Homegrown Pure and Simple: Great Healthy Food From Garden to Table by Michel Nischan with Mary Goodbody

Great Healthy Food From Garden to Table

by Michel Nischan with Mary Goodbody.

Copyright © 2005 by Chronicle Books.

Provided with permission from Chronicle Books.

Buy Homegrown Pure and Simple from Amazon.com.

Chilled Garden Berry Soup with Lemon Verbena

Lemon verbena, one of my favorite herbs, is difficult to find, so I grow my own. I am always happy I do when I walk past it or pick it and get a whiff of its intoxicating, fresh, lemony scent—particularly late on a hot, sunny day when the herb is at its headiest. If you are using seeds, start them in a sunny window in late winter or very early spring and transplant to the garden in mid-May, where the herb will flourish until fall. I advise cutting the verbena back, mulching, and then covering it with straw for over wintering. This is not always successful, but if it is, the hassle is well worth it. Eventually, lemon verbena will turn into a shrublike plant that just keeps on giving! In case the heavy mulching fails (the winter could be extremely harsh, for example), take a few cuttings in late summer, root them in water, and plant in a pot to hold for spring planting. In mild climates, verbena grows into a small, sprawling tree. I am surprised it's not more popular. This recipe may help spread the word about its magic.

Book ShelfI love lemon verbena with fresh berries, and there is no better way to marry the two than in a soup or dessert. I particularly enjoy healthful, refreshing berry soups. The addition of a little salt, hot chili pepper, and lemon juice keeps the soup from tasting like a dessert sauce, while giving it wonderful zip. The base recipe below works for any berry, and you can mix and match other citrus juices and herbs. For instance, I find lime juice and cilantro is just the right choice for blueberry soup with some additional hot chilies, of course!

Serves 6

1 cup local honey
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
4 to 5 teaspoons seeded, finely minced jalapeo or other fresh chili (about 1 small jalapeo)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh lemon verbena stems
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 pints favorite garden berry in season such as strawberry, raspberry, or blueberry
1/4 cup loosely packed, sliced fresh lemon verbena leaves

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, 4 teaspoons chili, and verbena stems in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the flavors are well developed. If you like a little more zip, add more minced chili. Season with the salt, remove from the heat, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Put the berries in a food processor. Pour the honey mixture through a fine-mesh sieve held over the berries and then process until smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice.

Rinse the sieve, and then strain the soup through the sieve into a glass bowl. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Stir in the sliced verbena leaves, cover, and chill for about 1 hour before serving.

Taste and adjust seasoning before serving in chilled bowls.

Seared Sea Scallops with Spring-Dug Parsnip Butter

So many gardeners, whether they are backyard hobbyists or small farmers who grow primarily for green markets, are frustrated in the spring because of the lack of green vegetables. But there are a few items in the garden that are exciting to use and this recipe makes good use of two wonderful natural treasures: spring-dug parsnips and chervil.

Book ShelfA good friend, chef Peter Davis of Henrietta's Table in Cambridge, Massachusetts, introduced me to spring-dug parsnips from nearby Verrill Farms. It's a perennial root in northern regions, and when properly tended, survives the winter so that it can be dug in the spring when fresh greens begin to appear on the tops. The root benefits from parboiling and then roasting to bring out its overwintered sweetness. When it is pured, its texture is similar to very smooth apple butter yet no butter is involved.

This sweetness goes well with chervil, one of my all-time favorite cool-weather herbs. The marriage of the rich, sweet, earthy parsnips and the mildly licorice-flavored chervil is a surefire hit with sea scallops. Rely on a little lemon juice and zest to cut the sweetness of this pleasing spring dish, which can also be served as a first course for six.

Serves 4

1 large or 2 medium spring-dug parsnips, peeled (about 10 ounces total)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons firmly packed, chopped fresh chervil, plus 6 generous sprigs for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
12 large dry sea scallops (about 12 ounces total) (see Note)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.

In a saucepan, combine the parsnips with water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring to simmer over medium heat and parboil for about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Lift the parsnips from the pan and reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid.

Slice the parsnip into 1/2-inch-thick pieces and lay the pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn the parsnips at least once during roasting to ensure even browning.

Transfer the parsnips to a food processor. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse until the parsnips break down. With the motor running, add the reserved 1/4 cup liquid 1 tablespoon at a time and process until the mixture resembles loose peanut butter or apple butter. Finish by slowly pulsing in the olive oil and chopped chervil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape into a dish or small saucepan with a lid and set aside to keep warm. You should have about 2 cups.

Heat a large, dry skillet or saut pan over high heat. Brush each scallop on all sides with the grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper. Put the scallops in the hot pan and do not move them for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges are well browned. Turn the scallops over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until cooked through.

Put the scallops on a warmed plate and let them rest for 2 minutes. If juice pools on the plate, stir it into the parsnip pure for extra flavor.

Divide the parsnip pure evenly among 4 warmed dinner plates, placing it in the center. Set 3 scallops on top of each mound and garnish with the chervil sprigs. Serve at once.

Note: Buy scallops that look creamy white or even slightly pink. These have not been soaked in a preservative solution, which is what turns many commercial scallops bright white. Good fishmongers typically carry dry scallops because of their superior quality.

Rosemary and Balsamic Portobellos

Everyone loves the idea of cooking with herbs, but some cooks become timid or tentative when it comes time to add the herbs. Here's a simple and powerful way to flavor meaty portobello mushrooms with heady rosemary. No need to pick the spiky leaves from the stems — a job that, quite frankly, many folks never finish. Instead, cut long lengths from the rosemary plant (or buy them), lay the sprigs parallel to one another, on a baking sheet and set the mushrooms on top of them. The rosemary stems are an amazing and delicious garnish, plus the rosemary leaves don't get stuck in your teeth!

Serves 8

8 portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Grapeseed or canola oil in a mister or spray bottle
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 fresh long rosemary sprigs
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Remove the stems and gills from the portobello mushrooms and turn them, hollow side up, on a work surface. Sprinkle the mushrooms evenly with the balsamic vinegar, working gradually until it is all absorbed by the mushrooms. Lightly spray the mushrooms with grapeseed oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Lay the rosemary sprigs parallel to one another, on a baking sheet (like railroad tracks) Arrange the mushroom caps over the rosemary sprigs, creating 2 rows of 4 mushrooms each.
4. Roast for 5 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over and roast for 3 to 5 minutes longer, or until softened.
5. Transfer the mushrooms and rosemary to a warmed platter. Brush lightly with olive oil and drizzle with any pan juices. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Learn more about Chef Michel Nischan.

Last Modified Date: June 03, 2014

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