It’s nice to cook with herbs again.
It’s not that I didn’t cook with any herbs, but I’ve been hesitant to add very many.
I think it’s because I’ve gotten burned too many times by cooks who have added herbs to their dishes with too heavy a hand. One bad encounter with over-rosemaried vegetables at a fancy restaurant in college put me off of the herb for nearly seven years. The same goes for sage.
One of our friends from Seattle gave us The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor for our wedding. It’s written by Jerry Traunfield, former Executive Chef of The Herbfarm and current chef of Poppy, both in Seattle, WA.
So far, I’ve tried several of the simpler recipes and all have been winners.
Some of the recipes call for herbs I can’t find in smaller-town Iowa like lovage, shiso, and lemon thyme, though I’ve seen them in grocery stores and farmers markets around the Twin Cities. It may also be possible to grow some next summer.
Since I do not have an herb garden at home, I added dry herbs instead, using about half of the fresh amount that the recipes call for. You can always add more.
Of course, fresh herbs taste more vibrant than dried, but if you have dried herbs and want to save some money, don’t feel bad about using them. I don’t.
This bean soup is easy to prepare and flavorful. I roughly pureed it with an immersion blender for a smoother texture and served it with this homemade focaccia.
This foccacia recipe is fantastic because it provides you with freshly baked bread quickly and without much fuss. Just throw all five ingredients into a bowl, mix on high for one minute, proof for an hour, and bake. Instead of adding cheese powder and pizza seasoning, I rubbed the dough with olive oil, my favorite herbs, course sea salt, and black pepper before baking.
White Bean Soup With Bacon and Smoked Paprika
Adapted from Jerry Traunfield’s recipe Smokey Tomato-Bean Soup in The Herbal Kitchen Cookbook
1 tablespoon olive oil
Four slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons dried sage (or 3 fresh)
1 hot pepper, minced (I used a Fresno chili, seeds and all)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Splash of white wine
28 oz can of diced tomatoes + 1/2 can of water
A little beef base
1 tablespoon dried marjarom (or 2 fresh)
1 can of cannelini beans, drained
Black pepper, to taste,
Salt, to taste
Sugar or honey, to taste
In a little olive oil, render the bacon until it turns crisp.
Drain off most of the fat, leaving enough to saute the onion. You can save the bacon fat in your fridge for later use.
Add the onion, sage, hot pepper, garlic, and paprika and cook until the onion is translusent.
De-glaze with a splash of white wine and stir, scraping up any crust on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine reduces.
Add the tomatoes, water, and a little beef base for extra flavor. You could substitute a little stock or leave the base/stock out alltogether.
Simmer for about 1/2 hour or longer so the canned tomoato flavor cooks out.
Add the marjoram and beans. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and a couple dashes of sugar or honey to offset the tomatoes’ acidity.
Roughly blend with an immersion blender and serve.