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CITYPALATE.ca JULY AUGUST 2018

by Julie Van Rosendaal

FRESH HERBS

Even those of us who lack gardening skills, or the back yard necessary to accommodate raised beds, are able to nurture a gratifyingly lush display of fresh herbs on our decks or window sills. If you can avoid the hail, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, tarragon, chives, dill, sage, rosemary and thyme will grow happily in small or large containers indoors or out with minimal tending. Fresh mint is so prolific it can easily take over your yard or garden beds (which is likely what prompted the invention of mojitos), but basil must be coddled – too hot, too cold, too much water or not enough and it will pack it in, so it’s best to use it up on pizzas and in pesto before its leaves begin to curl. Bundles of fresh herbs have largely replaced the tiny glass jars on the shelf of my childhood. Filled with dusty, Oscar-the-Grouch coloured oregano, Italian seasoning and herbes de provence, you’d have to crush the dry leaves between your fingers to coax out a faint whiff of the herb you wanted your dinner to be flavoured with. But rarely do we go for a pinch these days; fresh herbs have become major players rather than mere seasonings, added by the roughly chopped handful for maximum freshness and flavour, particularly in bold South American and Middle Eastern dishes. If you’re buying instead of growing them, store hardy herbs by laying them out on a damp paper towel and rolling them up jelly roll-style, then sliding the roll into the plastic bag they came home in to extend their fridge life. More fragile herbs, like basil and mint, can be stored upright in a glass of water, like a bouquet; some people cover them with a plastic bag in the fridge. There are exceptions, of course – sprigs of rosemary and thyme could easily overwhelm a dish, and are often added by the small branch to flavour a pot of stew or a braise before being plucked out at serving time. (Alternatively, pull the leaves from their stem, and in the case of rosemary, chop it rough or fine.) And dried herbs are still perfectly acceptable, particularly if you dry them yourself – unless you successfully cook your way through an entire bunch (or summer harvest), you’ll need to. Fortunately, it’s easy: lay branches of rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage or other fresh herbs on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and slide it into the oven at its lowest setting for an hour or two. Turn the oven off and leave it inside to dry as it cools. Rub the herbs off their branches and store in small airtight containers to rub between your fingers into whatever you’re making that could use a little lift.

Gremolata

Cilantro Crema

During the summer, a quick gremolata should be in heavy rotation; all you need is lemon, garlic, parsley and olive oil, and a means to mash it all together. The stuff is brilliant to have a jar of in the fridge, and once you get hooked on it, you’ll find plenty of uses for it – drizzled on anything from steak to fish, brushed on corn on the cob, tossed with potato salad, even mopped up with bread. Feel free to add other fresh herbs along with the parsley to change the flavour profile.

Molcajete Authentic Mexican in the Crossroads Market makes a brilliant spring green and perfectly smooth “salsa” out of cilantro, garlic and lime that’s one of the best things to eat in the city. I attempted to recreate it at home, but can’t seem to call it salsa – I call mine crema. It’s brilliant on grilled chicken and fish, to dip veggies or with good-quality tortilla chips. (Molcajete has those, too.)

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 garlic clove, crushed

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

juice of 2 limes

1-2 handfuls of flat-leaf parsley, roughly or finely chopped

big pinch salt

a glug or two of good olive oil

Stir, whiz (in the bowl of a food processor) or mash everything together with a mortar and pestle, adding enough olive oil to create a loose sauce; store in a jar in the fridge for up to a week. (The gremolata will improve in flavour after a day or two.)

1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (stems too) 1/2 c. sour cream (not low fat or fat free) 1/4 c. mayonnaise 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

Combine everything in the bowl of a food processor and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until perfectly smooth. Taste and adjust the flavours, adding more salt, lime, mayo or sour cream if needed. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

City Palate July August 2018  

The Flavour of Calgary's Food Scene - Summer in the City Palate

City Palate July August 2018  

The Flavour of Calgary's Food Scene - Summer in the City Palate