What is the most underrated herb?
Some herbs get all the love: basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano and mint were easy picks when I started my herb garden a few years ago. I also planted sage last year since it was easy to grow, while still mostly unfamiliar. I also really enjoy lemon verbena, although I only ever used it as a tisane (it would make delicious ice cream, though).
Sadly, most of my herbs died over the winter, despite living in the warm comfort of our kitchen. One plant was hardy enough to survive our kitchen winter and popped its head out again: chives. And despite growing them for 3 summers, I rarely used them in my cooking.
While I caved and bought some new plants last month (it was Red Russian kale! and basil!) at my local grocer, my basil has not yet grown enough for a harvest just yet. So, I improvised for this recipe. A chunky yet creamy tomato mushroom sauce. Yes, fresh basil would be delightful. I compromised. Instead, I used dried basil and added fresh chives. (I thought perhaps some pesto could substitute for the fresh basil but my Mom suggested going with the chives instead).
My Mom did not lead me astray: it was very good. This is a quick-and-easy chunky tomato sauce, with big chunks of tomato, chopped mushrooms and giant corona beans that I snuck in at the last moment. Just like when I made The World’s Healthiest Bolognese Sauce, nutritional yeast added creaminess with a hint of cheesiness. The dried herbs worked well and the chives gave a different twist to the sauce. Next time, though, I may try the tomato-pesto sauce, too – it isn’t a novel idea.
Although I wanted to serve this with soba noodles, the sauce was too chunky for such delicate pasta. Instead, I pulled out a chunky noodle. We have tried a few bean-based pastas, but this was a different brand and a different bean. Made with chickpeas but still fusilli, though. A fun shape and it worked well with the sauce.
As I said, I don’t really do anything different around January 1.
I had a long list of things I wanted to do over the holidays, though, but didn’t really conquer much of the list. Other than spend time with family and friends… and with myself. Sometimes, it may be more important to get a good relaxing vacation instead of worrying about work and other deadlines.
Rob and I had planned to do some spring cleaning, going through some of our stuff downstairs, but we procrastinated instead…
I know some people are really good about cleaning out their pantries of old food, but I tend to accumulate instead of purge. However, I’ve had 2 recent cooking mishaps from stale spices, so I am urging you not to follow my footsteps into the same fate! Toss those old spices!
In my case, I inherited a nice spice drawer when I moved into our new house. The drawer is lined by rows of jars with spices. Some new to me, like anardana, and others that I had never used before like marjoram, and others that I just didn’t have like chili powder and ground mustard. I quickly added in some of my own spices that were missing like smoked paprika, parsley and mint. While I know how old my spices are, I wasn’t sure how long the inherited spices had been there… but when this recipe called for ground mustard, low and behold, I had some and plundered on.
This is a recipe for a Trinidadian Black-Eyed Pea Soup from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (recipe also posted here). In addition to inheriting spices, I also was (very kindly) lent a slow cooker. This soup looked simple enough to simmer away in the crockpot, so I pieced it together and timed it so it would be ready by the time I got home after work. Since I was to be sharing this with a bunch of friends, I doubled the amount of black-eyed peas, carrot and spices, turning this into a stew instead of a soup.
There was so much stuff in the slow cooker, I was worried it would boil over! Thankfully, by the time I made it home, the stew was ready and Rob had already started to dish it out.
Everyone said they liked the stew, but I thought something was missing. The fresh cilantro and chives were important for flavour but the stew needed a bit more depth of flavour. I wasn’t happy with it. Someone ended up adding a spicy Dijon mustard and said it was superb. When I ate the leftovers, I agreed that the mustard really helped. But I thought to myself, I know I added the ground mustard – why can’t I taste it? So I went back to the ground mustard in the spice drawer… dipped my finger in it and tasted it. And what did it taste like? NOTHING! It definitely needed to be tossed!
Combined with lackluster results from Chili Lime Roasted Chickpeas due to stale chili powder, this has really gotten me to think about tossing the old spices! Out with the old and in with the new!
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Chez Cayenne, and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring black eyed peas.
How much is half a bushel?
Technically, it is 4 pecks or 8 gallons.
After this weekend, to me, it means 26.6 lbs of apples.
Or 66 apples!
And a bargain at $15.75 (60c/lb!)
(our bushel was slightly rounded, hehe)
Last weekend, Rob and I travelled to Birtch Farms for some DIY apple picking. We were expecting to come home with Cortland and Empire, but were tickled pink when we found out that Mutsu (aka Crispin), Jonagold and Ida Red were also ripe for picking!
Rob had never had Mutsu before, and thankfully we were encouraged to sample the apples first to figure out which we preferred. Mutsu was the clear winner for a snacking apple, followed by the Ida Red. While the Jonagold is a cross between a Jonathan and Golden Delicious, I thought it tasted too much like a Gala for me to enjoy it. Sadly, we missed the Honeycrisp picking season, and I don’t think they grow Ambrosia out here, which are my 2 favourite snacking apples. Mutsu will be my go-to apple for the next month or so, though!
Rob also picked up some fresh apple cider for the road and when we returned I made this delicious soup.
A butternut squash soup with pear, apple cider and vanilla from Orangette.
Who says vanilla is only for sweet desserts?
Add it to your savoury dishes, as well.
Sometimes you can go too sweet with squash but here, everything was balanced nicely. The pear and cider are sweet, but the vanilla calms it down. It was smooth and creamy from the squash and milk. A delightful light, creamy soup.
Perfect for your next Thanksgiving meal. Or any day you want a delicious heart-warming soup.