put lighter, fresher, and yes, less time-consuming food on our tables.  And perhaps the easiest solution of all is good old-fashioned dip with vegetables.

But we’re not talking your grandmother’s rich dip laden with heavy sour cream and dried French onion soup mix.  Thanks to a combination of Greek yogurt and low-fat sour cream my dip, adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe, is lighter and filled with plenty of fresh herbs.  I used parsley, dill, and thyme but feel free to put together any combination that appeals to you.  The dip should sit for at least half an hour before serving but that will give you plenty of time to cut up the fresh veggies that you need for dipping.  Your results will be tasty with no stove required.

BUTTERMILK HERB DIP w/FRESH VEGETABLE CRUDITE

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup low-fat sour cream

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

3 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Crudite vegetables of your choice for dipping

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir until well mixed.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before serving.

Yields:  3 cups

Marinated Bocconcini

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Fresh mozzarella and tomatoes are natural partners but when you throw in a few olives and some capers you have Mediterranean extravaganza in a bowl.  This salad, from The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher is super easy and tasty too.  Fresh oregano is a departure from the typical basil that is usually paired with this cheese and vegetable combination.  The oregano give the dish an earthy touch but you could easily use an equal amount of basil if you wish.  I’ve served this dish as both a salad as well as an appetizer; allow guests to spear their cheese and tomatoes with toothpicks and everyone will be happy. Enjoy!

MARINATED BOCCONCINI

1/2 cup olive oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 pound bocconcini, well drained

1 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

Sea salt to taste

1/2 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup black oil cured olives

  • In a small saucepan heat the oil, garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes over medium heat until the garlic sizzles and just begins to color, 1-2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature.
  • Place the bocconcini in a bowl and cover with the seasoned oil.  Add the capers and parsley, stirring to coat.
  • Cover and let stand for several hours, stirring occasionally.  Just before serving season to taste with salt.
  • Arrange the bocconcini on a serving platter alongside the tomatoes and olives.

Services 6 to 8

Herb Crusted Prime Rib w/ Roasted Vegetables

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My usual Friday entries feature fast dinners that can go from pantry to table in less than 45 minutes.  This is good for most Fridays but since today is a bit out of the ordinary, dinner tonight deserves an extra special meal.  And what is more special that prime rib?

Prime rib looks impressive but is surprisingly easy to make.  For the best flavor, let the herbs sit on the meat over night or up to a full 48 hours before roasting.  I’ve found that the key is to not overcook the meat and the best way to prevent this from happening is to use a meat thermometer.  I prefer my roasts to be served medium rare so I take the meat out of the oven when the thermometer registers 125 degrees since the meat will continue to cook a bit while it rests.   if you prefer your meat more or less cooked, adjust the cooking time accordingly.

HERB CRUSTED PRIME RIB w/ ROASTED VEGETABLES

5-rib standing rib roast, about 10 pounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon dried tarragon

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 baby red potatoes, halved

2 fennel bulbs, quartered

2 large red onions, quartered

2 large carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks

1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the rosemary, thyme, tarragon, oregano, sage, and salt in a small bowl.  Add the olive oil and stir to form a rough paste.
  • Rub the herb paste into the roast on all sides.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • Place the roast, rib side up in a rimmed roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place all of the vegetables in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Place the vegetables around the base of the roast.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking until the internal temperature of the meat has reached your desired level of doneness.  Rare/ 125 degrees will take approximately 2 additional hours.
  • Remove the roast from the oven, transfer to a serving platter, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Serves 10 to 12

Marinated Olives

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I love olives.  Whether eaten as part of a dish or right out of the container, they are all good.  Sometimes however, it is nice to kick them up a notch.  When that is the case I make these quick marinated olives.  It literally takes minutes to put together so you will be enjoying these fancy olives in no times.  Your friends will think you slaved away in the kitchen; only you will know the truth.

MARINATED OLIVES

2 cups green olives

1/4 cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 lemon, scrubbed, de-seeded, and chopped (include rind)

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours before serving.

Yields:  2 cups olive

Roasted Turkey w/ Herb Dressing & Pan Gravy

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In preparation for Thanksgiving, I’m showcasing some of my favorite holiday recipes this month.  Some of them are family recipes while others are my own creations but each of them always has a place on my dining room table.  This fall I had the opportunity to be profiled by Albanian Living magazine as a part of their “traditional American Thanksgiving” article.  All of the recipes I’m sharing were a part of that Thanksgiving table.

Roast turkey is always the highlight of the Thanksgiving table.  The sight of a roasted turkey on the table is both impressive and mouth-watering.  Roast turkey is surprisingly easy to make as well.  All you need is an oven, a handful of spices, and some patience since cooking a whole turkey does take time.  In America, the infamous Butterball turkey is ubiquitous with the holiday.  Outside of the country, turkey can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to find but in our house, since it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the giant bird, we make sure we can find one.  This recipe assumes you are not using a Butterball or other self-basting turkey.

Second to the turkey is the dressing or stuffing as some people call it.  Bread, fruits, nuts, or herbs are stuffed into the turkey cavity and when roasted together the turkey juices seep into the dressing leaving it moist and flavorful.  The recipe here is for a simple herb dressing but my other favorite recipe is one for chestnut dressing.  Whichever one you choose, add a bit of pan gravy and you are good to go.

ROAST TURKEY W/ HERB DRESSING & PAN GRAVY
For the turkey:
12-15 pound turkey
1/2 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
2 cups water
  • Preheat an oven to 425/218 degrees.
  • Thoroughly rinse the turkey both inside and out with cool water.  Pat dry.
  • Place a roasting rack inside of a large roasting pan and place the turkey on top of the rack.
  • Fill the cavity of the bird with the prepared herb dressing.***
  • Gently lift the skin of the turkey and place the small pieces of butter between the skin and the meat.   Evenly distribute the butter over the top of the entire bird making sure to include the drumsticks.  If the skin is not loose you can cut small slits in the skin to insert the butter.
  • Sprinkle the entire turkey with the salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Pour the water into the bottom of the roasting pan and put the turkey in the oven.
  • Roast for 30 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 325/163.
  • Continue cooking until the turkey has reached an internal temperature of 180/82 on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast meat.  When cooking a stuffed turkey, you should plan on allowing for 20 minutes of cooking time per pound of turkey.
  • When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before moving it to a serving platter.  Allow it to rest for at least an additional 15 minutes before slicing
 For the herb dressing:
 1 loaf white bread, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 medium-sized pear, cored and diced
2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
4 tablespoons dried sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups hot chicken broth
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400/200.  Place the bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until crunchy.  You may need to do this in two batches.  Allow to cool.
  • Place a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the butter, onion, celery, and pear and saute until soft, 8-10 minutes.
  • Put the dried bread in a large mixing bowl and gently stir it the butter mixture.
  • Sprinkle the fresh sage, parsley, dried sage, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
  • Add the eggs and gently fold to evenly distribute them throughout the dressing.
  • In half cup increments, add the chicken broth to the dressing, stirring well after each addition.  You want the dressing to be moist but not soggy so you may not need to use all of the broth.
  • If you are going to stuff the turkey with the dressing proceed as directed above.  Alternatively, you can place the dressing in a buttered casserole dish and bake, covered with foil, at 350/177 for 30 minutes.
For the gravy:
2 cups plus 3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
  • Place the roasting pan with the turkey drippings on the stove over high heat.  (You may need to use two burners in order to evenly distribute the heat).  If there aren’t a lot of drippings add some of the water.  As the mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat and using a wire whisk, scrape up any loose pieces from the bottom of the pan.
  • In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons of water. Mix to form a thin paste.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the dripping and whisk to combine.  Continue cooking until the mixture thickens slightly.
  • Add in the sherry and cook for an additional minute.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

A Trio Of Sauces: Honey Mustard, Chimichurri, & Ginger-Soy

Top to bottom:  Honey Mustard, Chimmichuri, Sesame Soy

Top to bottom: Honey Mustard, Chimichurri, Sesame Soy

I’m a condiment fanatic.  Our refrigerator door is always crammed with bottles and jars of sauces, dips, and pickled items that can take ordinary foods to a whole new level.  One type of mustard or vinegar is never enough for me since each has its own flavor profile that makes all the difference in their respective dishes.  Because of my love of discovering new condiments, our nomadic lifestyle is a mixed blessing for me.  While our travels allow me to discover new sauces and condiments that enhance my culinary repertoire, having to pack up and move–and therefore empty our refrigerator– every couple of years is hard.  Leaving behind wonderful the wonderful sauces and such is just so upsetting.

But not all condiments need to be purchased; in fact the best ones are those that are whipped up by hand in my own kitchen.  Combine a little of this and a dash of that and you have magic in a bowl in minutes.  This trio of sauces highlights just how versatile condiments can be.  All three take just minutes to make and while they can be used immediately, taste better after they sit for an hour or so.  The ingredient ratios are just suggestions as you can add more or less of an ingredient depending upon your own preferences.  If you love garlic, add more. If you aren’t a fan of Dijon mustard, substitute a stone ground one instead.  Experiment with different combinations of fresh herbs.  Dip cooked meats or vegetables into the sauces a al fondue style to bring a variety of flavors to the table that will be sure to please all palates.  Chicken or pork is particularly good when dipped in the ginger soy and honey mustard sauces.  Or marinate a flank steak in the chimichurri sauce before grilling.  The combinations and possibilities are endless so let your imagination go wild………….

HONEY-MUSTARD DIPPING SAUCE

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Allow to sit for 1/2 hour before using.

Yield 1/2 cup

CHIMICHURRI

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley

3 tablespoons cilantro

8 cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Roughly chop the parsley and cilantro.
  • Place in shallow bowl and using a stick blender puree until combined.
  • Add the garlic and continue to puree until smooth.
  • Add the remaining ingredients puree until combined.
  • Allow the sauce to sit for at least 1/2 hour before using. Adjust the salt and pepper before serving.

Yield 1 cup

GINGER SOY DIPPING SAUCE

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

5 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon Sriacha

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl until well blended.
  • Allow to sit for at least one hour before serving.

The sauce can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. Return to room temperature before using.

Yields 3/4 cup

 

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