Monday, 5 May 2008

Herbs are quite possibly some of the most versatile ingredients out there when it comes to cooking. They can deepen and enrich the flavor of whatever you might be cooking, turn a bland dish into one that *pops,* and even serve as a main ingredient in many recipes (traditional pesto made from basil, for instance). Herbs transcend borders and show up in all types of ethnic dishes, many of which are essential for regional cuisines and even drinks - think Insalata Caprese with bountiful leaves of freshly torn basil, Greek salads sprinkled with lemony oregano, chanterelles tossed in butter with tiny leaves of earthy thyme, and mojitos with fresh mint. And there is no season like Spring to capitalize on these little bundles of flavor, when fresh herbs start shooting up out of the ground and are ready to grace our tables for the next several months. Even better, they're one of the easiest things to grow and can be grown anywhere from tiny pots in the kitchen windowsill or massive fragrant herb gardens.

For healthy cooking, herbs are a cook's best friend. The scent and fresh taste of herbs can transform any dish from boring to spectacular without the use of lots of oil, heavy creams, cheeses or other flavorings that are typically not a (large) part of a healthy diet. This month for Heart of the Matter, we want to see the kinds of dishes you love to make with herbs. Choose a heart-healthy recipe where your favorite dried or fresh herb is an prominent ingredient and share it with the community of bloggers devoted to caring for your heart who participate in and read about this event. If you've participated in the popular Weekend Herb Blogging event over at Kalyn's Kitchen, then you've got the gist of this theme already - if you haven't, feel free to browse over there to get some ideas for how bloggers have incorporated herbs into healthy dishes - just make sure that your dish for the HotM event is heart-healthy. As always we ask that this please be a single event entry (please don’t use your post for other events, like Weekend Herb Blogging, that way we can keep things centered on healthy heart awareness - although please don't hesitate to submit different recipes to both)!

The rules: If you’ve participated before, you already know the basics. If you haven’t, check here, here and here for ideas on what “heart-healthy” means, and we hope that you’ll join us! Just send your entry to me via email (phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com) by midnight on Friday, May 30th and link to my site, The Accidental Scientist (and to the HotM blog if you’d like) and I’ll post the round-up on the following Monday or Tuesday on both sites. Thanks ahead of time for your participation - I'm already looking forward to using many of your recipes this spring and summer!

E for excellent

Thanks Ann and Jack! Really appreciated ...

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Saturday, 3 May 2008

HotM 14: Brunch, the round-up

We do breakfast in this house. I'm not sure what the difference between breakfast and brunch is, but, no matter what time we get up, it's breakfast all the way here. And looking at the entries this month, it seems to me that brunch is misnamed, because it seems to be interpreted as a cross between breakfast and elevenses. Brevenses, anyone? Elefast?

At Lucullian Delights, co-founder Ilva's OVEN ROASTED PROSCIUTTO WRAPPED ASPARAGUS is fantastic ... I've found that if you want to eat at least five-a-day, you've got to make a good start first thing. Here, the asparagus season is just beginning, so I think this is going to become a favourite.

Chris at Mele Cotte has made a Buckwheat Groats Scramble, and includes loads of useful information about buckwheat (aka kasha), and heart-healthy hazelnut oil.

Ann at Redacted Recipes has made something that is sure to become a favourite with my funghi-loving daughter: Roasted Mushroom Breakfast Bruschetta. Ann's also included lots of nutritional information (I had no idea mushrooms were so good for you!), and a link to a site with help for those of us who can't poach an egg (I leave that to Horatio, who has been brilliant at egg-poaching since he was about six).

Aagje at Labelga gives us a new take on an old favourite: Porridge with millet flakes, dried fruit and nuts ... it's too easy to think that porridge can only be made with oats, and this makes a great change.

Lisa at Little Bits gives us an original creation: Polenta, Tofu & Veggie Bake ... the silken tofu lightens the polenta, and there are loads of vegetables too. And for those of us afraid of tofu, Lisa gives some good tips for using the silken sort in everyday cooking.

Lore's healthy brunch is open sandwiches and a fruit salad. She makes a little cheese go a long way - which is one of the secrets of heart-healthy eating - and makes sure of plenty of fruit and veg to start the day.

French Toast with Fruit is on the menu at Green Gourmet Giraffe. It's a vegan version, and well worth checking out .. rhubarb to go with it, too. Mmm

Jeanne at Cook Sister has made Oat and cherry muffins using a recipe from a muffin cookery book she bought on impulse the other day. I never have much luck with muffins, but these look worth a try - lots of oats, and nutty wholemeal flour.

At Food for Laughter I found Something Light and Lovely - Artichoke Frittata, which I would never have thought of eating in the morning (see what I mean about breakfast and brunch?), but which I'm going to try. Lore uses bottled artichokes, and we'd have to, too, if we made it this weekend, but pretty soon there will be masses of fresh artichokes from the garden, and then this recipe will come into its own for me.

Nearly forgot ... here's my post about making porridge the slow way, using oatmeal, rather than faster flakes, and a polenta-ish way with any leftovers.

Let me know if I've forgotten anyone ... thank you all for taking part, there are lots of good ideas here for me to try for brunch in the garden on Monday, when we have a bank holiday. Michelle at Accidental Scientist will soon be making an announcement about next month's Heart of the Matter theme. You'll find this round-up, and all the previous ones too, on the Heart of the Matter website.

Related posts

Kippers - without stinking out the house
Smoked haddock
More things for breakfast
Kedgeree (my very first blog post)
Frying pan bread - a quick fix for the disorganised
Baked pears with pinenuts

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