We’ve already discussed citrus and how you can use the various types to add flavor. I’ve decided that it might be a good idea, every now and again, to focus on specific herbs, spices, blends and flavors that compliment each other, and how to use them. To that end, we’re going to talk about sage, rosemary and thyme.
It just so happens they work very well with citrus, so it seemed logical to go here next. I’ve given you 3 recipes for side dishes. They are relatively simply to prepare and they pair will with many main course proteins.
All three of these herbs are indigenous to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean. They are woody perennials and grow prolifically. All 3 are members of the mint family.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) grows extremely well in the Northeastern US. I have some in my garden and I am able to use it all year long. In winter, I knock the snow off the plant and there it is just waiting to be used in some delectable way! The type of sage you will find in the supermarket is the common sage pictured above, which has the most flavor. The more colorful varieties, purple, tri-color and golden are easily grown, but they have less flavor and flavored sages such as pineapple and I think there are melon-flavored sages as well, are interesting, but we’re using common sage here. Common sage has a pleasantly herbaceous, fresh flavor and is a natural with winter squashes, mushrooms, string beans, stewed tomatoes, pumpkin, cherries, apples and blueberries. It’s good with anything poultry, wonderful with pork, is usually in breakfast sausages and very tasty added to cheese sauces. It is an essential ingredient in poultry seasoning. Here’s a nice little recipe featuring sage:
Onion & Apples with Sage
- 9 to 10 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 large cooking onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour or arrowroot
- 3 to 4 large apples such as Cortland or Spy, peeled, cored and sliced into wedges
- 5 fresh sage leaves, very finely julienned or 1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
In a heavy skillet (I use cast iron), fry the bacon until crisp; set aside. Drain most of fat from frying pan; place back over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth; add apple slices and sage. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer, partially covered, 5 to 10 minutes or until apples are tender and sauce is lightly thickened. Add more broth if too thick. Serve with roasted chicken or pork roast.
Onion & Apples with Sage Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2014. All rights reserved.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an evergreen shrub. While it is a perennial, it has to be brought inside in less temperate climes. It has a slightly piney, herbaceous flavor with citrusy overtones and is very aromatic. I use rosemary with lamb, pork, poultry, in stuffing, breads, and with olives and toasted nuts. It’s also great with potatoes:
Exceptional Roasted Potatoes
- 4 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into wedges (I prefer unpeeled)
- 2 onions, cut into wedges
- 1/2 cup ripe olives
- 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss all the ingredients together and place in a baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes, until the potatoes are done and are starting to become crisp. I usually use a metal spatula to turn them about half-way through cooking. If you wish, you may toss in a handful of cherry tomatoes and the zest of 1 large lemon (cut into fine julienne), about 10 minutes before the potatoes are done. Season with salt and pepper immediately after you remove the pan from the oven. If you have leftovers, they make excellent home fries. These are wonderful with roasted chicken, pork or lamb.
Exceptional Roasted Potatoes Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2014. All rights reserved.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) has citrusy and earthy properties; it adds a nice balance to many dishes. There are 2 main types of thyme, the regular one pictured above and lemon thyme. There is a sprig of lemon thyme in the picture, but it’s pretty hard to see (bottom right and a bit blurry…sorry). Lemon thyme has, well a lemony taste…go figure! Thyme is frequently used in Italian and Provençal French cuisines. It is wonderful paired with lamb, poultry and tomatoes, and is often used in soups, stews, stocks and sauces. Lemon thyme is particularly nice with fish or in fish stews and with vegetables. By the way, thyme is pronounced like “time”, here in North America; another one of those quirky English words and in life, do we every have enough thyme? The below recipe is very flexible. You can use orange instead of lemon and these beans are great with herbs other than thyme and of course, bacon is always a welcome guest!
Thyme-ly Green Beans
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh shallot (or 2 teaspoon dried, reconstituted)
- 3 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half if desired
- Juice and zest 1 large lemon
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme is particularly nice with this)
- Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional, but why not?)
- Kosher salt, to taste
Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat; add the olive oil and butter.
Add the chopped shallot; sauté for 1-2 minutes, just until it turns slightly translucent. Add the beans and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes. Keep the green beans moving; I use a wooden spoon so they don’t get damaged. Add the thyme, lemon zest and red pepper flakes, if using, during the last minute or two of cooking.
The green beans turn a bright green color and are tender but still firm to the bite when they are done. Do NOT cover or they will turn grayish. It doesn’t affect the flavor, but they don’t look as nice. Season to taste with kosher salt and lemon juice and serve immediately.
Thyme-ly Green Beans Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2014. All rights reserved.
So that’s it for these 3 herbs. Choose one and try using it in different ways during the week. This keeps the spice in our life and prevents food-boredom…now we don’t want that, do we?