Meet Herb

"Rosemary for remembrance." So the saying goes. Well then, I need fields and fields of the stuff! Can't remember a blasted thing these days! Can you believe I almost forgot the annual Pesto Judging!?!?!?! We won't even go there! Thank God I remembered in time!

Well, ever onwards . . . this month -- in honour of my memory, or lack thereof -- we will delve into the secrets of rosemary. A friend of mine suggested it would make a good title for a swashbuckling romance. "The Secrets of Rosemary"! But that's for a different column.

First you should try growing it . . . it's a bushy shrub, almost a tree and can grow over six feet in height. It has evergreen needles, dark green on top with a silvery-grey underside. In the spring, it sports tiny blue, almost periwinkle flowers which are highly attractive to bees. It grows most commonly in the Mediterranean, but with some care can do very well in our climate also. However, although I try each year to bring a shrub indoors for the winter . . . it never lasts much past Thanksgiving -- and in Canada that's in October! Not much of a green thumb here! Choose a sheltered, sunny spot in your garden, possibly against a wall or in a corner. Rosemary needs to be kept fairly sheltered from the elements. Depending on the amount of space you have, you might like to choose an upright variety such as Miss Jessup, a dwarf variety such as R. lavandulaceus or try the addition of a white blooming variety such as R. officinalis alba. In spite of my failure with it, if rosemary is grown in a pot, it can be brought inside and away from the ravages of our winters quite successfully.

Its essential oil is powerful and fairly stable. But be careful, very strong, a little rosemary goes a long way. Penzey's recommends it for just about everything from pork and lamb to chicken and fish. Add it to the dough for bread or pizza bases, the cooking liquid for seafood, when boiling potatoes for mashing or salad, in chicken or tomato based soups, there are limitless possibilities.

Use a rosemary controlling lotion to restore lustre and shine to dull, lifeless hair. Pour ten tablespoons of rosemary infusion (tisane) into a stainless steel bowl with one tablespoon of eau de cologne and stir to combine. Slowly add one tablespoon of glycerin beating continuously. Pour into a bottle, seal and label. To use it, just rub a little bit into your scalp, or comb it through your hair.

To make a wonderfully refreshing after bath splash, combine three tablespoons of lemon balm, three tablespoons of rosemary, a thin strip of orange rind, one cup of rosewater and six tablespoons of vodka in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake it vigorously and leave it to infuse for two weeks, shaking it a couple of times each day. Strain it through a non-metallic strainer -- I use cheesecloth -- pressing the herbs to extract the maximum fragrance. Pour it into a bottle, seal well and store in a cool dark place.

And -- as an extra added bonus -- we have some recipes for using rosemary in your kitchen too! Funny that, since this is a cooking magazine. Just remember to remove the sprigs of the herb from the dish before serving. Even when fresh, the rosemary leaves can still be quite sharp.

Roasted Red Pepper and Rosemary Sauce

This sauce is a great accompaniment to fish, meat, poultry or vegetables. It can be made ahead and then reheated. Leave the sprig of rosemary in the sauce until you're ready to serve it, even if you do make it ahead.
  • 4 large red bell peppers
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F. Halve each pepper and remove the white membrane and seeds. Put the pepper halves on a foil lined baking sheet, pour the oil over them along with a few broken sprigs of rosemary and roast for 30 minutes. When done, cover them and let them cool for about ten minutes, then peel them. Put them in a food processor with any cooking juices and puree till smooth.

Transfer the puree to a sauce pan, add the remaining rosemary, the lemon juice and enough stock to give a pouring consistency and simmer gently for about ten minutes. Check seasonings and serve.

  • Yields: Approximately 1 1/2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes, including roasting time

Roast Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary

Rosemary is traditional in the cooking of lamb and this is my favourite way to do it!
  • 1 lamb leg, about 5 1/2 to 6 lbs
  • several large cloves of garlic cut into spikes
  • several branches of fresh rosemary, in one inch lengths
  • several thin red chilies also in one inch lengths (optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup red wine, heated
  • rosemary sprigs for garnish

With a sharp knife, make slits all over the surface of the lamb leg and fill each slit with a piece of garlic, a length of rosemary and a piece of chili. Season the roast liberally with freshly ground black pepper.

Place the lamb in a roasting pan and cook in a preheated 350F oven for one hour. After an hour, pour the wine over the lamb and continue cooking basting occasionally, for a further 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until the lamb is cooked but still slightly pink.

Transfer to a carving board and cover loosely with foil, letting it stand for about 20 minutes. Meantime, drain the fat from the pan, and stir the juices over low heat scraping the sides and bottom. Strain into a gravy boat.

Garnish the lamb with a sprig of rosemary and serve. Accompany this luscious roast with sliced boiled potatoes and your favourite green vegetable, serving the pan juices on the side.

  • Yields: 6 - 8 generous servings
  • Preparation Time: About 3 1/2 hours including roasting and standing time

Strawberry and Rosemary Sorbet

The wonderfully subtle taste of the rosemary in this sorbet blends nicely with the strawberry.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, leaves only, no stems
  • 6 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lb strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine, chilled
  • halved strawberries and small sprigs of rosemary for garnish

Place the water, sugar, rosemary and two tablespoons of the lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool. Puree the strawberries in a blender until smooth, strain them and add the remaining lemon juice. Strain the syrup through a nylon sieve to remove the rosemary and stir the syrup into the strawberry puree. Add the chilled wine. Mix well, transfer to a plastic container, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until semi frozen. Stir well, return to the freezer, covered until it is completely frozen. Serve garnished with strawberry halves and rosemary sprigs.

  • Yields: 4 - 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes, not including freezing time

That's it for another month! Hope you enjoyed your time with rosemary as much as I did. Remember, I'm always open to comments, suggestions, questions, and such. I love to talk about cooking! As always I can be reached by email or here at the e-zine. Can't wait to hear from you!

Happy Fall and TTFN!