Fare Exchange: Herbs flavor vegetables, tea bread

Fare Exchange: Herbs flavor vegetables, tea bread

June 6th, 2012 Jane Henegar in Life Entertainment

Good morning, good readers. Summer is almost in full swing, and your recipes bear that out. We've already heard an impassioned request from a busy mother with a new slow cooker, and her recipes fall in two directions: kid-friendly Crock Pot meals and salads, salads, salads.

She wrote: "I want the kind of simple Crock Pot recipes that don't turn kids off with exotic spices and such. I am planning as many nights as possible, when I don't turn the Crock Pot on as we leave for baseball games, to fix salads. I am thinking of some fun layered salads that look pretty and that I can make with the kids even. Also fruit salads and tuna salads and chicken salads without the mayonnaise, or at least without much mayonnaise. The kinds of things you can carry with you if there is not time to sit down to dinner at home. I don't want to get stuck in a fast-food line every night."

Carolyn Fox sent a recipe in answer to the request for a pistachio cake.

Pistachio Marble Cake

1 package (2-layer size) yellow cake mix

1 package (4-serving size) Jell-O pistachio instant pudding and pie filling

4 eggs

1 cup water

1/2 cup oil

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup chocolate syrup

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and extract in a large mixer bowl. Blend, then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, measure 11/2 cups batter and stir chocolate syrup into it. Spoon batters alternately into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan. Zigzag spatula through batter to marble. Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, remove from pan and finish cooling on rack. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, if desired.

Ginny Gaines is up next with her usual combination of recipes -- with garden wisdom added today as well. You will need to grab a pitcher of mint tea, or perhaps a little sangria, and sit down with these lines to plan your herb garden.

Mrs. Gaines wrote, "I was thinking about the request for herb recipes. I grow a variety, the usual parsley and chives, but I have thyme (enough for all of Chattanooga), oregano, rosemary, lemon balm, lemon verbena and lemon grass, plus two varieties of basil. Herbs are just the best to grow, and if your clothes brush one of them, you have the heady scent for a while.

"I have a mint that I've had for 40 years and transplanted from house to house as we moved. It's a very aromatic mint but not too strong. I'm sure it would make delicious mint juleps but does very nicely with iced tea. I've placed it in a spot that is a bit damp and where I don't really care if it goes amuck. It's in one of my flower beds, and when you walk through the garden, you have that lovely aroma wafting in the breeze.

"The two recipes I am sharing are two that I've made for years now and still enjoy."

It seems to be time to slip subtly into the garden category. I've never been able to grow herbs -- sometimes, if you can imagine, not even mint. Basil always gets bugs. And food with homegrown herbs just tastes fresher.

Please, you gardeners and cooks, send not only the recipes in which you use your fresh herbs, but also any simple tips for growing them well.

I was in a magnificent local garden yesterday and discovered some lovely mint tucked right in with the hydrangea. It works just as reported by Mrs. Gaines, whose email address is Mountain Gardener.

By this standard, my email address should be Country Gardener Wannabe. Perhaps with your help ...

Now, those recipes:

Vegetable Herb Trio

1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut into 11/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried

3/4 teaspoon minced fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/8 teaspoon pepper or to taste

1/2 cup water

2 cups sliced yellow squash

1/4 cup water

2 tomatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Combine first 7 ingredients and 1/2 cup water in a large skillet; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add squash and 1/4 cup water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and butter, and let heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Lemon Tea Bread

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon verbena (see note)

1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon balm (see note)

2 cups all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

6 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Heat oven to 325 F. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan. Heat milk and herbs, but do not boil. Set aside, and let cool completely. Strain before using to remove the leaves.

Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl. In a stand mixer, cream the butter, and gradually beat in the sugar. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in lemon zest. Add flour mixture alternately with the herbed milk (with leaves removed). Mix until the batter is just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 50 minutes at 325 F or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Remove from pan onto a wire rack that is set over a sheet of wax paper. Pour lemon glaze (recipe follows) over still hot bread and decorate with a few sprigs of lemon verbena to serve.

Note: You may use one or both of the lemony herbs; you may add up to 3 tablespoons if you are using only one of the two.

Lemon Glaze

Juice of 2 lemons

Confectioners sugar

Put the lemon juice in a bowl and add sugar, stirring until a thick but still pourable paste forms. There is no measuring the sugar. Pour glaze over hot bread.

Bread is best used immediately, and it is best to eat all of it. It does not hold over well but will work with coffee or hot tea the next day.

One more herb tip: If you've never grown lemon verbena, try it. It can be wintered over in the house usually in a very cool room and only watered every now and then. It will look horrible in late winter and early spring, but begin watering, trim it back, and the results will be quite amazing. Place outside as soon as frost threats are over. This is a lovely herb, and the intense lemon taste and smell are heavenly.

Mrs. Gaines added, "Two favorite books, perhaps out of print now, are 'Southern Herb Growing,' by Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay, and 'Herbs: Gardens, Decorations and Recipes' by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead. They are available on Amazon, and both are beautiful and very helpful in the growing of herbs."

Mary White topped off today's repast with a recipe for butterscotch brownies from her collection, attributed to Madame Addis, who taught French at Girls Preparatory School.

Mrs. Addis' Butterscotch Brownies

1 stick butter

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup self-rising flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter in an 8- by 8-inch pan. Stir in brown sugar. Cool. Stir in egg, self-rising flour and vanilla. Bake in a preheated 325 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into squares in pan.

Thank you for sticking with us until the end of this column. Then again, how can you resist fare exchanged by inimitable Chattanooga cooks? Let's come back here next week together.

To Reach Us

Fare Exchange is a longtime meeting place for people who love to cook and love to eat. We welcome both your recipes and your requests. Be sure to include precise instructions for every recipe you send.

Mailing address: Jane Henegar, 913 Mount Olive Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750.

E-mail: janehenegar@gmail.com.

Fax: 423-668-5092.