Special of the day: Fresh from the Herb Garden

24 Apr Special of the day: Fresh from the Herb Garden

Pasta with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage Leaves

Spring in Montana, sporadic as it is, keeps teasing us with those brief glimpses of warmer weather, awakening for some the desire to dig in the dirt.  Taking advantage of Kari Johnson’s Herb Planter Class at My Viola last week was a perfect way to celebrate spring and get planting!

My Viola’s spring session of classes, held at their class room space at 503 1st Avenue North Suite #105, started March 27.  Offerings still on the calendar include a Mother-Daughter class, a Birds of Paradise class, and a Pretty Peonies class. Kari does a beautiful job of instructing and making floral designing fun for everyone, regardless of the knowledge or expertise (or lack thereof, in my case) you bring to the table.

Our Herb Planter Class was filled with familiar faces, and everyone there was anxious to arrange their assembly of six herb plants chosen from the collection of sweet basil, Greek oregano, thyme, mint, chives, tarragon, and parsley along with a few accompanying pansies in the large pot provided.  With the appealing aroma of each of the fresh fragrant herbs came murmurs of What will I do with the herbs when I get home? from all corners of the classroom. I could hardly keep quiet, bubbling over inside with wonderful ways (I thought) to make the most of fresh herbs in home cooking.

Using them “as is” on the stem as a gourmet garnish is an effortless approach to dressing up entrees, side dishes¸ soups and salads. And of course, you can always blend fresh basil with garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil for homemade pesto or muddle mint with rum, simple syrup, fresh lime juice and soda to make mojitos.

Going beyond the basics to dream up different ways to best use herbs in the kitchen was a ball for me as I added snipped sage to browned butter to build a simple, satisfying pasta dish, whipped sun-dried tomato paste, garlic and basil together to create a compound butter to top grilled steaks, and stirred minced fresh tarragon into ricotta with parmesan to fill wonton wrappers for ready-made ravioli.  Sending you three simple, straightforward ways to keep the spotlight on the fresh fragrant herbs and serve up sensational spring menus, just in case you’re wondering what to do with the fresh herbs in your pot or in your garden!

Expand your herb horizons with this week’s Special of the day: Fresh from the Herb Garden and recipes for Pasta with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage Leaves, Tarragon Cheese Ravioli with Spicy Cream Sauce and Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Compound Butter on Grilled Marinated Steak.

Recipes and food photography by Sydne George.

My Viola-Floral Studio

319 Central Avenue


Visit their website at www.myviolafloral.com

Pasta with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage Leaves

Pasta with Browned Butter and Crispy Sage Leaves

Recipe by Sydne George

(serves four)

Colorful pasta of your choice, cooked al dente, according to package directions

½ cup butter

1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves, minced

Additional whole sage leaves for garnish

Heat a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat until hot.

Add butter and let melt.

When butter has melted, add minced sage leaves and continue cooking over medium heat just until butter begins to brown, swirling pan occasionally and watching carefully to prevent overbrowning.

Remove from heat.

Arrange cooked pasta on dinner plates.

Drizzle pasta with Browned Butter with Crispy Sage Leaves. Garnish with additional fresh sage leaves


Tarragon Cheese Ravioli with Spicy Cream Sauce

Tarragon Cheese Ravioli with Spicy Cream Sauce

(makes about 26 ravioli)

½ cup ricotta

¼ cup grated Parmesan

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbsp. (packed) fresh tarragon leaves, finely minced

1/8 tsp. salt

26 wonton wrappers

In a medium mixing bowl, combine ricotta, ¼ cup Parmesan, garlic, tarragon and salt, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Lay wonton wrappers out on work surface. Spoon a tsp. of tarragon cheese filling in the middle of each wonton wrapper. Dip fingers in small bowl of water and wet edges of filled wonton wrapper, one at a time. Then fold corner of wonton wrapper to meet opposite corner, making a triangular filled ravioli. Crease edges with wet fingers and crimp firmly with a spoon to seal. Repeat to fold, crease and crimp the rest of the raviolis. Let rest briefly.

Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a gentle simmer. Slide Tarragon Cheese Ravioli into gently simmering water and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain in colander in the sink.

While ravioli are cooking, make the Spicy Cream Sauce.

Spicy Cream Sauce

(to sauce 26 ravioli)

2 tbsp. butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. flour

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tbsp. (packed) fresh tarragon leaves, finely minced

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cayenne

2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Heat medium saucepan over medium heat. Add butter and let melt. Add garlic and cook until softened. Add flour and stir to combine, reducing heat if necessary. Add cream and stir until combined. Cook until slightly thickened. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Remove from heat.

To serve:

Arrange 3-5 Tarragon Cheese Raviolis on each plate.

Drizzle Spicy Cream Sauce over the Tarragon Cheese Raviolis and garnish with additional fresh tarragon leaves.


Sundried-Tomato Basil Compound Butter on Grilled Steaks

Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Compound Butter on Grilled Marinated Steak

(serves four)

* You can make the Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Compound Butter and marinate the steaks ahead of time.

Make the Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Compound Butter

½ cup butter, softened

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp. sun-dried tomato paste

1 tbsp. (packed) fresh basil, minced

Dash of salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all ingredients. Beat until thoroughly mixed. Remove from bowl and place on a sheet of waxed paper, forming a round log about 2 inches in diameter. Roll up on in the waxed paper to cover and refrigerate until firm.

Marinate the steaks:

½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

½ tsp. cayenne

¼ cup red wine

4 tri tip steaks, about ½ pound each

Combine all marinade ingredients in bowl, stirring to mix thoroughly.

Place steaks in a glass dish.

Pour marinade over the top to cover steaks.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat barbecue to 400 degrees.

Remove steaks from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

Remove steaks from marinade and pat dry.

Grill steaks on preheated grill for about 5 minutes on each side (for medium). Turn and grill other side an additional 5 minutes (for medium). Remove from grill and let rest.

Slice Sun-dried Tomato-Basil Compound Butter into 1-inch thick slices and place on top of resting steaks to melt slightly. Garnish with additional fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

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