Herbs and other flavor boosters

The University Club was the happening place to eat on Tuesday. Culinary Cooking and Concepts was going on and featured a tasty gourmet meal and yours truly as the speaker. The topic was “Marinades and sauces and rubs, oh my!” Here’s what one participant e-mailed to her friend who wasn’t able to attend this month:

You missed a very delicious lunch today.  The salad could have been the meal as far as I’m concerned.  Sort of like a VERY fancy BLT.  HAHA, I’m not doing it justice.  And I WANT that dressing which was basil leaves, olive oil, vinegar and salt & pepper but I have never had anything like it.  They should bottle it and sell it!  Looked like a green goddess.  Chix breast was nice and moist, but the mushroom risotto was the star, along with fresh green beans and carrots, and the dessert was a simple vanilla ice cream with fresh berries and a Cabernet sauce. 

Next month is BERRIES!!!

That salad was a work of art–the way they wrapped the thin slice of cucumber around the baby lettuce leaves along side the stack of tomato slices alternating with fresh mozzarella. You can find the recipes on the Health4U website–unfortunately, not the “green goddess” salad dressing yet. Still trying to wrestle it out of the Chef! We’ll post it as soon as we have it.

I always learn so much when I’m preparing for one of these programs. For instance, to get the most “life” out of your herbs, trim the stems, place them in a container of water, cover loosely with plastic and set it in the frig. To make a sturdy, tip-resistant containter, cut down a half gallon (plastic) milk jug, leaving the handle intact. Those complementary shower caps you get in your hotel room make a really great plastic cover for your new herb vase.

The time to wash your herbs is just before you’re ready to use them. If you have a lettuce spinner, give it double duty. Leave the basket inside it, place your herbs and cool water in it, swish the herbs well, then lift out the basket, dump the water and spin the herbs dry.

I’ve been making a really delicious salad this summer using the produce from my garden. This salad will work with whatever vegetables you have–cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, red onion, green onion, zucchini, green beans, carrots, cauliflower–did I miss anything? Peel, chop and mince until you like the looks of it. Make a dressing by whisking together 1 to 2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 5 Tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped herbs–parsley, cilantro, basil or mint in whatever combination you like. The tomatoes, and the other vegetables to some extent, release their juices and make that simple dressing really tasty! I love to add a few olives and a sprinkle of feta just before serving.

Did you know that tomatoes have their best flavor if you never refrigerate them? Well, not until you cut or cook them, that is. Even after you cut them, you can let tomatoes “rest” at room temperature for a couple of hours.

I walked down to the MSU Student Organic Farm Stand just after they opened today. I made a list and Julie posted their offerings on the Health4U website: http://health4u.msu.edu/ During the height of the harvest, we’ll try to update our website each week to let you know what you can find there. If you need herbs to make some of our new recipes, the SOF Stand has them!

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