Herbs-Front and Center

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

We’ve all been glowing a little bit here from spending glorious hours outside. While the weather has played its part in sun kissing our cheeks and windy days blow drying our garden plots, we still have weeks before the harvest moves from the garden to our plates. Not so, with herbs. If purchased as a “start” they are ready to use and then…pronto-into the earth.

The 3 stellar recipes below avoid the expected herbs one finds salads and dressings, and instead uses them as the fragrant profile for the recipe. You may want to experiment for yourself. For instance, the muffins would be intriquing with lemon thyme or lavendar, the flatbread goes Italian with fresh Genovese basil and sage.

Rosemary Garlic Chickpea Flatbread

Makes 4 six-inch rounds

Inspired by many recipes using only chickpea flour (gluten free), I found a bit of pizzazz necessary by way of onion, fresh garlic, soy sauce and coconut oil for browning.  A big bonus in this irresistible munchy is the protein in the garbanzo beans.

Because the batter needs to rest for a few hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge, combine the ingredients in the morning so the batter is ready to be prepared in the evening. A heavy Teflon coated skillet makes these flatbreads a “no-stick” for sure. Chickpea flour can be found at Mediterranean markets, on the baking aisle at Whole Foods Markets and in many supermarkets in the natural foods aisle.

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 cup cool water
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the chickpea flour, water, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil, the salt and the rosemary, if using, stirring until smooth. Cover and let the mixture rest for at least two hours, or refrigerated overnight.

Heat a skillet over medium-high until hot. Add the remaining oil bit-by-bit to brown the flatbread.

Pour in the batter, spreading it in the skillet in an even layer about 1/4-inch thick. Brown for a couple of minutes; the flatbread will look set and will pull away from the pan’s edges a bit. Flip and brown the other sides.

Immediately sprinkle with the pepper, coarse sea salt and garlic chives. Carefully dislodge, letting the flatbread slide onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve right away.

 Thai Shrimp Herb Mounds

Originally this recipe called for pan frying the shrimp “cakes”. I have found that baking is much easier, saves the calories from the oil and the coating stays “sprightly” rather than pressed flat. Once the shrimp mixture has been made, refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the ingredients meld. This helps the mounds stay together.

Serves 4

  • 2/3 cup ground sesame rice crackers or panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
  • 1/4 cup minced unsweetened dried coconut, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped Asian Basil (I used Homestead Gardens Thai Siam Queen)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce with the rooster on the label)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 ounces raw, peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • extra cilantro

Combine 1/3 cup bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons coconut, and next 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Add shrimp; stir just until combined. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Using wet hands, shape mixture into 4 equal balls. Combine remaining bread crumbs and coconut in a shallow dish. Coat balls in panko mixture; press bottom to sit flat on baking sheet and form a rounded shape. Place on a greased baking sheet.

Bake 15-17 minutes or until shrimp is completely cooked.

Serve immediately with lime and sprigs of cilantro.

Strawberry Mint-Stuffed Muffins

Makes 24 mini muffins

These look especially cute made as mini muffins, but you can also make them in standard muffin tins. If you make the larger muffins, increase the baking time to 12 to 15 minutes and place 2 strawberry halves on each unbaked muffin.

  •  2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 12 medium strawberries, halved
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 24-cup mini muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a large measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, butter, vanilla and mint.

Add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir just until well blended. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Top each with a strawberry half.

Bake muffins until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before glazing.

In a small bowl, mix confectioners’ sugar with lemon juice and stir until smooth. Drizzle muffins with glaze and allow to cool completely.

Inspired by recipe from Start Fresh, by Tyler Florence.