Friday, August 27, 2010

Fresh Herbs & A Meatless Summer Meal

Another easy, WONDEFUL, summertime meal of vegetarian sides: Black Beans with Feta & Mint, Roasted Potatoes with Olives, and Baked Garden Tomatoes ("easy" if you can have a little patience with chopping--I need my own sous chef!).

My herbs and I have a complicated relationship. They won't grow as well until I snip from them and I can't snip from them until I have a good reason to do so. Well, after spending the afternoon outside with my daughter splashing in the baby pool and enjoying the cooler summer weather, I finally found more reasons to snip....every time the wind blew, I could smell the mint, basil, rosemary, and parsley. There was dinner to make! (My basil needs some help from the aphids though and the rosemary was not used in this entry)

I highly suggest that if you cook with herbs a lot, you purchase one of these scissors made specifically for chopping herbs. It was in my Christmas stocking one year from my mother in law and these scissors have been so useful! Find them at places such as Bed, Bath & Beyond.

When we first moved into our house, the previous owners (whom we loved), mentioned their uses for the herbs left in the garden. While running across a note left by the owner, I emailed them, desperate to attain the recipes they mentioned. I am so glad I did--Laura Curlin, you are a vegetable side genius!!! The black beans and the potatoes are from Laura. Thank you! You have restored my faith in gardening again and conquering these pesky moles that have destroyed my attempts with their tunnels this year. I will prevail!

The baked tomatoes are from Gourmet magazine--something I've been dying to try. Reading the reviews though, people mentioned that they turned out a soupy--but to us, that's just a reason to use crisp, hearty bread to sop up the juices of summer tomatoes! I added basil and green onions, but here is the original recipe if you would like to see it.

This was an amazing meal for us. Hope you try these--you won't be sorry you did.


You can serve these as a side with grilled chicken, etc. or as a middle-eastern dinner when plated together with hummus, naan or pita crisps, falafels and sauteed peppers and onions...Top Falafel with Greek Yogurt

2 (15oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
½ c. red onion, very finely chopped
½ c. reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ c. fresh mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Bring to room temp. 10 min. before serving.

Serves 4


You can serve this cooled instead of traditional potato salad.

2 lbs. small red new potatoes, rinsed dried and halved or med. size red potatoes, cut in 1" cubes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ¼ tsp. dried Herbes de Provence or dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup pitted and coarsely chopped kalamata olives (I used a blend of Greek blend)
1/2 small red onion, cut into thin slivers
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp. malt vinegar or rice wine vinegar (I used red-wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp. Greek yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Toss potatoes in oil and herbs. Add salt and pepper; place cut side down in s single layer on a cookie sheet. Set pan in a cold oven; heat to 450 degrees. Roast until cut side is golden brown and potatoes are tender, 20-25 min.

Whisk vinegar, yogurt, olives, onion, garlic, and parsley. Add salt and pepper and then whisk in a slowly poured stream of olive oil. Pour dressing over warm potatoes toss to coat. Serve room temp. for best results.

Laura's Note: Whenever we have these potatoes leftover, I add them to an omelet for dinner or I spread it in a single layer on a plate and top with salad greens, red or yellow sweet pepper slices, feta, grape tomatoes, chicken, olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.


**You can core and seed the tomatoes if you'd like to make this less "soupy". Or serve with a slotted spoon.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 3/4 pounds fresh vine-ripened or heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 green onion (my addition)
1 cup (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup (packed) freshly grated Romano cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Two more ways to go: Add chopped fresh basil leaves and/or small cubes of mozzarella cheese. Or use yellow and green tomatoes with the red ones to add summer color.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Mix in chives (and green onion if using); season with salt and pepper. Transfer tomato mixture to prepared baking dish; sprinkle grated cheeses over. Top with basil (if using).

Bake until cheese melts and begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with big chunks of crusty European bread.

Makes about 4 servings or so.

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