Fresh Recipes for Herbs and early Vegetables

If you were lucky enough to be at the market early yesterday you were treated to some lovely breezes, just before the arrival of what looks like the mid-summer heat and humidity doldrums–time to take care of a few indoor tasks and let the yard take care of itself.  It’s also a good time to leaf through old recipes, and that is what I did yesterday afternoon.  I think I found a few that seem very timely and refreshing, given the herbs and vegetables available at the market now, in hot July~Georgia Totten-Sioux Falls 

Minted Whole Carrots~1 bunch young carrots, 1 ½ cups water, ½ tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. melted butter, 2 Tbs. minced fresh mint, 1/8 tsp. white pepper, extra salt to taste.

Select small, young, sweet carrots; scrap and wash; leave whole.  Pour water into saucepan over medium flame; add salt; bring to rapid boil; add carrots.  Cook uncovered 10-15 minutes (depending on size), or until tender but not soft. Remove from heat and drain.  Season lightly with pepper and more salt, if desired.  Return to heat.  Pour melted butter over carrots; add minced mint; stir gently to coat carrots.  Serve piping hot.  Serves 4-6.  Fresh green peas, potatoes, spinach and string beans may be prepared in the same manner. 

Gingered, Buttered Beets~¾ tsp. ground ginger, ½ cup sugar, 1 ½ Tbs. cornstarch, ½ cup cider vinegar, 1 ½ cups sliced cooked beets, 2 Tbs. butter, 1 Tbs. chopped parsley

Blend ginger, sugar and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan; gradually add vinegar; stir until smooth.  Place saucepan over medium heat and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add beets and butter; lower heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve hot garnished with the chopped parsley.  Serves 4.  This recipe can also be used for carrots and sweet potatoes, just substitute the same amount of vegetables.

Mint Syrup~6 sprigs fresh mint (any kind), 3 cups sugar, 1 cup water

Select fresh, crisp mint.  Wash thoroughly; dry on absorbent paper. Crush or bruise leaves and stems in a small bowl.  Pour water into heavy saucepan; dissolve sugar in water; add crushed mint.  Bring to boil over medium flame.  Boil 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Allow to stand at room temperature 15 minutes.  Remove mint springs. When syrup is cool, pout into a bottle and keep in the refrigerator ( plastic squeeze bottles work well).  Yield: 1 cup.  Use as a flavoring for hot or iced tea; also with fresh fruit cups and desserts.  My youngest daughter taught me to also keep a container of this simple syrup without mint for those who prefer their iced tea a little sweeter.  It is better than adding granulated sugar because it is already dissolved.  Great tip!

Herb Potato Cakes~4 medium-sized potatoes, 2 Tbs. butter, ¼ cup warm milk, 2 Tbs. chopped chives, 3 Tbs. extra butter, salt and pepper.

Wash and peel potatoes, place in saucepan and barely cover with water; bring to a boil and boil 20-25 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain and mash well; add 2 Tbs. butter, salt and pepper to taste.  Add milk and mix well.  Add 1 Tbs. chopped chives.  When cool enough to handle, or cold, shape into round, flat cakes about ¾ inch thick.  Place 3 Tbs. butter in a skillet and heat about 2 minutes over medium heat.  Fry potato cakes until golden brown and crisp on one side, about 2 minutes.  Turn and brown other side.  Garnish with additional chopped chives and a small dollop of sour cream.  This is a good way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.   

Macaroni with Blended Herbs~¼ lb elbow macaroni or spaghetti, 3 quarts boiling water, 2 tsp. salt, 1 cup basic white sauce (recipe listed below), 2 Tbs. chopped green olives, 6 tsp. shopped fresh parsley, 2 Tbs. chopped pimiento, 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or ½ tsp. dried oregano, 2 Tbs. olive oil, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 cup grated sharp American or cheddar cheese.

Cook macaroni only 7-10 minutes in salted, boiling water or until tender but not soft.  Drain well.  Add white sauce, olives and all other seasonings except cheese and cayenne pepper to macaroni; mix gently but well; add ½ cup grated cheese.  Pour mixture into large buttered casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cayenne pepper then with the other ½ cup of cheese.  Bake in preheated over at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and serve while hot.  Serves 4.

 White Sauce~1 cup milk, 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. flour, ¼ tsp. salt and dash or two of pepper.  Melt butter, add flour and stir and cook for 1 minute, just long enough to cook out the raw flour taste, but not long enough to break down the thickening effect of the flour).  Add milk salt and pepper and stir until thickened.  This can be doubled, tripled etc.  Just increase the  ingredients by this same ratio.   

Cheddar and Chive Baking Powder Biscuits~2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 Tbs. baking powder,¼ tsp. salt,1 stick cold butter cut into pieces, ¾ cup milk, ½ cup shredded cheddar or Parmesan cheese, 1 Tbs. chopped fresh chives

Combine flour, salt and baking powder, cut in the cold butter pieces with a pastry blender or fork, add cheese, chives and milk and stir until just combined.  Do not over stir or over handle the dough or the biscuits will be tough.  Pat or roll on a lightly floured surface to about a ¾ inch thickness and cut with small-sized biscuit cutter.  Bake at 425 degrees about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Brush tops of hot biscuits with a little melted butter if desired.  These savory biscuits are even good cold.