Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cooking with Herbs

Herbs are great for adding flavor and texture to a dish.  Buying fresh herbs is fine and usually not very expensive.  Unless, you factor in the cost of having to throw away the unused portions.  The problem is that herbs don't last very long once they've been cut from the plant.

I once lived in a Condo in the inner city.  On my small deck I created a lovely herb garden using containers.  I grew, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, chile peppers and tomatoes.  It was wonderful to be able to step out of my kitchen door and pluck just the amount of herbs that I needed to prepare the meal.

My deck was on the south side of the building and was completely exposed to the sun.  This created a bit of a challenge to keep the plants from drying out and getting cooked before I wanted them to. But, with lots of persistence and loving attention I managed to keep them alive and healthy.

Herbs can also be grown indoors in pots.  Considerations have to be made for providing enough light.  That can be done with grow lamps if your home does not have a generous amount of windows that will allow sun to filter in. 

The following recipe is packed with flavor and very easy to make. I saw Nigella Lawson prepare it on her cooking show on the Food Network channel.  The recipe was so simple that I remembered the ingredients without writing them down and was able to replicate it.  I don't know if my version is exactly the same as Nigella's but I like it.

Linguine with Baby Bella Mushrooms

8 oz. Linguine
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon 
4 or 5 medium Baby Bella Mushrooms sliced
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, rough chopped
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pasta pot with cold water.  Place pot on the stove on high heat.  Sprinkle in a generous shake of salt.  Once the water begins to boil add the linguine and let cook until done.  Pasta should be slightly chewy.  While waiting for the water to boil begin preparing the other ingredients.

In a large serving bowl, place chopped garlic, lemon zest, sliced mushrooms, thyme, parsley, and olive oil. Toss these ingredients together.  Make sure to thoroughly cover all ingredients with the olive oil.  Once the pasta is done drain the water off, reserving some of the liquid.  Add the pasta to the serving bowl and gently  toss all ingredients.  Squeeze in lemon juice and toss once more.  If necessary add a small amount of the pasta water to add moisture. Season with ground pepper and parmesan cheese.

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