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Category Archives: Recipes

Flat-leaf parsley is the best herb to grow and cook

What’s the No. 1 herb you should grow and have readily available as a single person? Pot and pan drum roll please… it’s flat-leaf parsley.

Parsley is the must-have herb to plant for a person with a busy lifestyle for several reasons. It’s my top pick because it’s low maintenance, can be used in multiple dishes and grows almost all year in the ground or a pot.

After chatting with friends about fresh herbs over the weekend I could tell this was a hot topic for cooks and foodies. It was like we were talking about family relatives, quickly spitting out the personality traits and quirks of each herb. Some people thought the best herb to grow and cook should be basil and another friend was adamant that rosemary was the queen of herbs. I had no idea herbs could be so…well controversial. And I love it.

While curly parsley is considered the ugly stepchild herb because of its lowly delegation as a plate garnish, its cousin – flat-leaf parsley – can complement just about any protein dish. Stay away from the meek curly parsley because of the rough mouth feel. But flat-leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley, adds punch and dimension to a dish with strong, deep flavor.

Parsley can be sprinkling on just about anything – like roasted vegetables, broiled white fish, grilled chicken and more. Gone are the days of buying a parsley bunch at the store and later finding half of it shriveled and rotting in your frig. If you are growing it, you only pick the amount you need from the garden and none of it will go to waste. It’s really an herb that keeps on giving.

In the garden:

The parsley in my garden looks like a small bush

In the Pacific Northwest our climate zone allows parsley to grow nearly all year.  I’ve been able to harvest fresh parsley from my garden to add to cold winter soups and summer salads. It even remained hearty after one or two small snowstorms in Seattle.

Parsley is also a low-maintenance and a high-yielding herb. Just make sure you cut off the inedible flowers/buds. Just think of it as an herb haircut that keeps the energy of the plant focused in the leaves not the buds.

Also when harvesting parsley, use a scissor to cut the leaves from the base of the stem where they originate from the main stalk or the ground. Don’t just cut off leaves as this will prevent it from generating new growth.

Here is a recipe I created for one serving. You won’t regret making this mouth-watering steak.

Hot in the kitchen: Grilled Steak with Chimichurri (vegetarian option below)

4 to 6 oz. filet mignon of other steak

½ cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves from the garden

2 tablespoon fresh oregano

3 garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Dash of sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and hot pepper flakes

Before preparing the chimichurri, turn the grill on to high heat and seasoning steak with salt and pepper.

For the sauce, lightly pulse fresh parsley, oregano and garlic in food processor or let your fingers do the work and finely chop the ingredients. In a small bowl combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Taste and add more salt, pepper or red pepper flakes depending on your palate.

Brush the grill with oil, then place filet on super hot grill. Flip steak after 4 minutes. After another 4-5 minutes of cooking, remove the meat from the grill and loosely place aluminum foil over steak on a plate for several minutes for a medium rare steak.

Drizzle chimichurri on the steak of your choice.

Vegetarian option: Gently clean a Portobello mushroom and thickly cut, on a horizontal slant, one zucchini and one eggplant. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill over medium high heat for five minutes each side or until grill marks appear. Plate vegetables and drizzle chimichurri sauce over the top.

I chose one herb for one person, but don’t limit yourself. Plant a trio of herbs this summer if you have the space. I have several herbs growing in my garden and in pots. My runner-up herb is basil and rounding out my top three is thyme.

It’s fun to snip herbs from your garden and add them to a dish to give it a flavor boost.

Cheers

Christine

How to harvest, prepare and cook fresh mussels

What’s not to love about mussels – they’re succulent, tender, salty and a bit sweet. Many of us have gone to the fish market or local grocery store and grabbed a bag of mussels sitting on ice and cooked a great bowl of mussels. But this time I wanted to go to the source. I wanted to be my own fishmonger. I wanted to grab my own dinner literally from the earth.

Hunting mussels can be a solitary adventure for the day or a great bonding experience with friends.  In my case, a group of friends went on the expedition and later each of us prepared the mussels in a different way.

A ferry and a short drive were the only things that stood between my posse and those black pearly mussels.

At Double Bluff State Park on Whidbey Island we walked along the beach at low tide and, at first, saw no mussels. But as we hiked closer to a large rocky bed we hit the jackpot. Soon I realized we were literally on a blanket of mussels. Thousands of them clutched to each other and small rocks. Plucking the mussels only the size of my thumb or bigger, I found my bucket full within a couple hours.

It was literally that easy. Back in the kitchen we had a mussel feast fit for the sea gods. The bivalves were so fresh and flavorful.

Mussels are a great choice of food for one person to prepare for many reasons. Within minutes you can steam the mussels in white wine and shallots or garlic and finish with fresh herbs. Just grab some french bread for dipping and a glass or two of Pinot Gris wine for sipping and you are set to relax after a hard day of work.

Also if you are entertaining friends, a quick mussel dish won’t keep you hostage in the kitchen while the rest of your soiree is kicking into high gear.

Below you’ll find tips on harvesting mussels, hints on preparing them in the kitchen and a great recipe. Don’t be intimidated by them and feel free to find your favorite way to enjoy them.

Harvesting Mussels:

  • Simply grab the mussel, twist and pull off.
  • Fill the bucket with cold water right from the harvest area and let them rest for a minimum of several hours. They will literally spit out sand and debris. This ensures you don’t have gritty mussels. Avoid soaking mussels in tap water.

Back at Home:

  • It’s time to crack open a beer or open up a bottle of white wine because you still have some work to do and you should reward yourself for such a catch. Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc are great wines to pair with mussels.
  • Clean the mussels by rubbing off any debris from their shells.
  • Throw away any mussels that are cracked or remain open after tapping them on a surface.
  • Remove the beard, a small hairy spot where the two parts of the shell connect. Sometimes you can just pull it away, but scissors also work. Do this just before cooking.
  • Mussels you don’t plan on cooking right away should be removed from the cold water and placed in the coldest part of your refrigerator on a bed of ice with a damp cloth on top of them. Mussels will keep for up to three days.

Hot in the Kitchen: Venetian-Style Mussels

I adapted a recipe from Chef Walter Pisano of Tulio restaurant printed in Celebrated Chefs, Vol. 2. Feel free to play with the ingredients and put your own take on it.

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 clove of garlic sliced

3 pounds of mussels

5 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced

¼ cup brandy

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

½ cup slivered fresh basil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add mussels and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Cover and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add tomatoes, brandy and lemon zest to the pan. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes or until the mussels have opened. Remove lid and gently stir in basil, parsley and pepper flakes. Serve immediately in shallow bowls.

Cheers Christine

Special thanks to friends Michelle, Chris and Tony