Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Cook's Herb Garden

I love cooking with herbs...definitely an understatement. Nothing makes a dis come to life better than the addition of herbs. In Montreal, I lived with my little girls in an upper flat and the wonderful landlords let us use their lawn for the girls to play in and for me to plant a little garden...as long as I shared the harvest. It was wonderful. Then I moved to Toronto and somehow, the herbs I grew the first year never really flourished, so I ended up with big tubs of rosemary, basil and oregano on my front porch. Now I live in Halifax without a garden, porch or even a balcony, so the best I can do is have a few tiny pots sitting on my window sill.

All this to get you in the mood for a wonderful little book. The Cook's Herb Garden is divided into three sections...growing, harvesting and cooking.

Growing: The color photos of each herb, their descriptions, the best ways to grow them, when to harvest and how to cook with each of them is worth the price alone. As an example...basil happens to be my most favorite herb, although there isn't a herb I dislike...but I digress. Each of the seven glorious varieties are given their due. From the sweet basil (the one most of us know) "strongly scented with large bright green leaves; used in pesto, salads, tomato sauces and soup" to Holy basil "green leaves have a spicy aroma...originated in Thailand where it is grown around Buddhist temples; staple ingredient in Thai cooking like stir fries with chicken, beef or pork" .

It also gives guidance as to where/when/how to plant your herb gardens...even if you're only able to do so in pots. Oh...and for those of us who will never grow an herb garden, but find a recipe with an herb that is unfamiliar...we'll actually get to see what it looks like before we head out to the store or market.

Harvesting & Storing:
I shared some short-term & freezing storage tips for fresh herbs...so even if you can only enjoy the ones you buy in a store, you can get the most out of them. And there are additional tips on how to dry them, with wonderful photo tutorials. I particularly love the guide to braiding garlic.

Cooking:
I really was expecting this to be a mostly cooking book, but in fact, out of 192 pages, only 60 pages or so are actually recipes. Don't turn your noses up though....because the are wonderful pages from butters to steeped teas, from rubs to sauces and everything else you could imagine.
I chose this Oregano, Citrus and Rosemary Rub for my roasted leg of lamb. I'm still dreaming about it....and the chive butter that I tossed with some steamed new potatoes...delicious!

So whether you're into herb gardening (or wanting to start one), are wondering what to do with those giant bunches of herbs you bought but only needed a quarter cup for the recipe, or are interested in recipes and which herbs work best with each other and with other ingredients...this book is a lovely addition. I even love looking through it in the dead of winter when fresh herbs are so limited here in Halifax. It gives me something to look forward to.

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