Meet Herb

Barbecue season is upon us and thyme is the appropriate herb for the times. It makes a great addition to most grilled meats and, since there are several varieties, an interesting one too.

Some of the various thymes you'll find out at your local garden centre are:

  • Thymus Vulgaris -- Common Thyme, this one has mauve, purple and occasionally white flowers, it's an upright plant, growing anywhere from 6 - 10 inches high;
  • Thymus Citriodorus -- Lemon Thyme, has a slightly broader leaf than Common Thyme, a strong lemon-scent and grows about 9 inches high;
  • Thymus Doerfleri -- Bressingham Pink, is a creeping variety of thyme, growing carpet-like with bright pink flowers and about 2 inches high; and
  • Thymus Herba-barona -- Caraway Thyme, also a creeping variety, has dark green leaves, pinkish flowers and a strong caraway scent.
Of these, those most commonly used in the kitchen are Common Thyme and Lemon Thyme. The others are mostly used for decorative planting in borders, pathways, and in some cases in the planting of "thyme lawns".

Thyme has a wonderful, vibrant flavour, savoury yet slightly sweet, and does extremely well with pork and poultry, seafood or lamb. Just rub some on with garlic, pepper and olive oil and grill to your liking. Add some rosemary and it makes a great seasoning for roasts.

An infusion of thyme leaves -- remember earlier directions for making a tisane? -- is reputed to relieve digestive problems and diarrhea, or, when used as a mouthwash or gargle, to relieve mouth and gum disorders and sore throat. It is important to know, however, that ingesting too much thyme while pregnant can cause problems, so please steer away from these uses if there is a chance of pregnancy. Diluted essential oils from the leaves may be used as a massage oil or compress for sprains and other aches and pains.

To make a gargle, simply infuse one teaspoon of fresh thyme in one cup of boiling water for ten minutes. Add one teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and gargle with a little of it, drinking the rest. This can be varied by using the same amounts of sage and vinegar instead of thyme and lemon juice. For a massage oil, put one cup of olive oil in a small pan and add two tablespoons of thyme leaves -- or lavender or rosemary. Warm the oil gently, turn off the heat and allow it to steep for ten minutes. Strain and use the oil warm.

For those who've never tried thyme, I suggest the simple grilling technique mentioned above. It's truly wonderful. For those that are more familiar, I've included some recipes that are just a little bit different for you to experiment with.

Trout Stuffed with Mediterranean Herbs

Ask your fish monger to butterfly the trout, making sure to leave the head and tail intact.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 4 trout, butterflied
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh oregano stalks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Combine the olive oil, garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Make three or four slashes on the sides of the fish and rub or brush the oil mixture over each side and into the slashes. Place one each of the other herb sprigs into each fish cavity and leave there for one hour.

Preheat the broiler or bbq to medium high. Line the broiler or bbq rack with foil which you have brushed with olive oil. (If available, when doing on the bbq, place the fish into a wire fish rack.) Arrange the fish and cook for four minutes per side. Remove the herbs from the cavity and serve.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours including marinating time

Monkfish Kabobs in Thyme and Oregano Marinade

The flavour of these kabobs will put you in mind of the Mediterranean and balmy summer days by the sea.
  • 1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless monkfish tails
  • 12 large fresh bay leaves
  • 16 to 24 button mushrooms
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp minced thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp minced oregano leaves
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you're using wooden skewers, you will need to soak them in water for at least an hour to prevent them from burning. You'll need approximately 8 - 12 skewers in all.

Remove any membrane from the monkfish with a sharp knife. Cut the tails into 1 inch cubes and put them in a shallow dish -- a zipper closure bag also works well. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade, pour over the fish and mix well to ensure that all of the fish is well coated. Refrigerate at least one hour.

To make the kebobs, thread the monkfish alternately with the mushrooms and wrap a bay leaf around one fish cube on each kebob. (If fresh bay leaves are unavailable, they can be left out.) Barbecue or broil four minutes on each side, until the fish is cooked through, basting with leftover marinade throughout.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours including marinating time

Homemade Pork and Herb Sausages

These are really quick to make, especially if you have children around who love to help shaping them. Serve with mashed potatoes and pan gravy and watch them disappear.
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, minced (optional)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • oil for shallow frying

Heat the two tbsp oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until softened, about ten minutes. Stir in the garlic and fry one minute more. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients and stir in the onion and garlic. Mix well. Divide the mixture into 8 portions and shape into a sausage shape, about four inches long. Chill for one hour.

Fry in one inch of oil in a shallow pan for ten to twelve minutes, turning once. Allow to drain on paper towels. The sausages can be baked or broiled as well. To bake, place them in a lightly greased baking dish in a 375F oven for thirty-five to forty minutes. To broil, place under a broiler heated to high for ten to twelve minutes, turning occasionally.

  • Yields: 8 sausages, 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: varies depending on cooking method chosen

Herb-Fried Zucchini

This is a great recipe to help use up all that zucchini which will soon be coming out of our gardens! Using a plastic bag to coat the zucchini slices, makes clean up a breeze!
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp each of chopped fresh parsley, thyme and oregano
  • 3 zucchini cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp butter

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and herbs in a plastic bag. Add the zucchini slices. Holding the bag at the top, shake well making sure that the zucchini is thoroughly coated with the herb mixture.

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan. When the butter has melted and is bubbly, add the zucchini slices and sauté for three minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Remove from pan and serve.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: about 1/2 hour

Bean and Herb Pate with Herbed Bread Sticks

This pate can be made quickly in the food processor with ingredients which are usually on hand. Crusty bread, Melba toast or tortilla chips can be substituted for the bread sticks.
  • 14 oz can white cannellini beans, or your favourite bean, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup grated farmer, brick or cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp each chopped fresh thyme and parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 8 slices bread, crusts removed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp each of oregano, parsley, thyme and marjoram
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Put the beans, cheese, yogurt, herbs, garlic and chili into a food processor and puree until fairly smooth but with some texture. Transfer to a ramekin.

For the bread sticks, cut each slice of bread into strips about 3/4" wide. Combine the olive oil with the herbs, toss the bread in the oil and herb mixture until evenly coated (or brush the mixture on both sides of the bread slices before slicing). Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Serve with the pate.

  • Yields: Makes about 1/2 cup of pate
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes including the bread sticks

Well, that's it for another month. I imagine all of you will be out there grilling up a storm using some of the recipes provided right here in our own Seasoned corner of the world. Enjoy and save some for me!