Saturday, June 8, 2019

Beauty of Herbs Tablescape

Isn't it amazing how the beauty of aromatic herbs are two-fold?  First, the visual appeal of the lush, delicate green plant itself and secondly, the wonderful fragrance and flavor derived from various herbs in cooking and baking.  Most often when I am planning a shopping list for the weekly menu of meals, I realize that with a simple change of the herbs and spices that are used in the dish, I can change the entire meal from one culture to another.

What fun it is to grow, dehydrate and blend your own herbs, especially for rubs and marinates for meat.  It is even more exciting to try recipes using herbs in unique and unconventional ways, such as, for instance, Lavender.  For example, this slightly sweet and lemon-citrus flavored flower bud is from the mint family and is typically used in soaps, lotions, candles and air fresheners.  It is traditionally used in baked goods, but can be the surprise ingredient in a savory dish like Roasted Lemon Chicken (see below).  Or what about using fragrant Sweet Basil, an herb commonly used in Italian dishes, infused into a simple syrup for a refreshing Lemon-Basil Sorbet/Granita dessert.

So to celebrate the many ways herbs flavor our world, I thought it would be fun to express my fascination with herbs in a tablescape and a family meal.   Join me as we praise the beauty and bounty of herbs.





















Some yummy Chives growing in the garden.




And some refreshing parsley.




The distinct scent and bright flavor of dill reminds me of the many years of helping my mom preserve cucumbers into an abundance of canned dill pickles.




Some fresh and soothing Mint growing along the property's edge for dehydrating and using throughout the long winter for tea.




Some Basil and Oregano plants in their little pots waiting for planting in the garden.  I never seem to have enough herbs for the delicious Italian dishes.




The sage green herb salad plates are so pretty among the other green accents.




Late afternoon sun shines brightly and enhances the green color of the table, which is as striking as the grass outside the window.













Even the playful ducks seem to enjoy basking in the sun and being among the herb garland runner.










Some pretty serving plates from Certified International featuring Oregano and Chives.  They are a different pattern but have the same herb theme and makes a perfect addition to the table.










A sprinkle of Lavender petals mixed with other herbs in butter stuffed under the skin of the chicken with a quartered lemon placed in the cavity gives this Roasted Lemon Chicken a delicious twist.   The intriguing flavor of the Lavender has guests trying to guess its special, unique taste.




Roasted Lemon Chicken in Cast Iron


3-4 lb chicken
1 lemon, cut in quarters
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. fresh culinary lavender, chopped
Seasoned salt and pepper

Place a large cast iron skillet in the heated oven at 350 degree for 10 minutes or until heated. (Remember to use a cast iron handle protector or hot pad when removing the skillet from the oven before placing the chicken in the skillet for baking.)

Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. It is important to dry the chicken well; any excess water will turn to steam and prevent the skin from getting crispy.

Insert lemon, garlic, sprigs of thyme and rosemary in the cavity of the chicken. Sprinkle with seasoned salt inside the cavity.

Combine softened butter with chopped herbs, turmeric powder and paprika and carefully insert the herb butter under the skin of the chicken, spreading it evenly over the entire top. Massage the butter over the exterior skin of the chicken making sure that the herb butter gets evenly distributed under the skin and on top.

Sprinkle with a generous portion of seasoned salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown and inserted thermometer is 165 degrees F. 

Let chicken rest for 15 - 20 minutes after removing it from the oven and before removing it from the cast iron skillet.  

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Juicy and bursting with the bold flavor of an herbal blend, this Roasted Lemon Chicken baked in a cast iron skillet is always a winner with family and friends.




Roasted Asparagus sprinkled with olive oil, salt, pepper and the delicate flavor of chives makes a perfect vegetable side dish to the Roasted Lemon Chicken.







Bright green and roasted slightly to keep its shape and crunch, asparagus is a healthy choice and provides a good source of fiber and vitamins A, C and K.




Do you often associate the fresh taste of dill with summer?  It is the most used herb for us, especially when ripe tomatoes become available.  I always look forward to using fresh dill in various potato salads, particularly in the following recipe, Yellow Mustard-Dill Potato Salad.










Yellow Mustard-Dill Potato Salad

4 large yellow potatoes, boiled until soft, peeled and cut into smaller cubes
1/2 C chopped sweet Vidalia onions
4 small pickles, chopped
3 T pickle juice
3 hard boiled eggs, diced
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. fresh chopped dill weed
1/4 C red pepper, diced
1 T yellow mustard
3/4 C mayonnaise
1 T sour cream
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Boil and cool yellow potatoes.  Peel and cut into small cubes.  Chop onions, red pepper, pickles and eggs and add them to the potatoes.  In a separate small bowl, combine pickle juice, celery seed, dill weed, yellow mustard, mayonnaise, sour cream and black pepper.  Mix completely and add to potatoes and combine gently until incorporated.  Refrigerate until cold for several hours.  Garnish with sliced eggs, dill weed, etc.

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To top off a delectable meal, my favorite Lemon Basil Sorbet/Granita is a perfect choice.  I tend to make it more lemony than sweet, so you can adjust the following recipe according to your taste.  Although to me, it is more of a granita than a sorbet, the infused basil is subtle, but changes the entire flavor of the sorbet/granita and it makes it the right choice for a light summer time dessert.









Lemon Basil Sorbet/Granita

3 cups water
1 cup lemon juice plus the 
zest of 2 -3 lemons
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 cup of basil leaves


In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.   Bring it to a slight  boil and simmer it until the sugar dissolves.  With the heat turned off, add the basil leaves and let it steep for 10 - 15 minutes.  Discard the leaves. Let the basil-infused simple syrup cool, then add the lemon juice and lemon zest, stirring completely.  Pour into a glass pan and let it cool completely.  Place in the freezer until frozen, scraping with a fork periodically until it resembles something like a snow cone or a granita dessert.







So join me as we celebrate the summer and make the most use of the plenitude of fresh herbs.  I think you would agree, herbs are truly one of nature's beauty.