Thursday Night Nicoise Salad

Thursday Night Nicoise Salad
Allow all of your salad stars to shine on their own. Dress each component of your salad individually and pile onto a platter. Simple food is just so darn pretty. Make something like this whatever you have on hand!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Herb Blurb plus a Recipe for Green Pea Crostini with Prosciutto


Fresh mint is growing like crazy right now, just outside of the garage on the sunny south side of our house. Lucia decided to plant a few sprigs for me last summer and the mint has now overwhelmed my rose bushes. It's taking over. I did read, coincidentally, that growing mint near your rosebushes will help deter aphids. OK. I'm cool with that. How about the dreaded Japanese beetles though? They are the real bastichas.

A couple of summers ago, my dad's oregano (which also grows like weeds) took over that same
area and I had to pull a bunch of plants and move them to a new spot. We all have my dad's oregano growing here and there. He would pick the plants, place them on some newspaper, wet them down with water and roll up the wet newspaper to keep the plants cool and moist before bringing them to friends and family. I'm sure all of my brothers and sisters have some growing somewhere.We love and cherish this oregano. I have never been able to find the same variety at any nursery. It's totally different than the Greek variety that is readily available. The leaves are much tinier and therefore, easier to crumble when dried. We grow it, wash it and hang it to dry. We use it regularly and share it with our friends and co-workers. My dad would store the oregano in brown paper bags, labeled "Oragano" (misspelled) along with the year it was grown and harvested. I have one of those very bags on the ledge along my stairway to the basement and I'm sure I will never throw it away. He would also stash the dried herb in small cans with plastic lids, labeled "Prime" if the plants had been pulled, washed and dried at the peak of perfection. Not too early, not too late. If we had more time last summer, we considered handing out little clay pots
with small oregano
plant cuttings to give to friends and family who attended
our dad's wake. That way, everyone would
think of Pops as they
admired it, watched it grow and used it in their cooking. If anyone would like some of Frank's oregano, let us know and we'll hook you up! Salute' Pops!

Back to the mint, here's an interesting fact: I love this story . . . In Greek mythology, the naiad (let's just say water nymph - not to be confused with today's "nympho", ok?), Minthe (a.k.a. Menthe), was metamorphosed into mint (as we know it), by Queen Persephone, just as she was about to be seduced by Hades. Who knew? I love this stuff. Got it? "Queen P" zapped Minthe into a plant before she reached the point of no return with Hades. . . LOL. Be careful of who you're lusting after.... some queen may poof you into a weed when you least expect it.

So, here's my advice about fresh herbs. Grow some. You won't be sorry. Your cooking will improve tremendously with the use of fresh herbs. I promise. I plant herbs around and in between flowers and other stuff in our yard. No need to be fancy. No need for a designated herb garden. BASIL. There is no comparison to the matching of homegrown tomatoes and freshly picked basil. An avocado salad with sweet onions, tomato, fresh basil and feta. OMG. A bright red, summery marinara sauce will be greatly enhanced by the addition of freshly picked thyme and a few basil leaves added at the last minute. MINT. Great with peas. Great with eggplant. Great with chocolate. Great in a simple syrup. Great in cocktails. Mojitos anyone? Caipirinhas anyone? Great in fruit salads. THYME. A fabulous match for onions, tomatoes and wild game. A wonderful addition to soups and sauces. CHIVES. Oh geeeez, great in dressings, with sour cream on potatoes, added fresh to your bowl of soup, with cream cheese, of course... in egg salad, potato salad, cheese balls, yada yada yada. Italian PARSLEY is delicious in braciole, mediterranean salads like tabbouleh, in meatballs or hamburgers, etc., etc. LEMON BALM. I love this bright green, aromatic beauty floating around in a pitcher of lemonade or white sangria, or beautifying a big icy scoop of lemon sorbet. OREGANO. Fresh in sauces and marinades. Dried and rubbed in salads, on bruschetta or crostini, as a pizza topping and on roasted tomatoes. Add some coarsely torn or chopped fresh herbs to your salads. Your salads will be "born again" and will taste so much fresher, I swear! I could go on for days. You know I could. But, here's what you need to know:

Plant some perennial herbs. I have a boatload of each herb on this list right now and I have not yet done one thing this spring.... Maybe that's cuz it's 43 degrees right now, windy and raining.....These herbs are perennials, so you don't have to plant them every year and they will show up in abundance in early spring!!!!

Chives
Italian (flat leaf) Parsley (technically, biennial)
Mint
Thyme
Lemon Balm
Oregano will begin to grow a little later as it becomes warmer.....

Plant some annual herbs too (these need to be planted every year - in pots if you have limited space, or in the ground....)

Basil
Sage (perennial, grown as an annual because it's not that hardy - around here, anyway)
Summer Savory

Obviously, there are many, many other herbs, both annual and perennial, that are not shown above. Go to your local nursery, investigate, buy some potted herbs even if you just like the way they look (you can be so superficial sometimes), bring them home, plant, water, sit back and let them flourish. Love them. Sniff them. Enjoy them. You deserve herbs. You really do.

Green Pea Crostini (with Fresh Mint) & Prosciutto
Here's a special recipe to incorporate fresh and flavorful mint into this outstanding springtime appetizer. The recipe has been adapted from a Giada DeLaurentis recipe. It has been tested in KPK and enjoyed often. Especially in the spring. Try it! Click HERE for the Green Pea Crostini with Prosciutto recipe.

Enjoy the herbs, enjoy the season, enjoy your life and “If someone asks for help in the herb garden, you can certainly give Sage advice if you have Thyme.”

Katie's Passion Kitchen
Finally something new
May 15, 2011

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MORE 4 U

From here, you can continue scrolling down to check out some of my favorite dishes and KPK highlights.

For more posts (articles), recipes, stories and pictures, you can scroll up (in the right column under "What You Missed") and click on 2008, 2009 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013. As of June, 2013, there are are total of 139 posts in KPK. You can spend more time here when you know where to look, right?! Another way to enjoy my kitchen is to click on any items of interest in the section entitled "Passion Posts", also up above in the right column.

Love, Katie ~ I am so glad you're here! Stay awhile!

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