Monday, June 29, 2015

Herb Series: Rosemary

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."
-- William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Of all the herbs in my garden, rosemary is the most memorable--and audacious. She is stimulating, adventurous, and provocative. Deep in her heart, she thinks she's the top herb, beloved by all. In truth, some people adore her, but others are turned off by her overbearing  personality. You see, Rosie is a bit of a narcissist, and she'll throw you under the bus to get what she wants: world domination.

Oh, what's the problem with rosemary? Is there a problem?
She belongs to the mint family, yet she has a distinct piney smell. She's beautiful, intelligent, and well-spoken. No matter where you find her--in an Elizabethan garden or a wildwood thicket-- she radiates an innocent, lost-in-the-forest vibe. Don't be fooled: this dame is ruthless.
If she had fairy wings, and they didn't work with her outfit, she'd rip them off. If she liked your wings, she'd wait until you fell asleep, then she'd pull out a scalpel.
"It wasn't me," she'd say. "Thyme took your wings."

You've probably known someone like her, a woman with a beautiful smile, but it never quite reaches her eyes. When you meet her for the first time, she is charming and likable. She will be your new best friend, but she really wants to stick her finger in your pie, even if it's not in the pie's best interest.

Little Miss Know-it-All has a solution for everything. If you've got a problem, she knows how to fix it. She'll balance your checkbook, clean out your storage shed, and redecorate your house. Then, one day you'll walk into an antique mall and see your grandmother's Hitchcock chair--you'd turned  your house upside-down looking for it, and now it's for sale in a booth called "Rosemary's Relics." She's not a thief, exactly. She did you a favor, and she expects payback.

 How does that old, anonymous saying go? "In houses where rosemary flourishes, the woman rules."
She wears the pants in her family and in every friendship. If you try to reign her in, she'll act hurt. Her bottom lip will poke out so far, a chickadee could perch on it. "What did I do?" she'll cry.
"I was only trying to help."
In two seconds, she'll spin your head around: you're the meanie, and she's a sweetie pie.

Rosemary can be overwhelming, domineering, and rowdy. But despite her shortcomings, she has a few virtues. Flies hate her. She has a reputation for improving memory and eliminating headaches. Put a sprig in your wedding bouquet, and your beloved will be faithful. [That said, I should mention Anne of Cleves: when she married Henry VIII, she tucked a rosemary sprig in her hair. She lost the man but kept her head, so there's that.] Finally, in olden times, mourners at a funeral would drop rosemary sprigs into the grave--a promise that the dead would be remembered. 

Rosemary holds a place of honor with foodies. Pair her with veal, chicken, pork, lamb, and game. She's a marvelous addition to jellies, jams, oils, tea, vinegar, and wine. To punch up flavor, add sprigs to vinegar or a jar of sea salt. In judicious quantities, rosemary adds a fresh zing to breads, cakes, lemons, oranges, olives, nuts, goat cheese, and dark chocolate.

Tie sprigs into bundles and toss into a wood burning fire or the barbecue grill. Strip a branch and use it as a BBQ skewer.

Rosemary might not get along with everyone, but she's the soul mate of potatoes and carrots.
They "get" her. 

Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Rosemary
rainbow carrots, peeled
olive oil
minced rosemary leaves and whole sprigs
rosemary-flavored sea salt
fresh pepper

Mix ingredients and place on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. Remove from oven. When cool, pick out the rosemary stems. Garnish with fresh, minced rosemary.

Mushroom Tart
  • Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry sheets -- 2 (3 if you want to get fancy)
  • mushrooms (shitake, etc) I used mushrooms leftover from another meal. 1 box shitakes, 1 box button mushrooms.
  • shredded swiss cheese -- 1 c, more if you like it cheesier
  • rosemary -- sprigs for garnishing and 2 sprigs (cut with scissors) to scatter over the tart
  • chopped onions 1/4 c.
  • leftover vegetables (peas) 1/2 c
Sautee onions in butter. Add mushrooms, plus a little red wine (1 T) . Fold in peas. Line a deep pan with a thawed puff pastry sheet. Add mushrooms. Sprinkle with cheese. Place remaining sheet on top of mushroom mixture. (I used mushrooms leftover from the night before and added a handful of shitakes.)Crimp edges. Wash pastry with 1 egg plus a little water (whip with fork).Bake at 400 degrees 20 minutes or until pastry puffs and browns.
To make the Fleur-di-lis center, I used the third, and final, puff pastry sheet. A large fleur-de-lis cookie cutter was used to cut out the centerpiece. The scraps were used for fun touches (see below). Garnish the tart with rosemary. But let it cool, or your rosemary will blacken in a flash.

Parmesan Crisps

Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Cookie Cutters
Pam Spray
rosemary (for garnish)

Spray cookie cutters lightly with Pam. Place on baking sheet. Sprinkle Parmesan into cookie cutter. Bake at 350 degrees until brown. This took FOREVER, maybe 25 minutes, but my oven is wonky. Cool. They "pop" out of the cookie cutter, and the clean-up isn't too bad. Sprinkle with minced rosemary.

How to Make Herbed Vinegar

1. Place herbs in a sterilized glass jar. 

2. Use a bamboo skewer to arrange herbs in the bottle.

3. Pour vinegar into a saucepan and heat gently to 80 degrees. 

Do not boil.

4. Place a funnel in the top of the jar and add vinegar. 

Don't be afraid to mix flavors.

5. Cap bottles. Steep in a sunlit window for two weeks. 

Gently turn bottles every day

6. Uncap bottles, remove herbs, and strain. 

7. Return vinegar to clean bottles.

8. Add a fresh herbal sprig and recap bottles.


Dill vinegar--add lemon zest

Tarragon--add chives and basil

Rosemary--add garlic (spear garlic with a bamboo skewer for easy removal).

Baked Rosemary-Garlic Nuts

20 cloves of garlic, peeled (leave whole)
1 T. finely chopped rosemary
1 c unsalted raw mixed nuts
2 t. olive oil
1/4 t truffle salt (I used sea salt)

mix the garlic, rosemary, olive oil, and salt. Place in a roasting pan.
Cook the garlic mixture in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes.
Add nuts and cook for another 5 minutes. Salt as needed.

from a recipe in The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson

How to Store Fresh Rosemary:

* place sprigs in a plastic bag and pop in the refrigerator

*Freeze (use plastic bags)

*Hang upside down to dry in a dark room.After drying, store in an airtight container.

You've been warned: she is the Napoleon of the herb world. She doesn't honor boundaries. Give her an inch, and she'll take a thousand miles. When she enters your kitchen, lay down the rules. Draw a line in the sea salt. Remember one thing: in small doses, she works big magic. 

Catch up on Rattlebridge's Herb Series:

Supplementary Reading:

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  1. Great post! Well said and bravo. Love the recipes too. Pinned :)

  2. I love your new header, but I loved seeing Zap more. Pease bring him back!

  3. Rosemary is a favorite herb for me, along with basil and thyme. It seems I use more rosemary in the winter than any other season. Your photos are beautiful, Michael Lee!

  4. Such an entertaining story about Rosemary, you are so right in all the ways you described "her". Thanks for bringing a smile to my face.

  5. This one is my favorite of the herb series. I do love rosie, but you're right, she'll take over when you turn your eye :)


  6. cute new banner, i spy a little lady bug or two :-)

    i love this series of yours, and truly a favorite herb for her strength and beauty, this gal can hold a torch! adore your pics too~

    thyme took your wings... rosemarys relics... you always make me laugh!

    love the recipe recaps too, YUM!

    very fun, love your creativity and joy of sharing the fun stuff!

  7. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs!....and your photos are gorgeous...loved reading all about Rosemary!

  8. Michael Lee, you are filled with herbal information. You should write a cookbook on herbs and include all your fabulous photos. I want to make the tart, the Parmesan crisps and the vinegars, and luckily Rosie is growing in a pot outside my door.

  9. Oh lordy. I'm one of those people overwhelmed by rosemary. I used to come home from school to the smell of my mom roasting pecans that were saturated in rosemary. It was way, way too much and really turned me off rosemary. I try to use it every now again, but I can only handle it in small doses :)

  10. Michael Lee, I've been laughing and nodding as I read your Rosemary review! She can live in my garden but is only allowed into my kitchen on extremely few occasions. I think the idea that she goes with everything has gone to her head a bit! Your carrots do look awfully yummy, though, so maybe she'll have a chance this week to star on my table. Linda

  11. Very informative post, I love it!

  12. I am another one that likes rosemary. Enjoyed reading your story about rosemary - the good and the bad. :-)
    My daughter brought me some a couple days ago that she grew.

  13. Oh Michael Lee, what an incredible romp through the rosemary! Ruthless rosemary! Not only have you captured her personality with your lively descriptions, you have explained some of her mysterious ways~ that mushroom tart is going on my to do list, along with the Parmesan crisps and the gorgeous herbed vinegar! Thank you for the delightful tale of rosemary~ it is the one thing I do seem to be able to grow!

  14. Your photography and post are fantastic, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It' is true, I love it, and my husband dislikes it! He would love your mushroom tart....Hmmmmm....I might even slip some rosemary in it anyways! =)

  15. I don't know what I enjoyed most, learning about rosemary or your writing style? Your writing style for sure! Thank you.