Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cool Down With Mint!

And other fresh herbs that make summertime dinners a 4-star treat

With weather that makes you nostalgic for 80s commercials, like the Nestea Plunge (spoiler alert! TOP NANA is making mint iced tea!) and skiing in the Alps with a York Peppermint Patti, I decided to feature mint in this week’s recipes; mint and another summer season herb with amazing possibilities: Rosemary.

Dig My Herb!

I’ll start with a true story about an accidental gardener I know—she’s a member of the Nana Network and happy to share this blog post’s wonderful photo; it’s of the north side of her house. Take a look at that gorgeous mint and rosemary, more than enough to season the rest of the family’s savory meals this summer. Was it easy to get those herbs to thrive like that??, we asked; after all, the Nana Network is used to growing our herbs indoors—click on the link to see what we’re talking about.

This is what one Nana Network member had to say about the herbs growing outside her house:

“I didn’t know the rosemary was even there until a house guest pointed it out; the summer heat made what used to be a small mystery shrub explode into what was undeniably (the smell gave it away!) a rosemary bush. That part of the house is both shaded and sunny—herb friendly—so we added a little mint from Home Depot, and it’s growing fast too…it’s so fun to ‘bring in the harvest’ from a part of the house we thought was reserved for our garbage cans.”

Cool as a Cucumber Recipes that Call for Herbs

So what’s a good thing to make with mint and rosemary? Today, I’m sharing a fresh fish recipe that’s ultra refreshing with the addition of a cucumber mint sauce; you can drizzle this cool-as-a-cucumber sauce over any number of sultry summer dishes; try it over spicy chicken, pork chops or as a fun side for dipping shiskabobs. But make your debut with this sauce topper using Top Nana’s recipe for Roasted Salmon in the Grass with Cucumber Mint Sauce.

Iced Tea, Ya’ll?

As you’re cooking, set aside enough fresh mint leaves to prepare a sparkling carafe of Bourbon Mint Iced Tea. I also use fresh mint in my sweet pea soup and candied carrots. Fresh herbs add a je ne sais quois to every meal that might otherwise have been completely unremarkable. Who knew that serving up dinner a la chic and cheap is as easy as plucking a few herbs?

It’s Better with Butter! Make Rosemary Butter and Amazing Steamed Veggie Sides with Rosemary Fresh From Your Garden!

Rosemary is best harvested on hot sunny days. When you go out and pick it, take care to pick the soft part of the stem—it’s the new growth that you’re interested in here. If you have too much, you can freeze or dry rosemary for out of season use. Since lots of people use rosemary for screening hedges, and count on it to hide an entire fence, there’s often more of this herb than you know what to do with; that’s where the idea of preserving it and presenting it nicely tied up and dried, makes such a nice Christmas present down the road. But I digress! Let’s make rosemary butter! It’s a fabulous topping over steamed, julienne veggies

I use just two tablespoons of rosemary in my Julienne of Zucchini, Yellow Squash and Carrots in Rosemary Butter. This butter is also amazing drizzled over a sliced baguette and baked at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

So, what did my Nana Network fan end up doing with her surplus rosemary? Well, she hasn’t gotten around to making rosemary butter yet, but she did highly recommend sautéing it with sliced potatoes, Vidalia onion and lots of love and olive oil. In this case, L-O-V-E is spelled rosemary, and makes any gardener, accidental or otherwise anxious to tour the backyard.

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