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Herbs treats, wonderful rhubarb crisps and cookies

by VALLE NOVAK Contributing Writer
| June 26, 2022 1:00 AM

Today's column features herbal/spring produce recipes, focusing on what’s ripe and ready for use right now.

Parsley has come on beautifully, as has a variety of mints, so we’ll begin with the two of them, combined in one of the world’s great, refreshing salads.

Tabbouleh

1 cup cracked wheat (bulgur)

Boiling water

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley, stemmed

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves (peppermint or spearmint are best, not the orange or lemon-flavored varieties)

1 cup very finely chopped green onions with tops

3/4 cup chopped tomatoes, seeded

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Place bulgur in a mixing bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes or until all water is absorbed and wheat is tender but still firm.If necessary, drain and squeeze with your hands to remove any excess. Let cool.

Combine bulgur with all remaining ingredients, combining well, chill for flavors to blend, garnish with a sprig of parsley, and serve.

Note: This is the original recipe as served in Morocco (where daughter Shelley and I enjoyed it over 20 years ago), but younger daughter Olivia said she ate the same salad in Greece (during her hitch in the Air Force in the ‘80s) made with couscous and including minced cucumber as well. Pick your favorite and make some soon - you’ll love it either way!

Sweet Marjoram is one of my favorite herbs. As sweet as basil, but to me, richer somehow. I use it constantly (when I can find it) and was lucky to get three precious plants this year, which I’m already gleaning for use in such goodies as potato salad and simple garlic, herb

and Parmesan pasta. This recipe for pesto was originally designed for basil, but I’ve often used Sweet Marjoram instead and love it. Give it a try.

Pesto

(Makes 1 1/4 cups)

2 cups fresh Sweet Marjoram

leaves and leafy sprigs, heavy stems removed

1/3 cup pine nuts OR chopped

walnuts

2 medium cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Blend herb, nuts, garlic and cheese to a rough paste in food processor or with mortar and pestle (as I do). Slowly add oil in a thin stream while working into a thin paste. If sauce is dry, add more oil.

When proper consistency, season with salt and pepper. You may use immediately or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze.

  • If freezing, process only the herb, garlic and oil: add nuts, cheese and seasonings after thawing.

Tip: When summer brings on the rosemary, make this recipe using 1/2 cup rosemary leaves and 1 1/2 cups chopped parsley in lieu of the Sweet Marjoram.

Sensational!

Bouquets Garni

When speaking of herb cookery, bouquets garni are a boon for soups, sauces, and even for simmering with pasta or veggies. Remember Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair?” — “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.” That’s a perfect bouquet garni.

Tie together 2 sprigs of parsley and thyme, 1 sprig of the (stronger) rosemary, and a 2- or 3-leaf tip of sage, or put them all in a cheesecloth bag tied with string.

You may also use 2 sprigs parsley, 1 of tarragon and a bay leaf for more substantial fare, such as bean soup. Too, for more summery fare, replace onions with a bundle of chives, and don’t forget to use the pretty chive blossoms in salads.

On now, to our promised crisp. I would imagine i’ve run this recipe more than any other in some 25 years of writing this column. It’s still called for, and for good reason. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Crisp

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

3 cups cut-up rhubarb

4 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup flour

Beat egg; stir in sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. Add rhubarb, blend well. Spoon into buttered 8-inch baking dish. Combine butter, brown sugar and the 2/3 cup flour; mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over rhubarb, bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, until rhubarb is tender.

Tip: You can use any fruit in this great recipe. For juicier fruit, such as huckleberries, use 4 cups berries, 3 tablespoons flour. You may add a dash of lemon juice if desired, but it’s not necessary.

Helen Campbell is the creator of these delectable cookies. Don’t let your rhubarb go to waste — make some batches of these for dessert with vanilla ice cream or anytime munching!

Frosted Rhubarb Cookies

1 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

3 cups flour (may use 2 cups white w/1 cup wheat if desired)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups diced fresh rhubarb

3/4 cup flaked coconut

Glaze:

1 3-ounce package cream

cheese, softened

1 tablespoon butter, softened

3 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Set oven at 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar. Beat in eggs. Combine dry ingredients and gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in rhubarb and coconut.

Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet or parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 5 dozen cookies.

Make glaze: In mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies. Store frosted cookies in refrigerator.

And now to turn slightly to put the spotlight on scallops.

Seared Scallops in Tarragon with Red Bell Pepper Cream Sauce

(Serves 4)

Rinse 16 large scallops and toss in large bowl with 2 tablespoons lime juice; sprinkle with salt and pepper, marinate in refrigerator 2 hours.

Pat dry and sear in heavy skillet in 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil until richly browned on each side, about 2 minutes per side; remove to warm platter. Pour oil from pan, leaving 1 tablespoonful, and add 1 tablespoon butter.

Add 1/2 of a sweet red bell pepper, very finely chopped, 1/3 cup each chopped tarragon and parsley.

Saute, stirring until it reaches a saucy consistency, then lower heat and add 1 cup heavy whipping cream. Stir sauce until thickened, season to taste and ladle evenly onto four warm dinner plates; place 4 scallops atop each.

Serve with fresh steamed, buttered spinach and crisp cold white wine.

(Editor’s note: For many years, Valle Novak has written gardening and cooking columns for the Daily Bee. “Weekend Gardener” and “Country Chef” became renowned for their humor, information and common sense advice on how to do everything from planting to cooking. While she recently retired, she has shared a number of columns to delight her many fans. This is one such column, originally published June 6, 2010.)

photo

(Courtesy photo)

Seared scallops in tarragon with red bell pepper cream sauce make for a delightful dinner.

photo

Valle Novak

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