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February 13, 2016

Etti’s Herb Salad from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

This salad is truly a labor of love.  It’s best made when friends or family gather in the kitchen and you have plenty of hands to keep busy.  Once you have spread out your mounds of fresh herbs, picking all these cups of leaves will probably still take a group of four about fifteen minutes – or at least that’s been my experience with a few chatty groups so far!

Etti’s Herb Salad                                     
From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi            Serves 6

2 cups cilantro leaves
1 ¼ cups Italian parsley leaves
2 cups dill leaves
1 cup tarragon leaves
1 ¼ cups basil leaves
2 cups arugula leaves
2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 heaping cup whole raw almonds
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

Gently immerse the herb leaves in cold water, and be careful not to bruise them.  Drain in a colander, then dry in a salad spinner or spread them out on clean kitchen towels and pat gently to dry.
Heat the butter in a pan, and add the almonds, salt, and pepper.  Sautéeé for 5 to 6 minutes over low to medium heat, until the almonds are golden.  Remove the almonds and transfer to a colander to drain.  Reserve the butter left in the pan, and keep it in a warm place so it does not set.  Once the almonds have cooled, coarsely chop them.
Assemble the salad when it will be served: Place the herbs in a large bowl; add almonds, cooking butter, lemon juice, and olive oil.  Toss gently and season to taste.  Serve immediately.

Why It’s Good For You
Fresh herbs deliver loads of chlorophyll to your body, which detoxifies your blood from metals and feeds the good gut bacteria.  The nutrient density of fresh herbs is really remarkable.  Consider this salad a powerhouse multi-vitamin:  Parsley and basil are high in vitamin K, which protects cells from oxidative damage, as well as vitamin A.  Parsley is also packed with iron to boost your energy.  Cilantro may reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood.  It is high in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and a good source of folate, and fiber, as well as minerals calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.  Like so many herbs, cilantro is also a great source of vitamins K, A, and C.  Dill is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and it is a good source of folate as well as minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.  Potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure.  Arugula’s sulfurous glucosinolates protect cells from DNA damage, lower inflammation and protect against UV damage.  Almonds are a great source of good-for-you fat as well as vitamin E. 

February 12, 2016

Pesto, Pistou, Gremolata, Chimichurri, Salsa Verde, and More!

Herbs.  There’s so much beautiful flavor and aroma in a summer herb garden.  And on the third consecutive day of freezing temperatures that sure seems like a long way off.  Adding herbs to the menu on these cold days is a great way to brighten some cold-weather cooking. Maybe the best part is that herbs won’t just add zest to these dishes, but they also deliver great nutrition.  In fact, most herbs common in our markets are as nutritious as kale and other leafy greens.
If you can take the time to smash your own herbs with olive oil, citrus zest, and maybe some garlic or nuts, the variety of herb sauces and dressings you can make will be right at home with everything from grilled fish or chicken to raw veggies to pasta or quinoa or a hearty bowl of soup.

Pesto, Pistou, Gremolata, Chimichurri, Salsa Verde, and More!
Across the Mediterranean region, traditional cuisines developed green condiments and sauces made from herbs such as basil or parsley combined with olive oil, garlic, and sometimes nuts such as pine nuts or walnuts, and often a bit of hard cheese such as Parmesan.  Whether it’s Genovese pesto, South American Chimichurri, or Northern Italian style gremolata, this heritage of green condiments and sauces brings superfood nutrition to your table.

Chimichurri traditionally accompanies grilled red meat.  It’s as simple as loading up the food processor and cleaning up.  Combine 1 cup Italian parsley, 1/2 cup cilantro, 2 garlic cloves, 1 seeded jalapeño, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, a big pinch of ground cumin and a teaspoon of kosher salt.  Pulse them together in the food processor and then allow the flavors to develop for at least half an hour before serving.  It’s a great addition to a rice dish, and used as a dressing for a grain salad it pairs well with all kinds of vegetables.

Chimichurri is so good for you – Parsley is packed with iron to boost energy, and it delivers chlorophyll, which oxygenates blood, detoxifies metals in our body, and feeds good bacteria in the gut.  Another great source of fat-soluble vitamin K, parsley is associated with promoting bone health and limiting neuron damage in the brain.  Parsley is one of the herbs highest in antioxidant beta-carotene.  Cilantro may reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood.  It is high in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and a good source of folate, and fiber, as well as minerals calcium, potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.  Cilantro is also a great source of vitamins K, A, and C.

Gremolata originated in the cuisine of Milan.  It is a simple pairing of garlic, lemon zest, and parsley.  Try it over blanched green beans or asparagus.  It was traditionally served over meat such osso buco.  To dress about a pound of green beans or asparagus combine 2 cloves of garlic, minced, with the zest of two medium lemons, 1/4 cup of minced Italian parsley.   If you’d really like to ramp it up add 3 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan,  2 tablespoons of pine nuts and about 2 tablespoons of your favorite olive oil.  For a short cut, I use my microplane zester for the garlic and lemon zest and only have to chop some parsley.

Pesto, made from Genoa basil, the variety common to our markets, is a wonderful addition soups such as minestrone, and of course an ideal dressing for pasta and potatoes, or an Italian sandwich.  Basil contains flavonoids that protect your cells from oxidative damage.  Its essential oils deliver anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits.  Basil is high in vitamin A, essential for vision and maintaining healthy skin.  It is a good source of vitamin K, which is important for healthy blood clotting and strengthens blood vessels to reduce dark circles and prevent varicose veins.  Basil is also an excellent source of iron.  Make big batches of basil when your herb garden is full, and freeze 2 tablespoon portions in ice cube trays.  You’ll have the bright, warm taste of summer all winter long.

Combine 3 tablespoons of pine nuts and 1 clove of garlic in the food processor or with a mortar and pestle.  When the garlic is smashed to a paste and the nuts are finely ground, incorporate a cup of packed basil leaves, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, and a big pinch of salt, and then slowly add in 1/4 cup of olive oil.