Choosing and Storing Herbs

Food has always dominated my travels, and home re-creations almost always start with herbs. Read more about choosing and storing herbs.
Spring is finally in the air, and I am on the road. In recent weeks, I’ve cleaned up the garden beds; watched crocus, ipheion, scilla, and daffodil blooms open wider by the hour; and found the first perennial herbs like mint, oregano, sorrel, and chives poking through the ground. But it’s also one of my favorite seasons to travel—with Twice as Tasty workshops, to visit family and friends, and to explore new places.

Food has always dominated my travels, first as a vegetarian struggling to find things to eat in a newly reunified Germany and later when discovering new flavors and spices in Africa and Asia and even unknown fruits and vegetables in the South Pacific. Although I still dream of the more exotic tastes, the dishes I bring home put that international spin on food I can grow or easily find in my climate. It almost always starts with herbs.
Read more about choosing and storing herbs


Freezer and Storage Soups

One of my off-season joys is making an easy meal that tastes as though it took time and effort to create. Soup is among the easiest—and I’m not talking poured out of a can.

Sure, there can be a lot of time-consuming dicing and mincing for freshly made soup. By planning ahead, I eliminate nearly all of that effort at mealtime. I also ensure the produce carries all the flavor my garden can generate; with a little extra effort at harvest time, there’s no need to buy a mealy tomato or flavorless broccoli.

This week, I offer you two soup recipes that I can make on a moment’s notice because their ingredients are staples in my house in winter. They’re staples because during harvest, I dry-store potatoes, dry-store or freeze onions and garlic, dehydrate smoked chilies and herbs, and freeze cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and Vegetable Stock. Hopefully this list of links and the recipes that follow will inspire you to take similar steps as you grow or buy local food in the next few months.
Learn to make Spanish Potato–Garlic Soup and Italian Broccoli–Pasta Soup

Sourdough Pita

Some form of flatbread practically defines most food cultures: pizza for Italy, naan for the Middle East, lefse for Norway, tortilla for Mexico, injera for East Africa, pita for the Mediterranean. Many are unleavened, made with a simple mix of flour, water, and salt. But some use yeast, and my favorites start with a sponge or sourdough.

Pita is one flatbread that only gets better—and easier to make—with the addition of sourdough starter. It works as well with a weak starter awakening from a long sleep as with a lively one. Plus, pitas are fun. As a kid, my mom bought pita halves to build “pocket sandwiches” for school lunches and roadtrips. If I’d known that baking pitas puff up like pillows, I would have insisted that Mom make them from scratch. My niece and nephew did just that—and then insisted on eating them whole, even though each pillow was as large as a plate. Learn to make Sourdough Pita Bread and Pita Chips

Salad Dressing Bases

The salad dressing aisle at a grocery store baffles me: so long, so heavily preserved, so expensive—and so easy to make at home. Every dressing starts with oil and an acid, like vinegar, or something to make it creamy. From there, spices and other flavorings are added to make the desired blend. Even the most dedicated bachelor likely has the basic ingredients in his kitchen.

Imagine this: You’re invited over for a first dinner date, and the guy pulls out a squeeze jug of store-brand ranch. Impressed? Perhaps he splurged for a bottle with a fancy label. It’s probably still not memorable. Now imagine he combines oil, vinegar, and a few spices in a bottle, shakes it, and sprinkles the result over greens. Suddenly, you’re paying attention. In less than 5 minutes, he has a lip-smacking salad dressing—and you might be considering a second date before you even taste the main dish. Learn to make Vinegary and Creamy Salad Dressing Bases