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Archive for March, 2012

Chervil in a Raised bed

Every year I plant seeds or transplants in my garden which I know little to nothing about. I am adventurous but not wildly adventurous, since I do not have a lot of space. I will be the first to admit I do not always know how to use or prepare a new plant for it highest and best use, so very often it can take me years to observe, research and test a new plant.

Chervil was this sort of an experience for me. The longer I have chervil in my garden the more I come to love it. A member of the Apiaceae (Carrot Family), Chervil resembles parsley in its mounded shape and carrots in the delicacy of its foliage although the leaves are more similar to parsley than carrots.

Delicate fernlike foliage gives hints of a delicate anise flavor and smell. French and English cooking have long utilized this warming herb which slowly and subtly fills your senses as you ingest it. I equate Chervil with happiness and with Spring! I swear Chervil adds happiness to my body!

My discovery of Chervil’s talents began with adding the fragile fronds to fresh salads. Chervil has a talent for lingering in the background to fill any spaces left by other foods and then tying everything together for your taste buds.

Chervil is such a low maintenance herb. It reseeds itself; does not like to be transplanted; loves cool weather so it will grow all fall, winter, spring until late June/July here in North Carolina.

Eventually I figured out that Chervil is essential to a great Béarnaise sauce or other light sauces; Eggs, chicken, salmon, trout, cream cheese, salads, and dressings all benefit from this lovely herb. My personal favorite use is Chervil Pesto with Salmon and Pasta!

Cococciola

Cococciola

To celebrate a beautiful Spring day, I prepared a lovely piece of salmon coated in Chervil Pesto and baked it in a parchment cooking bag. While the salmon was baking, I steamed some fresh green peas and asparagus; cooked some fresh pasta and sliced some fresh organic tomatoes from a more southern state than where I reside! I like smaller pasta for this dish such as spinach tortellini or Foglie di Ulivo Olive-Leaf Shaped Pasta from Italy as these pasta shapes catch and hold the Pesto in just the right amount for my taste. Not too much and not too little!

Spring could not be welcomed in any better way than a sunny 70 degree Fahrenheit day, clear blue skies with an occasional fluffy cloud and Salmon with Pasta and Chervil Pesto and a glass of wine from The Wine Feed.

Of course, I found a perfect wine from The Wine Feed to complement this dish! A dry white Italian wine called Cantina Frentana Cococciola Terre di Chieti 2011. This fabulous clean, crisp white wine with floral, mineral and herbal essences and its pale straw color with greenish reflections is perfect with this salmon and chervil dish. You will also find enticing white fruit and citrus aromas, mingled with subtle notes of green apple and unripe melon, lemon and very good acidity. The finish is long, light and mineral.

So I raise my glass to you, to Spring and to Lovely Cicely (another name for Chervil)! Wishing you a wonderful Spring and may you find a space for Chervil in your garden and in your kitchen!

Chervil Pesto

1 cup packed fresh chervil
1/4 cup Parmesan/Romano/Manchego cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and grind till it becomes a finely ground paste. Use this pesto quickly. It can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen in ice cube trays for later use. Always add chervil at end of cooking right before serving unless the recipe says otherwise. Chervil pesto has a very delicate flavor.
You can add lemon peel and /or lemon juice to brighten the fresh taste right before serving.

Salmon with Chervil pesto

Salmon with Chervil pesto

Salmon Coated with Chervil Pesto in Parchment Recipe

½ cup chervil pesto
1 pound fresh salmon
1 parchment pouch
Lemon for juice
Rinse salmon and pat dry.
Place salmon with skin side down.
Coat the salmon with chervil pesto on the topside of the salmon.
Place in a parchment pouch and seal.
Put parchment pouch in a baking pan.
Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes.
Squeeze lemon juice over fish to brighten the flavor right before serving.

Asparagus, Peas and Spinach Tortellini with Chervil Pesto

¼ to ½ cup chervil pesto
1 pound fresh spinach tortellini or olive leaf pasta
1 bunch steamed asparagus
1 cup steamed peas
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the directions.   I use my steamed vegetable water to give extra taste to the pasta.
Save some pasta water for thinning the sauce if needed.
Cut the tough ends off the asparagus and place whole asparagus spears in a steamer for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove asparagus from steamer and cool the hot asparagus in cold water till chilled and then drain and set aside. Add peas to steamer hot water for 1 minute. Move peas to cool water to cool peas down and drain. Set aside. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. Add chervil pesto to the hot pasta to taste and mix the pasta water in to get pesto evenly spread throughout the pasta and to the consistency you like. Slice the asparagus into ¾ inch sections and add peas and asparagus to pasta and gently mix.

Serve immediately. Use additional grated parmesan, romano or manchego cheese if desired.

For more info on Chervil:

http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/chervil.html

Car Gardening

Car Gardening

Car Gardening

You are going to quickly realize that this blog piece is not just about food but it is about people making changes thru the way they think about their food and the way they garden!

Twelve years ago I moved into a suburban neighborhood with homeowner association rules and fees and a town that does not like boats, travel trailers, and any other large vehicle parked in the yard and loves well-maintained grass lawns. I loved this neighborhood because it did not have curb and gutter; looked like a New England country lane or at least my idea of one in the South and it had big white oaks that were at least 80 years old and most importantly, it was near the baseball field where my sons spent all their extra time outside of school.

Over those twelve years I established 14 raised organic garden beds in various sunny spots around the trees in my yard. I shared fresh vegetables with my neighbors. I made fermented foods, canned, pickled, froze, dehydrated, jammed, jellied any fruit or vegetable I could grow myself under shade trees or buy from local farmers. I made cheese, bread, butter, grew my own transplants from seeds I saved. I shared seeds and transplants with neighbors. I joined a CSA and got neighbors to join the CSA with me. I helped neighbors join community gardens and helped them during their first year of planting to learn to garden. I visited all the local farmer’s markets and then told people in my neighborhood which farmers had the best organic carrots, beets, mushrooms, goat yogurt, cheeses, meats, herbs, fish, Padron peppers; whatever people wanted to eat I made it my business to find out who were the best farmers, which markets they attended and when, and I told my neighbors and friends about them! I started caring for a hive of biodynamic bees. I would have chickens but my town has not allowed that yet. We are working on getting the town council to allow chickens. I am a ground warrior (pun intended).

There is lots of talk about food and local food and healthy organic food these days. I know we need to communicate and writing is a way to encourage and inform people to take action but I find people take action when they see it and can use their senses to feel it in their body, mind and soul. If someone else can do and show others over time without judgment, people will figure out what they are comfortable to change and will make those changes.

Each year I have seen slow but deeply rooted changes occurring in my typical suburban grass coated, 2 car, and 2 to 3 children neighborhood. Other signs of change included raised garden beds coming in back and side yards, less grass being grown and going to natural area, less pesticides being applied, more questions about what I was doing and why I was doing it and more beehives being added.

This year I saw something that let me know my neighborhood was taking another huge step forward. Another neighbor was truly committed to and had experienced the passion for fresh vegetables and a level of food quality we all deserve. You see this neighbor’s house is completely shaded and although he and his wife had begun to garden in a community garden the previous year, they were so smitten with growing fresh food they were compelled to resort to car gardening.

The only sunny spot in their entire yard is the place where one of their two cars is parked. With complete blind passionate abandon for gardening and fresh food, my neighbors had seeded greens in two large containers and grew them on the hood of their car. I was overjoyed and delighted! A small rebellious act for growing – food, confidence, love for life and plants.

This car garden marked change and a willingness to claim their health, happiness and right to grow their own food in my mind. There is no Homeowners Association rule against growing vegetables in pots on your car! And more importantly my neighborhood is quietly changing. There were no load noises, no fights or feuds, no media coverage to announce this change. There was just slow steady organic change. This was everyday people making decisions to change, to learn and grow. I encourage you to quietly go about growing – your food, your confidence, your right to have healthy food and be the change. Find your sunny spot and grow something good and healthy to eat! Get closer to your life!