Archive for mint
What better way to open the month of April, which welcomes us as fools (and I with a total malapropism of Beatles classics) than with the Foole of Strawberries. Strawberries are a treat; delicious sun sweetened harbingers of the bounty to come, they are among the first of fruits to give yield. They are also among the top five fruits in terms of delivering antioxidants (and a great source of vitamin C) per weight of fruit. In addition to antioxidants, they provide a host of phytonutrients like anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, and phenolic acids. This results in strawberries helping the body reduce dangerous levels of inflammation. A diet rich in strawberries has been shown to decrease inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP).
Sage is powerful herb that has been revered throughout history. Its Latin designation, salvia officinalis comes from the Latin root salvere meaning “to be saved.” It is well known for its cleansing abilities and contains many of the same types of compounds (volatile oils, flavonoids (including apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin), and phenolic acids, including the phenolic acid found in rosemary, which is closely related to sage—rosmarinic acid) found in strawberries. Rosmarinic acid acts via a different pathway to synergize with the anti-oxidant benefits found in strawberries. Sage also contains an enzyme known as superoxide dismutase (SOD) which gives it an unique capacity to mediate oxygen mediated cell damage such as that seen in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and atherosclerosis. There is also evidence (Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior, June 2003) supporting what ancient herbalists knew to true: consuming sage can make you sage, or at least improve memory and brain function.
A fool (or foole) is a dessert of English origin, first mentioned in 1598, but with origins likely much older. It combines seasonal fruit (gooseberries were among the original) with a flavored whipped cream. This version reduces the lactose by adding the tangy flavors of chèvre, goat cheese, which also acts to boost the health benefits. Flavored with natural honey, this sweet treat embodies the balance of sweetened, slightly tangy whipped cream and chèvre, bright sun ripened strawberry goodness and a savory, herbaceous note of sage that heralds the arrival of spring. Like the fool, it appears on the surface simple and a mindless pleasure to enjoy and dismiss. Like The Fool, who is in truth a Mage, this dessert packs a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, antioxidants, phytophenols and a host of other compounds to render under to it a title of healthy eats. And as in Nature, it seeks and achieves Balance being delicious AND nutritious; A Sage Foole, indeed!
Sage Strawberry Fool
- 1/4 cup honey + 1 Tbs
- 1 cup mead
- 1 pint fresh strawberries
- 6-10 fresh sage leaves
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 ounces heavy whipping cream
- 2 ounces chèvre
- ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Gently heat the mead and 1/4 cup honey in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. While the wine is heating, thinly slice the strawberries and remove the stems. Place in a bowl. When the wine has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and add the star anise, cinnamon and sage. Pour over the strawberries and allow to rest for at least an hour, covered. To serve, whip the chèvre, vanilla and honey together in a stand mixer until it is well beaten. Add the cream and whip until peaks form. Remove the strawberries from the mixture, discarding the herbs and liquid. To serve layer the cream base and fruit alternately. Serve with a sprig of mint (mint is a taxonomic relation of sage).
March enters like a lion. As it exists like a lamb the arrival of spring is heralded. What could be better to usher in the springtime than to greet it with a perfect rack, of lamb. This delectable dish could also use lovely lamb loin chops or even Saratoga chops-rack or loin- it just depends on your preference.
We glaze the lamb with a lovely mix of springtime flavors like cherries and fresh herbs. The lamb rests on a bed of tender couscous and springtime vegetables like peas.
Balsamic Cherry Glazed Lamb
- 1 rack of lamb, or 8 lamb loin chops (Saratoga chops also work well)
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 6 oz fresh, pitted or 4 oz dried cherries
- 1/3 cup Cherry Kijafa (or other cherry liqueur)
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 sprig of rosemary
If using dried cherries, let them sit in the liquid for an hour before preparation. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the shallot and soften, 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for fifteen minutes, the liquid should reduce by ¼ to 1/3. Remove the rosemary and cinnamon. Using an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender or food processor puree the mixture. It will resemble a thin paste. Remove and coat the lamb. Grill the lamb until done, allow to rest, slice and serve.
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 cups couscous, preferably Israeli type
- 2 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 cup fresh peas (frozen is OK)
- 1 cup baby carrots cut into a small dice
- 8oz pearl onions, peeled
- 1 Tbs mint, finely chopped
In a medium sauté pan heat 1 Tbs olive oil. Add the couscous and lightly toast, stirring frequently about 3 minutes. While the couscous is toasting, bring the stock to a boil. Remove the couscous and place in a large bowl, add the stock and cover for 8-10 minutes. While the couscous is finishing, heat the remaining 1 Tbs of olive oil and add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots, cook for another minute and then add the peas and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove and add to the couscous mixture. Add chopped mint and mix well. Season as needed with salt and pepper.