Quick, Healthy, Springtime Dishes -- Featuring Herbs! By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Author of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes
The use of fresh herbs has exploded in the American kitchen today. I recall that as a young apprentice in Italy -- at my great-aunt's apron strings -- for every herb we had in the garden, there seemed to be a pot on the stove to match. Some herbs were better to cook with while others were better added at the end to a finished dish. For example, rosemary, bay leaves and thyme are mostly used for long cooking where their oils are extracted slowly out of their leaves. Sage, oregano and marjoram need very little cooking time, and herbs such as basil, parsley and mint are great to toss in raw at the end -- just enough to release their refreshing aromas. If you have small children a wonderful way to introduce them to the enticing aromas of herbs is to gently crush the herbs in your hands and let them smell. I did this with my grandchildren when they were very small and it's a great way to get them excited about the world of herbs and food at an early age. In fact, once you get your small children excited about herbs, introduce them to your own dishes. Here I'm sharing some of the quickest, and most child-friendly. Enjoy!
HERB PESTO Makes 1 ½ cups
1 cup packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup packed mixed fresh sage, thyme, and marjoram leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Wash the herb leaves in cool water and dry them thoroughly, preferably in a salad spinner. Combine the herbs and garlic in a blender and blend on low speed, slowly adding the oil while the machine is running, until the pesto is smooth and all the oil is incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Keep in a sealed jar in the refrigerator and use as needed. Pesto will keep refrigerated for up to 4 weeks or it may be frozen for up to 3 months. Make sure there is a thin film of oil over the pesto to keep its flavor and color bright.
Serves 2 as an appetizer, 1 as a lunch dish From "Lidia's Family Table" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon butter
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, and fresh herbs until just blended together. Heat the butter and oil in the small frying pan until it just starts to sizzle, then pour in the eggs and turn the heat down very low. Cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes. The eggs will start to puff up and sizzle at the edges. Lift a corner of the frittata with a spatula, and check to see if the bottom has browned in splotches. When it has, flip the frittata over by giving the pan a firm, quick shake up and over toward you so that the egg mass dislodges and flips over in one piece. Or, if that unnerves you, turn the frittata over with a spatula. Cook the second side for 1 ½ to 2 minutes, again checking to see if the bottom has browned to your liking. Serve right away, or let cool to room temperature and cut the frittata in wedges.
BAKED FISH WITH SAVORY BREAD CRUMBS
Serves 6 Landlocked Umbria does not have a seafood cuisine. But its mountain lakes, rivers, and streams abound in freshwater fish, like the tasty tench. This simple preparation is one I found in Umbria, and it is excellent for fillets of our sweet-water varieties, such as carp or whitefish, or even light ocean-fish fillets like sole.
2 pounds whitefish fillets
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of a large lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
½ cup white wine
6 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs
Zest of a large lemon (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste, chopped fine
Author Bio Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, coauthor of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipe, is the author of five previous books, four of them accompanied by nationally syndicated public television series. She is the owner of the New York City restaurant Felidia (among others), and she lectures on and demonstrates Italian cooking throughout the country. She lives on Long Island, and can be reached at her Web site, www.LidiasItaly.com.
Disclaimer: This is a guest article by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich brought to you by FSB Media. I did not write any of this article and I was not compensated for posting it. I posted this for the pleasure of my readers.