Herbal Cocktail Hour

Shari Davis and I taught a class at FarWest Garden Center last night. The theme, Herbal Cocktail Hour! We had a grand time, a wonderful audience, and delicious food and drink. For those of you who wanted to come but couldn’t, here are the recipes we shared last night, all of them from Shari’s files. Thanks Shari, for such a good time!

Herbal Cocktail Hour / Recipes / Appetizers

Cilantro Pesto
1 cup fresh cilantro 1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts
1/2 cup fresh parsley 1/4 cup vegetable oil
4-6 cloves garlic Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. Hot chili flakes 1 tsp. cumin
Chop herbs lightly in food processor ftrst, then add ingredients in order, processing after each addition. Refrigerate up to one week, or freeze in ice cube trays for later use. Add a cube to soups, dips, tomato or cream sauces for seasoning, or thaw and use for appetizers, etc. For layered cheese torta, layer with cream cheese mixture (cream cheese, garlic, cumin, and a couple of tblsp. of sour cream) in small mold pan lined with plastic wrap for easier unmolding.

Basil Pesto (easiest made in food processor)
2 cups fresh basil leaves V2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 cups fresh parsley leaves 1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tblsp. fresh oregano (or 1 Tblsp. dry) V2 tsp. Each salt and pepper
4-6 cloves garlic 3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 small onion, cut into chunks
Chop herbs lightly in food processor; then add ingredients in order, processing after each addition. Refrigerate up to a week, or freeze in ice cube trays for later use. Add a cube to soups, dips, tomato or cream sauces for seasoning, or thaw and use for appetizers, etc.

Italian White Bean Spread
2 cans (15 oz.) small white beans 1 Tblsp. Minced onion
1/2 cup sour cream ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 jar (2 oz.) diced pimientos 1 Tblsp. Chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 Tblsp. Chopped black olives 1 Tblsp. Chopped fresh thyme
1 Tblsp. Fresh lemon juice ½ tsp. grated lemon peel
½ tsp. pepper ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 cloves garlic

Combine all ingredients in food processor; pulse until well combined. Serve with crackers, bread, or vegetables.

Herb and Lemon Dip
8 oz. sour cream
4-6 Tablespoons fresh herbs (chives, dill, parsley, lemon thyme, etc.)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, and refrigerate overnight. Serve with fresh vegetables.

Marinated Cheese (Can be made up to two weeks ahead)
2 cups (12 oz.) feta or mozzarella cheese
½ tsp. mixed peppercorns
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
8 coriander seeds
Olive oil, to cover
1 bay leaf
1-2 Tblsp. Drained capers
Fresh herbs: (thyme, lemon thyme, oregano, parsley)
1 Tblsp. chopped and 1 Tblsp herb sprigs/leaves

Cut the feta into cubes. Mix peppercorns and coriander seeds in a mortar and crush lightly with a pestle (or put in a Ziploc bag and roll with a rolling pin). Put the bay leaf into a glass jar with a lid. Layer the feta with garlic, capers, peppercorn/coriander mix, and the fresh herbs. Pour olive oil over all until just covered. Close jar tightly, and let marinate for 1-2 weeks.

To serve, serve cheese on a serving plate/dish with kalamata; garnish with kalamata olives and fresh herb sprigs. Serve with baguette rounds (fresh or toasted), flatbread, or crackers.

Herb Squares
V4 cup slivered almonds, finely ground 1 Tblsp. each: cilantro, dill, and tarragon (fresh)
1-1/3 cups Swiss chard, coarsely chopped 4 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh sorrel (or more chard) 2 Tblsp. flour
1 cup onion, chopped V2 tsp. salt
1 cup leeks (white part only), chopped V4 tsp. cayenne
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped Optional: 1 cup grated Swiss or jack cheese
2 Tblsp. parsley, chopped

Process all ingredients (except cheese) in food processor until smoothly pureed. Pour into greased 8″ or 9″ square pan; sprinkle cheese on top, if used. Bake in a 3000 oven until center barely jiggles when gently shaken, about 30 minutes. Cool and cut into small squares. May be made up to 1 day ahead.

Baked Camembert with Thyme and Garlic
1 9-oz. round of camembert cheese (save box) 1 Tblsp. Maple syrup or honey
2 cloves garlic, julienne 2 Tblsp. Olive oil, plus extra for brushing
½ Tblsp. Fresh thyme leaves Crushed sea salt
Baguette (sliced into ½” rounds)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove the camembert from the box and discard any wax paper packaging. Take a 10-inch square of foil and place in the box. Place the camembert inside.
Pierce the top of the cheese with the tip of a knife and push in the garlic pieces. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top and drizzle with the syrup or honey. Loosely scrunch the foil up over the cheese. Set aside.
Brush two 12-inch square sheets (the size of your baking sheet) of parchment paper with oil. Line a baking sheet with one of the oiled parchment sheets, oil-side up. Spread the slices of baguette over the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with crushed sea salt. Place the remaining sheet of parchment, oil-side down, over the bread.
Place in the oven with the camembert and cook both for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese has risen and the bread is crisp. Open up the foil and dip in the hot baguette.

Rosemary Almonds
2 cups of raw almonds
2 Tblsp. Olive oil
2 Tsp. dried rosemary or 1 Tblsp. Fresh rosemary
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tblsp. Sweet chili sauce (I’d double this next time)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast nuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, stirring after the first 5 minutes. Heat remaining ingredients in a large saucepan, then add roasted nuts. Spread on baking sheet, and bake nuts a second time for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes. Turn oven off and leave nuts in at least one hour or until oven cools. Remove and store or serve.

Garlic Sauce (Versatile marinade, dipping sauce, or dressing)
2 heads garlic, cloves separated and skin removed
1Tblsp. Kosher salt
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
1 cup canola oil
½ cup fresh parsley
Optional: Add 1-2 Tblsp. of other herbs to vary the flavor (suggestions: thyme, oregano, cilantro, basil)
Variations: Add capers or sun-dried tomatoes

Place cleaned garlic cloves and herbs in a food processor. Pulse for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients. Process until emulsified. The mixture will thicken to the consistency of thinned mayonnaise. Store in a glass jar and refrigerate. If the sauce separates, shake well prior to using.

Herbed Cheese Straws (makes about 30 cheese straws)
2 sheets frozen puff pastry 1 Tblsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
Flour, for dusting 1 Tblsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tblsp. water 1 tsp. kosher salt
3-4 dashes Tabasco pepper sauce Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese Parchment paper (for baking)
¼ cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Line baking sheets with plastic wrap. Roll out each sheet of pastry on a lightly flour board to approximately 10” X 12”. Add hot sauce to egg/water mixture; brush onto pastry surface. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and herbs onto pastry, followed by cheeses (dividing each ingredient evenly between the two sheets). Roll lightly with a rolling pin to press toppings into pastry. Cut each sheet into strips approximately ½” wide, using a pizza wheel or floured knife. Twist each strip several times and place each plastic-lined baking sheets. Freeze.

To bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place cheese straws on parchment, leaving approximately 1 inch of space between. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned and puffed. Carefully turn each straw over, and bake for an additional 3-5 minutes. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Fried Sage
Possibly one of the best sins on the planet. Eat it and weep.
Fresh sage leaves, washed and dried on paper towels 1 cube of Butter

Heat butter until hot but not smoking. Place leaves into hot butter and fry until crispy. Remove and place on paper towel-lined plate to dry. Serve on a small plate, or use as garnish for other dishes.
Note: Save remaining butter, refrigerate, and use later in another recipe (such as chicken or dressing)