This year I planted a garden.
Hahahahahahahaha! *sniff* You've no idea how funny that is. I have planted actual food in the ground before. A few times. And usually what happens is I frantically scramble to pick all the tomatoes off the vines before the roots rot, or aphids get them, or they die laughing at my attempts to garden them. Or I make my garden boxes too short and all the carrots turn left at the bottom. Everything I plant ends up deformed, moldy, pale, or some sort of weird hybrid thingie that makes my children glow in the dark. So, generally speaking, if my little family and I ever have to live off the land, we won't. We'll be grinding up cattails for flour, drinking dew from leaves and cannibalizing each other.
That's a pleasant thought for a food blog. I'm sorry.
Anyway, this year I wanted fresh herbs. I heart fresh herbs. They're so fresh. And herb-y. And honestly, dried herbs are a whole different and much less desirable animal. Leaves and fronds lose their green zing when you dry them. Basil ceases to have that minty anise flavor, rosemary ceases to be gingery and woody and vibrant. And cilantro tastes like the cardboard box you once stored grass in. You want them fresh. I promise. So I tried to do that this year. Annnnnd. Well. It kind of worked.
I planted my herbs in buckets because our soil is funky after spraying for the 500 metric tons of wasps we get every year. And my huz set up a drip system in the buckets, 'cause he's an awesome mechanical-engineer-type-guy-plus-he-grew-up-on-a-farm-so-you'd-think-we'd-be-better-gardeners-but-what-are-you-gonna-do?
But something is wrong. My basil went bitter, and I didn't even let it flower! My cilantro decided to turn into Italian parsley even though it still looks like cilantro. And my dill is sonically sour. Yeesh.
So I'm starting over. Adding more nitrogen and vermiculite to my soil. Pruning more. Giving it more tender loving care. After all that, if the herbs start turning left at the bottom, I'm giving up.
Anyhoo. That is my lovely introduction to cooking with home-grown herbs. Or trying to, anyway. It's also my intro to combating my husband's life-long hatred for Brussels Sprouts. I've never loved the things much either, but his stubbornness seems unfair to me. Just because you hate something doesn't mean you shouldn't eat it. There's a Life Lesson in there somewhere. Besides, I don't like prejudice of any kind, so I've been determined to turn huz's sprout-hate into sprout-love. And I used the fried herb squash dish to soften the blow.
And you know what? I think I done did it. With some help from a lovely brother-in-law named Mark (hi Mark!), we have effectively changed the huz's heart. Or at least softened it a little.
So. What I'm going to do is take you through a pictorial version of the recipes for Fried Herb Squash and De-Bittered Buttered Brussels Sprouts. It was an experiment after all, and it'll be easier to explain it this way, 'kay? Plus I made a lot of it up and have no idea what the measurements were.
Ready? Keep your arms and legs inside the blog at all times. Here we goooooo!
Fresh herbs gathered from my "garden." These will be used in the Fried Herb Squash. As you can see, I am the Jackson Pollack of Photography. I just throw stuff in there willy nilly, with no regard for matching blue bowls with red and yellow towels, and call it art. What you see is one blue bowl's-worth of Greek basil, rosemary, German thyme, chives, dill weed, and a smidge of cilantro because why not? Wash it, chop it, and revel in the beauty of your own personal bounty. It chopped up to between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of herbs. Not packed. Add more or less if you like. I'm sure the herbs won't be offended.
Now, I've switched to the Brussels Sprouts because I am multi-tasking. First wash the sprouts and chop off their ends. I know it sounds barbaric, but I promise they can't feel it. You're going to need about 60 small to medium-sized sprouts. In Costco terms, that would be one bag.
Now melt a stick of butter (I KNOW. But trust me here. My North Carolina Farm-boy-bro-in-law-Mark says you HAVE to use a half cup of butter or you won't cut the bitter. The butter cuts the bitter in the bodacious Brussels Sprouts. It has to do with alkali cutting acid and people who grew up in North Carolina knowing about things like this. Trust him. Also trust me, because I've done it both ways and I can tell you that you need the whole stick of butter. But don't trust my husband, because on his farm they didn't believe in Brussels Sprouts.)
So. Melt the butter in a nice large pot. Then place the sprouts, cut end down, in the butter. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and grind some lovely pepper over the whole thing.
Now add water to cover by about an inch. Don't worry that the sprouts float and you can't really cover them by about an inch, because, you know, they're floating. This is what North Carolinians do. It's okay. Breathe.
Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to a simmer, and let them gently bubble for about 15 minutes. You can go 20 if you like them soft. I prefer 15. Fork 'em to check 'em.
And while the de-bittered buttered Brussels Sprouts are boiling (look at me and my bad alliterative self), let's get back to our fresh herbs. Melt about a half stick of butter (1/4 cup) over medium heat in a medium sized frying pan. Throw in your herbs, a bit of salt, and a few healthy grinds of black pepper. Love that stuff. Now fry and fry, and check your sprouts, and fry some more. This will take maybe 5 minutes, if I remember right. All I know is that the dill was crispy like tiny little sticks when I figured it was done. Dark green, not black. Please, for the love of Julia Child, not black. As soon as crispiness of dill happens, add about 6 cups of washed and trimmed baby squash. In Costco terms, that would be one bag. I heart Costco. Except when they move things around. And except when I go in for one thing and come out with 50 and now my bank account is empty.
Isn't that purty? Itty bitty zucchini and little sunburst squash? Note how dark and fried-looking the herbs are. So lovely. Just stir this baby around in the buttah until slightly browned and done. If you're impatient you can put a lid on it too. The veggies will steam a bit and cook faster. But I like it better lid-free. Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if needed. Then you can shake some garlic powder over it. I prefer powdered to fresh here because fresh tends to take over and I didn't want to obscure my fried herbs.
Ta-daaaah! Sprouts done. Check your seasonings. And be careful! These babies hold their heat.
Huzzah! Fried Herb Squash done! Yum-diddlyicious.
Voilá, le dinner.
Yep. This is what we ate. I squoze fresh lime over the watermelon, and Baby-Baby-Oh (to quote The Bieber), it was amazing. Really. You should try it. I also served triple cream cheddar with the the sprouts, and that was a delish combination.
Now. Um.*cough* There IS a slight Surgeon General's warning with this meal.
Try to serve some meat with it. And some sort of bready thing. Because if you don't, well, let's just say that you'll find out what it means to be Irish. Or German. Or Belgian. Or any nationality that loves cruciferous veggies like cabbage and sprouts and stuff.
Let me put it this way:
We are a musical family. We've got harps and violins, and pianos, and guitars, and bass guitars, and upright basses, and vocal chords coming out of our ears.
That ain't nothing compared to the music we created after eating plates full of Brussels Sprouts the other night.
On the up side, my huz now likes the gaseous little things.
And PS – The fried herbs were a knock-out. Yum!