“The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk.” – Jacqueline du Pre
Ahhh, herbs. How I love them. Fresh herbs brighten food and take a simple recipe from bland to fabulous. The flavors of herbs are so pronounced, the colors deep and the textures varied. They allow the cook to experiment and have fun in the kitchen. Fresh herbs add a little something special to any plate.
Still, fresh herbs can be expensive. They are often sold in pricey, small packages at the grocery store. This makes them a delicacy in many homes.
Sadly, the outdoor herb gardens I attempt in our hot, dry desert climate fail miserably. However, one exception is rosemary. Rosemary grows like a weed in New Mexico and has become a my favorite fresh herb. Fresh rosemary is often snipped from a tree outside, placed in cup with a bit of water, on stored on our kitchen counter. It stays bright green and fresh for weeks, providing more water is added periodically.
I also purchase live herb plants in pots. The plants are cost-effective and long-lasting when given appropriate amounts of water and sunlight. Plus, they add life to any kitchen or room. Give me a pot of herbs over vase flowers any day.
Above, the zucchini is grilling for the Zucchini, Peach and Basil Salad. I sprayed each side of the vegetables with canola oil cooking spray and seasoned then with salt and pepper.
Fresh herbs highlight the cool, succulent flavors in my Grilled zucchini, Peach and Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette. This recipe was recently served at a brunch in my home and completely devoured by my friends and me. My husband and I have been known to eat the entire recipe, preferably with a little creamy, salty and savory Roquefort cheese sprinkled on top. It is a lovely contrast to the sweet taste of the peaches and bold, vibrant flavor of the basil. This nutritious salad is the type of food that makes one feel healthy and nourished after eating it – and all day long.
Above, the balsamic vinaigrette is stored in a large mason jar. It is a delicious dressing for any salad and a flavorful marinade for meats.
As for making your own dressings, it is one small kitchen endeavor that will change the way you and your family eat. There is nothing quite like a homemade dressing on any salad. This balsamic vinaigrette lasts an incredibly long amount of time in the refrigerator. Not only does it pair well with most salads, it is a lovely marinade for any meat and delicious tossed with pasta and vegetables for a quick pasta salad.
Next, the zucchini is layered on a large platter.
Then, the grilled yellow pepper is placed over the zucchini.
Finally, the peaches are placed over the peppers and zucchini. The balsamic vinaigrette is drizzled over the peaches, and fresh basil is sprinkled on top.
I lay a large slice of Roquefort cheese on the platter, to be crumbled over individual salads, if desired .
For the balsamic vinaigrette, all ingredients are combined in a food processor. This creates a fast, easy recipe and ensures complete emulsification of the olive oil.
Above, the ingredients for the balsamic vinaigrette.
Shanna’s Healthy House Balsamic Vinaigrette
A playful, rosemary and lemon “twist” on the basic balsamic dressing
6 large garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves, removed from stalk
1 Tbsp each: dried oregano and thyme
3 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp fine salt
1 Tbsp. local honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1-1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed or bottled
1-1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
optional: the zest of one lemon, if using fresh lemon juice
1.) In a food processor, combine the garlic, rosemary, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Pulse until the contents are well-minced.
2.) Then, add the honey, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, the (optional) zest of the lemon and Dijon mustard. Process until well combined.
3.) With the food processor running, very slowly drizzle in all of the extra virgin olive oil. The dressing will emulsify and become completely combined. Taste and re-season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, then pulse more to mix.
4.) Store in a large mason jar in the refrigerator. This dressing will last for an extensive period of time and develops flavor as it sits. Unlike most dressings, it does not separate. Enjoy!
Grilled Zucchini, Peach and Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
A light and refreshing salad for any season
4 large zucchini squash, grilled
1 large yellow pepper, grilled
2 ripe peaches, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Shanna’s Healthy House Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil
salt, pepper, to taste
Optional: Roquefort cheese, crumbled
1.) On a large platter, layer the zucchini, then the peppers and finally the peaches. Season each layer generously with salt and pepper.
2.) Then, drizzle the top of the salad evenly with the balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkle with the basil. Serve with a sprinkling Roquefort cheese, if desired. Enjoy!
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