Gardening, Cooking and Decorating on the Prairie of Kansas

Welcome to Linderhof, our 1920's home on the prairie, where there's usually something in the oven, flowers in the garden for tabletops and herbs in the garden for cooking. Where, when company comes, the teapot is always on and there are cookies and cakes to share in the larder.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cooking With Herbs

Two of my passions are cooking and herbs. What fun it is when my two passions come together.

And a real treat for me is to not just cook with my herbs but to be able to teach others how to cook with herbs.

Last Thursday, at Life + Style, I taught yet another herb cooking class. A private class for 13 ladies. Cynthia's blog, Life+Style, told the story, HERE, with pictures of both me and the class.

This, however, is a story of the food. . .

When the ladies came, bowls of herbal nuts awaited them.

The Thyme Pecans


4 cups pecan halves
2 t. sea salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. fresh thyme leaves
3 T. olive oil

In a large dry skillet toast the pecans over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the salt, pepper, thyme leaves and olive oil. Add the warm toasted pecans to the thyme-oil mixture. Stir well to combine and evenly coat the pecans. The fragrance is amazing. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

The Rosemary Walnuts.


1 pound walnut halves
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter, melted
3 T. fresh rosemary leaves, minced
2 t. paptrika
1/2 to 1 t. salt

Preheat oven to 325. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and toss to mix. Spread on a baking sheet large enough to hold the nuts in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until the nuts are golden but not browned. Remove and cool.

I love herbal nuts and always have some in the freezer. They make great cocktail nibbles and I also like to use them instead of croutons for salads. Less carbs and more protein. And there is nothing like great lettuce, bleu cheese and the rosemary walnuts with a vinaigrette that makes a very special and memorable salad.

The Thyme Pecan recipe is fairly new -- it comes from Bon Appetit, Y'All. But the Rosemary Walnuts came from a great herb farm near Des Moines that I had the privilege to visit when Daughter Sarah interned near there 13 years ago. My bay tree came from that farm and for such a little tree when I first got it, has grown into a respectable tree. Both the recipe and the bay remind me of that summer when she was so far from home for the first time.

A perfect start to a meal is soup. And herbs really enhance soups. It's summer, there is bounty at the Farmer's Market and a favorite summer soup is Fresh Corn Soup from Summer on A Plate by Anna Pump.

Her recipe called for chives, but because I wanted to use basil this evening, I substituted basil. Basil and corn go really well together and I did serve it cold. It has, after all, been 100 plus degrees on the prairie and I thought serving it cold was perfect.


1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
3 c. choppe donion
3 T. raw rice
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
5 cups Chicken Stock
4 cups freshly cut corn kernels (about 6 medium ears)
1 t. kosher salt
3/4 t. ground white pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 T. fresh lime juice
Creme Fraiche (for garnish)
Chopped fresh chives (for garnish)

Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft and glossy. Do not let them brown. Add the rice and garlic and saute a minute longer. Add the stock and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

Add the corn, salt and pepper. Simmer another 5 minutes. Add the cream and lime juice and stir well. Set it aside to cool.

Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches, then force it through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. To serve the soup cold, chill it, covered for at least 2 hours or overnight. If you reheat it, do not let it boil. Serve hot or cold.

Garnish each serving with a dab of creme fraiche and a pinch of chopped chives.

NOTE: I like the soup better without putting it through a sieve. I like the chunky texture of it after it has been pureed so I omit that step. I also used a chiffonade of basil on each serving rather than the chives.

To me, cooking with herbs is just using the herbs to enhance food. To illustrate how herbs do make a dish taste different, we served chicken salad three ways. It's my old standby chicken salad recipe -- the base recipe (without fruits and nuts -- just celery and onion).

We serve a scoop plain, a scoop with tarragon and a scoop with dill. It's fun to taste the three -- noting that herbs, indeed, change the flavor of a dish. We always take a vote to see which our students prefer -- usually, it's a tie between the dill and the tarragon!

On the plate, too, is an herbal roll -- my secret recipe herbal roll. They make a great addition to any meal.

No meal is complete without a dessert. And an herb class must have an herbal dessert! Mini Peach Pies with Honey and Thyme!
This is my version of a recipe from a favorite blog of mine --She's In the Kitchen. The minute I read about it, I knew that it would have to be the dessert for my class. The peaches are at the Farmer's Market and are so good. And who would think of peach and thyme. Here is Katrina's recipe.

The only change I made was to bake the filling and then make discs of the crust (to which I added a bit of thyme). We reheated the filling during the class and then put the crust on top. Everyone had a warm mini pie!

Thanks to Katrina for a great recipe.

I'll be doing some more classes at Life + Style this fall and I'm looking forward to it. And I love doing the private classes. All it takes is a free evening and 9 friends. I'm "Have Herbs -- Will Travel (and Cook!)"


katrina said...

Yum, yum, what a tasty spread! I'm reminded by your post of how much I LOVE sweet corn, and have completely forgotten it is corn season. I got distracted by the sweet, sweet peaches everywhere! Delighted you enjoyed the little peach pies with thyme!

Pondside said...

Oh my goodness, Martha, this post is just full of wonderful things to try. The herbal nuts are a definite - I know they'll be a hit at cocktail hour by the pond.
I'm heading right over to have a look at the class you taught.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

These little peach pies look divine! What grandchild wouldn't love their own little pie? My grandaughter and I will have to try this one together--and I do have thyme in the garden! I love nectarines also--no fuzz!
Just want to say that I absolutely love your blog!!! It's one of my very favorite places to visit!

From the Kitchen said...

I have just quickly scanned your post. After making a huge breakfast for our visiting son, I'll be back to "take the class" and I can't wait. The recipes look beautifully delicious!


Southerncook said...

Love the format of this class. I am doing a talk on growing herbs for my garden circle next year and had planned to do the same with a sampling of favorite foods that I use herbs. Like the idea of the chicken salad done three ways. How did your class vote on the preferred chicken salad?