Spanish omelet

Tortilla Espanola

Sometimes you just want something different for breakfast. Or lunch. I love a good frittata, made with eggs and just about anything else you want to put in it. A great alternative, similar to a frittata, but with a little more substance is a Spanish omelet. It’s still fairly light, but warm and buttery and rich with potatoes, the ultimate comfort food. 

One of my favorite memories was a late summer evening meal on the beach with good friends. She served a Spanish omelet and fresh fruit salad and then followed it with Romeo y Julieta (cream cheese and guava paste on crisp crackers). Delicious food, good Spanish wine and dear friends.  Watching the sunset over the lake was an experience I’ll never forget. 

Spanish omelet or tortilla Espanola

Called a tortilla in Spanish cooking, the classic recipe is made with potatoes, onions and eggs. But you can add anything your heart desires to the recipe. 

My riff on the classic

1 onion, peeled and sliced thinly

1 lb red potatoes, not peeled, sliced thinly

3 eggs

½ c. sliced mushrooms

½ c. sliced red sweet peppers

½ c. sliced swiss chard

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Use an 8” cast iron pan if you have one. Otherwise, any stovetop-to-oven pan. You can also use a round cake or stoneware pan but you will need to vary the cooking slightly since you can’t use these on the stovetop. 

Cook potatoes in salted water, drain and cool. 

Saute onion until soft in a splash of olive oil. Add mushrooms, peppers and chard and saute briefly until tender. Cool slightly. 

Whisk eggs and 1 t. Salt. Add potatoes and vegetables and toss until coated with eggs. 

Add a bit more oil to the pan, pour in the egg and vegetable mix, and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Put in the oven for 20 minutes until eggs are set. 

Remove from the oven and flip upside down on a plate. Serve in wedges, hot, room temperature or cold. 

Triage or Rescue Cooking

So what do you do when you have too many vegetables? Whether you have a CSA membership that provides a box every week with more than you can possibly eat. Or your garden is providing a plethora of tasty produce that is inundating your fridge. Or friends offer extras from their own gardens. How do you avoid wasting?

My answer is to roast! Whenever I have loads of extra chard, mushrooms, leeks, onions, zucchini and eggplant, instead of succumbing to feeling overwhelmed, I toss them all into a roasting pan.

Red and yellow tomatoes, onions and garlic

Make delicious soup

It is amazing how combining roasted vegetables of all types with plenty of onions and garlic turns them into savory creations. I like to roast until everything is quite soft and then purée with a little stock if necessary. Freeze the pureed vegetables to use later as a soup base or pasta sauce. Or, to make a hearty one-dish meal immediately, add some evaporated or coconut milk, chopped sauteed vegetables of choice, cooked beans and/or cooked grains or pasta. A great result of this process is that the sauce never quite tastes the same.

A sauce made of mostly tomatoes is great for traditional pasta sauce. Sauce with spicy chiles added makes a good base for chili.

It’s easy to adjust seasonings according to your tastes. Add basil and oregano for an Italian twist; add cumin and chili powder for Mexican; add marjoram, a hint of cayenne and basil for Mediterranean.

Here’s a recipe, but be prepared to change and adapt according to whatever vegetables you have on hand.

Tomato Glut Sauce

Film a large roasting pan with olive oil and cut up about six pounds of tomatoes – this is a great time to use those that have blemishes or splits because you can simply cut that part away. Chop and add one or two cups of whatever vegetables are coming in at the time such as onions, carrots, zucchini and Swiss chard.

If you plan to use a food mill, you don’t have to take out tomato cores. If you plan to use a food processor, core the tomatoes before cooking. You can also blanch and peel and/or seed the tomatoes if that’s your taste. Throw in several cloves of garlic, some sprigs of fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley. Splash with balsamic vinegar and roast for about an hour. The sauce will cook down and lose a good bit of moisture, and the vegetables will start to caramelize. Run through a food mill, salt and pepper to taste, and use immediately or freeze.

Or to be more specific:

6 lbs. tomatoes, cored and quartered (if you don’t have tomatoes, you can use canned pureed tomatoes)
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped carrots
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped celery
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped onion
9 cloves garlic, chopped
6 T balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 ½ T fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley
1 ½ t. salt
1 T. pepper

Roast 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Process briefly to leave slightly chunky, freeze. Makes 2 quarts. You can use any combination of vegetables and herbs – each batch of sauce comes out a little different.

Winter Squash

The nip of frost in the air and the smell of wood smoke outdoors are sublime companions to the scents of cinnamon baked apples and nutmeg-laced butternut squash in the kitchen. This is the perfect time to reacquaint ourselves with the bounty of winter squash. It’s also a great time to raid the farmers’ markets and pumpkin farms to pick up the squash in every hue and flavor. It’s hard not to load the car with pie pumpkins, buttercups, Turk’s turbans, blue Hubbards, Japanese pumpkins and kabochas.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are the kings of winter squash. Pumpkin pie made from fresh pumpkin is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted, and pumpkin is also very good when baked and mashed like potatoes.

For years, the most popular winter squash was acorn squash, mostly because it was commonly available year-round. This the baseball-sized green ribbed squash with bright orange flesh. But there are so many others available now that there’s no need to limit yourself. Delicata squash, oblong cream to yellow with dark green stripes, and Sweet Dumplin’ are some of the sweetest squash you’ll ever eat. They have rich orange flesh like butternut but are infinitely sweeter.

Now’s the time for harvest

Winter squashes begin ripening in August and continue through October. Although most winter squash can be harvested when young and used like zucchini, the point of growing winter squash is usually to keep them over the winter. Winter squashes are ready for harvest when the rind is hard enough so that you cannot make a dent in it with your fingernail. This means they’ve cured enough to store well. By the time the first frost arrives, the squash should all be ready to harvest.

As soon as Halloween is over, many farm stands have piles of pumpkins they would like to sell at reduced prices. Even the groceries have reduced-price pumpkins. Pie pumpkins, which have thicker flesh and usually are less than twelve inches in diameter, are the easiest to store and cook.

Winter squash store easily

All winter squashes store well so you can stock up now for the winter. To control fungal problems in storage, wash squash well with soap and water. For extra protection, wipe them down with vinegar, making sure to get the stem end. They are best stored on wire racks or someplace with good circulation and cool conditions such as the basement. Squash should ideally be stored at 50 to 55 degrees, and if your basement is warmer than that, be sure to check them periodically for rotting.

Baking squash

All it takes to bake most winter squash is to cut it in half and invert them on a rimmed cookie sheet. You can remove the seeds before baking, especially if you want to toast the seeds, or you can bake with the seeds intact and remove them after baking. They will come out easier this way.

Bake for an hour or so, depending on the size of the squash, at 350 degrees and serve with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, or stuffed with wild rice, apples and cranberries. All winter squashed are cooked the same way, and can be interchanged in almost any recipe.

Bake some for the freezer

The cooked flesh freezes well, and if you measure it into freezer bags in one cup batches, it’s ready to pull out for use whenever the mood hits to make muffins or squash bread.

Spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is a little different in that when it is cooked, you can separate the flesh into strands that really do resemble spaghetti. The “spaghetti” is delicious with a little butter and parmesan or even spaghetti sauce. And it doesn’t have the high calories of pasta.

Full of nutrition

Winter squashes and pumpkins are full of vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber. The pulp is a delicious way to put extra fiber into spaghetti sauce, soups and stews. I even found a recipe for spaghetti squash dressed with pumpkin sauce. What could be healthier?

Although one of my favorite winter squashes is the butternut, I’m quickly replacing that favorite with kabocha squash. It has dark orange rich creamy flesh and is a wonderful addition to mac and cheese, not to mention an endless variety of soups and vegetable dishes.

Toast the seeds

And don’t forget about the seeds. Pumpkins and squash seeds are packed with magnesium, potassium and fiber. Rinse the seeds to remove the pulp, dry and toss with olive oil and salt. Toast in an oiled pan at 300 for 10-30 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to avoid burning.

Stuffed Squash (Acorn, delicata, any small squash)

Stuffed acorn squash rings

Slice squash into one-inch rings and remove seeds and membrane

2 oblong or round squashes, cut into 1 inch thick slices, seeds removed
6 T. butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ T. curry powder
2 apples, diced
2/3 c. apple juice
½ c. cranberries

Saute onion in butter, add curry and cook for one minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and sauté until liquid evaporates. Place squash rings in a shallow baking pan, fill with saute mixture and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

Butternut squash or pumpkin gratin (a Thanksgiving tradition in our house)

3 c. torn day-old bread (your choice – whole grain makes it more healthful and a bit denser
2 c. cooked squash (any with rich orange color – butternut, pumpkin, kabocha, buttercup)
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 c. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
3 T. chopped parsley
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
fresh bread crumbs or panko

Cover bread with hot water and let stand until softened, 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Mix bread, squash and rest of ingredients in a large bowl. Add onions and garlic. Spread in oiled 2 quart casserole and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake, uncovered 35 minutes until slightly puffed and beginning to brown.

Fruit crisp

Nothing quite says autumn like the scent of cinnamon-laced baking apples wafting through the house on a cool afternoon. Now I love apple pie, but it is much more of a commitment to time and expertise. I can pull off an apple crisp in less than half an hour, without fear of crust failure which is one of my regular mishaps. 

Apple rhubarb crisp

I tend to fall back on fruit crisps frequently since they are simple, fresh desserts that can be made with any type of fruit. All you need to do is adjust the cooking time depending on the firmness of the fruit. In a pinch, frozen fruits work just fine (this is one of my main reasons for freezing peaches in season). For the crisp, use your imagination and just about any combination of oats, flour, nuts if you like, and cinnamon. Make it stick together with juice, butter or coconut oil, your choice. I’ve recently tried using ready-made granola which makes the process even simpler and faster. And crunchier. 

Easy-to-make crisp

To make a quick crisp that serves two, simply fill a small baking dish with two to four cups of prepared fruit, sweeten if necessary, and top with a crumbly crust (below). Bake about half an hour (45 minutes for apples and pears) at 350 degrees. 

Peaches, blackberries and raspberries for crisp

Some lovely fruit combinations: 

Peaches and blackberries or raspberries

Blueberries and plums

Apples and cranberries

Rhubarb and strawberries

Crunchy toppings

1 c. regular oatmeal

½  c. brown sugar

½ c. flour

1 t. cinnamon 

¼ c. defrosted apple juice concentrate 

Mix the first four ingredients; drizzle apple juice into the oatmeal mixture. Stir until the mixture forms small clumps. Spread mixture on top of the fruit and bake 30 minutes at 350. 

Another topping

⅓ c. chopped toasted walnuts

½ c. flour

½ c. rolled oats

½ c. brown sugar

1 T. granulated sugar

¼ t. cinnamon

¼ t. nutmeg

¼ c. softened butter

Mix dry ingredients well and then cut in the butter until it forms small clumps. Continue as above. 

Leave your leaves

Those of you who know me or read my blog regularly know that my harangue in this season is to leave fallen leaves in place or at least manage them so they stay in the landscape. Just like nature handles them, in the woods and even on the prairies. After all, it’s free organic matter which the soil makes good use of in its natural cycles. 

Now I’m vindicated!

This was in my inbox this morning from the National Wildlife Federation: 

“Leaves are starting to change color and begin to fall to the ground. Did you know that leaving the leaves in your yard or garden not only saves you time and energy but also benefits wildlife?

Here are a few good reasons to put down the rake:

  • Provide habitat for wildlife: frogs, turtles, and salamanders rely on fallen leaves to provide cover and hibernation places; many moth and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring
  • Provide food for wildlife: creatures like earthworms and millipedes reside in and decompose leaf litter, and also are themselves a source of food for bigger wildlife like birds and toads
  • Increase fertility of your soil: as the leaves decompose, nutrients are added to your soil, and also allows for greater water retention”

Enough said. 

Nature’s mulch

Rake if you have to….but put them back

If you can’t stand the look of the untouched leaf cover, by all means, rake them out of the beds, shred with the mower and then blow them back into the beds. You’ll be on your way to a lovely layer of mulch. Think of it as free fertilizer. Let nature do the breakdown for you and give you organics for free. No need to buy all that bagged mulch next spring. 

Here’s a hearty breakfast for the weekend that will fortify you for some garden work: 

Breakfast strata

Breakfast strata

2 t. olive oil

1 c. chopped onion

¾ cups unpeeled gold or red potato, finely diced

½  cup diced red bell pepper

1 t. salt

2 c. ciabatta, sourdough or Italian bread cut into 1-inch cubes

½ c. grated or crumbled cheese of choice (brie, parmesan, feta, cheddar, goat)

2 large eggs

1 t. dried herbs or 1 T. chopped fresh herbs of choice

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

2 c. milk

Sauté vegetables about three minutes or until tender. Add vegetables to whisked eggs and milk; stir in seasonings. 

Place half of the bread into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with the remaining bread mixture and remaining cheese.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture, pressing bread into the liquid. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Riffs on the recipe: 

French toast strata

Omit the vegetables and season the egg mixture with ½ c. sugar and 1 t. cinnamon. Serve with maple butter or maple syrup

What do I do with all those tomatoes?

This is such an exciting time of year with the produce coming in from the garden in buckets and baskets. But it can sometimes overwhelm. 

Tomato plants may be on the decline in the garden, but the tomatoes are still ripening and filling our counters. Let’s figure out what to do with them. 

Canning is certainly one option but I like to freeze them for later use. 

I simply rinse them and throw them into a bucket or freezer bags in the freezer. No blanching, no cutting up before freezing. When I’m ready to make sauce or salsa, I pull out what I need and run them under warm water briefly to loosen the skins. They can then be cooked or thrown into the food processor with onions, garlic and jalapenos for fresh-tasting salsa. They won’t be firm as when fresh, but they still have the delicious taste of summer. 

Simple ingredients

Here is a salsa recipe to get you started on using them fresh. Check out the recipe tabs for Catalan tomato bread, gazpacho and bruschetta. All have few ingredients – mostly tomatoes, garlic, onion and olive oil. Quick and easy! 

Bruschetta

And check out my YouTube video on how to make each one. https://youtu.be/nhh51JuE8lA

summer salsa

Summer salsa dip (pico de gallo)

1 chile, chopped (with or without seeds depending on your taste)

3-4 tomatoes, chopped finely

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T. vinegar or lime juice

1 T. fresh cilantro

1 t. Salt

Mix and chill. Serve as dip with tortilla chips, on black bean tacos or as topping for a baked potato. Feel free to add other ingredients such as black beans or corn.

Panko

Farmers market strata with panko

It’s a funny word but once you discover panko, you’ll never go back to regular bread crumbs. Many recipes call for panko, Japanese style breadcrumbs, as a finisher or for breading. They’re definitely a specialty item and as such can seem expensive. But they can absolutely make your dish better. Use them in place of breadcrumbs in any recipe.

Eggplant dip with panko

They are not mysterious and are actually quite easy to make yourself. If your family is like mine, they tend to discard the bread heels in favor of the softer middle. I happen to like the heels toasted, but I can only eat so many. So, as they pile up, I simply toss them into a freezer bag. When I have enough saved up, I turn them into homemade panko.

Grate your bread

The key to making panko light and airy like the commercial ones rather than just standard bread crumbs, is to grate them. Use the large holes on a box grater or food processor. Then spread them in a thin layer on a cookie sheet with sides (I use a broiler pan).

Don’t let them burn

If you have a convection oven, put it on “convect bake” at 325 degrees. For a standard oven, set to bake at 350. Now here’s the warning: you have to watch them carefully. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let them burn because I got occupied with something else. Cook for about 10 minutes and then stir. Repeat this process until they are nutty brown – it may take only 20 minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely.

Store in glass

Once they are completely cool and crispy dry, store them in a glass jar. It’s critical that they be dry and cool because you don’t want any condensation that could make them mold. Don’t be afraid to use your hands to stir them around when cool to make sure they are crisp. If they aren’t, put them back in the oven for a bit.

Use them freely to dress the tops of casseroles, roasted vegetables and even broiled fruits. They make great additions to harvest cakes, to roasted eggplant to make a tasty dip, or as breading for fried zucchini or tomatoes.

Season the panko

You can also season them before cooking for Italian flavored, Greek flavored or Asian flavored. Blend the herbs to make a fine powder that will stick to the breadcrumbs. Add before cooking the panko. Mix well and cook as above.

Greek Panko

3 T. oregano
2 T. basil
1 T. dill
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
½ T. salt
1 T. black pepper

Italian Panko

2 T. dried basil
2 T. dried oregano
2 T. dried rosemary
2 T. dried thyme
2 T. dried marjoram

Asian Panko

¼ c. onion powder
¼ c. garlic powder
¼ c. ground black pepper
2 T. ground ginger
2 T. red pepper flakes

Slaw salads

Broccoli slaw

Summertime is my time for slaw. It is cool, crisp and can be creamy or citrusy-tart, depending on the recipe. The best part is that is easy to make and keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.

Use just about any vegetable

It’s easy to change up the slaw to pair with different kinds of food, not to mention making use of whatever is being harvested from the garden. You can use any combination of crisp, firm vegetables such as kohlrabi, radish, turnip, rutabaga, carrot, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower. Add some cucumber for juiciness at the last minute.

Dressings can be creamy or tart

Dressings are also only limited by your imagination. For a creamy dressing, use Greek yogurt or mayonnaise as a base and add lemon juice, salt and pepper and a hint of honey or sugar. For a dressing to cool the palate to accompany spicy Asian food, use lime juice, sesame oil and honey. For a Mexican riff, add cilantro, chili powder and cumin.

And feel free to add onions, sesame seeds or roasted flax seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries or raisins.

Baby pak choi

Bok choi or pac choi slaw

2-3 heads baby pac choi, sliced thinly
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 scallions, sliced thinly on an angle
½ cucumber halved, seeded and thinly sliced

Dressing:

2 limes, juiced
¼ c. honey
3 T. vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Toss with dressing and serve immediately.

Radishes and kohlrabi

Broccoli stem slaw

About 2 cups of broccoli stems, peeled and grated (save the florets for another meal)
1 large carrot grated
½ c. red onion sliced thinly

Dressing:

¼ c. mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1 T. fresh lemon or lime juice
1 t. sugar
½ t. Salt

Toss with dressing and refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.

Simplicity

Have you ever made a dish from a recipe you pulled off the internet, convinced it sounded absolutely delicious, only to find that it was insipid? I did that last night – a casserole using lots of fresh grilled vegetables, eggs, cheese and sourdough bread. What could go wrong?

Too complicated

First of all, I cut the recipe in half and it still made enough for at least five people. It had multitudes of steps, taking me a couple of hours to complete. When it finally rolled out of the oven (heating up the kitchen pretty intensely since it cooked for an hour), it looked good. Bubbly and cheesy. And it tasted like kissing someone through a screen door. Not much flavor, not even rich enough to qualify as comfort food.

I know better. I just don’t cook that way. I get a little crazy this time of year wit the abundance of vegetables and fruits coming in, but it is fun to come up with interesting ways to use them.

Simplicity is best

Most importantly, I need to remember to keep things as simple as possible. A chopped tomato mixed with olive oil, minced fresh garlic, salt and fresh basil is a perfect sauce to toss with hot pasta. Or simply sauteed greens and onions over pasta. No time, not much prep and absolutely fresh and delicious.

Pasta with spinach

Even if you don’t consider yourself a cook, you can learn to prepare fresh wholesome meals without a lot of prep time or a lengthy list of ingredients. And cooking can become an interesting part of your life instead of a chore. It truly is artistry and if you look at it that way, you are an artist!

A simple dessert – fresh fruit galette

Peach galette

I bought a box of produce from a local farmer this week and it came with plums, raspberries and grapes. I made a plum and raspberry galette. Sounds like it may be complicated, but it’s not. And any of the fruits can be swapped for whatever is coming in at the time. Once your fruits are prepared, it takes less than an hour to make including baking time. You could have a different flavor every night of the week. And the possibilities to use vegetables and cheeses make it an endless supply of opportunities.

Yellow plums

A galette is simply a rustic pastry. You can make it a dessert or a savory main dish for brunch or dinner.

You can certainly make your own pastry, but puff pastry or pie dough from the freezer is easy and almost always works perfectly. Feel free to experiment with all different types of crust. Use the more delicate crusts with fruits and heartier crusts with vegetables.

Fruit Galette

Plum raspberry galette

3-4 cups fruit – raspberries, strawberries, plums, peaches, grapes, blueberries in any combination
1 pkg. puff pastry or pie crust thawed
6 T. apricot or currant jam (or whatever jam you have in the fridge)
1 egg
1 t. water
½ c. coarse sugar

Roll dough until about 12 inches in diameter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate dough for 5-10 minutes.

Prepare fruit – you can peel peaches and plums if desired. Slice. If the fruit is particularly juicy, you can toss with 2 T. cornstarch to thicken the juices somewhat. If the fruit is tart, add up to half a cup of sugar.

Heat jam; spread jam in the center of the circle, leaving ¼ inch border around the edge of the dough. Place prepared fruit on top, leaving a 1 ½ -inch border around the edge of the dough.

Fold dough up onto fruit uniformly, pleating and pressing gently so it adheres slightly. Fruit should be exposed in the center. Mix egg and water and lightly brush dough and crimped seams with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Add enough water to the remaining jam to produce spreadable consistency; brush jam over fruit for a shiny glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature the same day.

Riffs: asparagus with goat cheese; roasted peppers and roasted eggplant with feta; tomatoes with basil and mozzarella cheese. Season with herbs of choice.

Drying Herbs

My food dehydrator’s been cranking almost continually for the past few weeks and I intend to keep it going through the fall. Right now I’m drying herbs. I have fairly large stands of thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram at my disposal, so I’m shearing them every couple of weeks. I’m filling jars with plentiful herbs for cooking and gifts.

Dehydrating lemon verbena

It’s been so long since I’ve purchased herbs, I thought I’d price dried herbs in the grocery store. I was totally shocked at how expensive they are. For example, a small one-ounce bottle of dried thyme was about $3.00. I have about a pound of thyme already dried, so that makes my thyme (and time) worth about $48.00!

Saves money and is fresher than storebought

Herbs are so very easy to grow and preserve that it seems a shame to waste money on purchasing them, especially because you don’t even know how fresh they actually are. By drying your own, you have the luxury of the freshest of herbs, and you can simply throw them away every year as you fill your jars with newly dried herbs.

Herbs are easy to grow

Almost all herbs except basil are extremely drought-tolerant, and they actually produce better flavor if somewhat stressed. So, find the harshest planting spot you have, and your herbs will thrive. They are all disease and insect resistant and need no fertilization or dividing.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, dry them in paper bags in a dry, airy spot out of direct light. The top of the fridge is ideal. Store dried herbs in glass jars in a dark cupboard.

Some herbs to try

Here are only a few – there are oh, so many more):

Dill

Dill is an annual herb with early pungent leaves followed by flowers and seeds which are all useful. Dried dill leaves and flowers are excellent flavorings for fish, potato salad and egg salad, and the seeds are classic for flavoring pickles. Try crushing the seeds and adding to rice pilaf with ground garlic – amazing! Let a few seeds scatter themselves and you’ll always have dill in the garden.

Lemon thyme

Thyme

Thyme is a perennial, woody plant with tiny, tangy leaves. Shear the soft new growth. It will send up new growth that you can shear repeatedly through summer. Mix thyme with goat cheese for an outstanding spread for sandwiches or as a dip for fresh vegetables. Rub into a pork loin or beef roast. For a variation on a theme, seek out lemon thyme for a wonderful treat.

Siam Queen basil

Basil

Basil is an annual herb that comes in every size and shape, from tiny spicy globe basil to huge sweet Genovese, the classic basil for pesto and bruschetta. This one does need lots of water.

Chives

Chives

Chives – perennial oniony herb with leaves and flowers for drying. Pull apart blossoms and dry the individual florets. Add to a baked potato or top focaccia with them.

Basil and lemon verbena

Lemon verbena

Lemon verbena has become a favorite. Tea made from the dried leaves is delicious. I’ve always grown it as an annual in the midwest, but here in the south, I’m hoping it will be perennial.

Rubs and marinades

Mediterranean grilling mix

One of my favorite things to do with dried herbs is to combine them in marinade or grilling rub mixes. Mixing them up ahead of time makes delicious dinner prep pretty easy.

You can use these as a dry rub for grilling meat or vegetables by brushing with olive oil and sprinkling with grilling mix.

For a marinade, add a tablespoon to ¼ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar of choice. Mix in zip lock bag with chunks of potatoes, zucchini, peppers, green onions, etc. Let marinate for 30 minutes. Grill vegetables; heat leftover marinade and pour over vegetables. If you marinate meat, brush with the marinade while grilling but discard any left over.

Basic Grilling Mix

1 T. oregano
1 T. basil
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. thyme

For specialty mixes – start with the basic grilling mix and add the ingredients listed. Feel free to add other herbs and seasonings to make it your own.

Mint Herb Mix

Use on potatoes, lamb or fish

1 T. mint
1 T. marjoram
1 T. tarragon
1 t. lemon balm

Italian Herb Mix

Use for pizza on the grill, on grilled potatoes for potato salad, on chicken breasts

1 t. rosemary
1 t. chili flakes

Herbed Ranch Mix

Use on salmon, grouper or mahi mahi, grilled potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash

1 T. dill
1 T. ground black pepper

Barbecue

For meats, vegetables and potatoes

1 t. sage
½ t. ground chili (or to taste)
1 T. paprika
1 t. rosemary
1 t. black pepper