Zombie Mint: IT’S ALIVE!

Zombie Mint 2

Before I left for the west coast, I conducted a wee experiment with a decaying mint sprig in a pot of dead cilantro.  To recap, I took a sprig of mint that had spent a week in a jug of water in my fridge and jammed it in the soil.  I took a fresh sprig of mint and did the same.

My suppositions were that the decaying sprig was displaying new growth, while the freshly cut sprig probably wouldn’t survive.

Zombie Mint 2

When I came back, this is what I found.  You can see that the fresh sprig is in its death throes, but the zombie sprig?

Zombie Mint 2

Check out that new growth!

Zombie Mint 2

Who knew that freezing something a few times makes it grow?

Zombie Mint

Zombie Mint

This sprig of mint was submerged in a pitcher of water in my refrigerator for a week and a half.  During that time, it probably froze a couple times, because that’s the sort of thing my fridge does.

I fished it out and jammed it in the soil of one of my failed cilantro plants.

Zombie Mint

Two weeks later it has not yet died, and I suspect I actually see new growth.

Zombie Mint

As an experiment, I have cut a fresh sprig and jammed it in alongside.

Zombie Mint

I will let you know how this turns out.  I may have brought mint back from the dead.

Zombie Mint

Nip It in the Bud!

Nip It in the Bud

I’m growing a wee herb farm in my kitchen.  I am tired of the wilted overpriced garbage I get in the grocery store, so I’m growing my own mint, rosemary, oregano, basil, and cilantro.  And it’s coming along just fine.

Nip It in the Bud

If you know anything about gardening, then you will know all about this little tip.  If you don’t know anything about gardening (like me) then this little tip will be super cool.

Nip It in the Bud

To make your plants branch out more (i.e. produce more leaves and therefore more things for you to eat), just pinch out the tiny leaf buds at the tops of the stems.  Those little wee leaves there.  Just pinch them off.

Nip It in the Bud

Then your plant is forced to rely on its secondary growth and you get a nice branching effect, which in this case will give me more basil.

Nip It in the Bud

And more rosemary.

Nip It in the Bud

And more mint!

Nip It in the Bud

And when those grow out a bit you can do it all over again, more pinching, more branching …

Nip It in the Bud

Eggplant and Beef Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce

What’s better than a nice fall lasagna?

And this one has eggplant in it.  Who doesn’t like eggplant?

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food.  It uses no-boil lasagna noodles, which makes everything so much easier.

First you need to make up a basic béchamel sauce.  Don’t freak out — it’s not that hard.

Béchamel Sauce

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan.

Dice a small onion and chuck it in.

Add a clove of garlic, or a spoonful of garlic-in-a-jar.

Cook that stuff until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. 

Add in 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, and then cook, stirring, until the mixture is pale golden and has a nutty aroma, about another 4 minutes. 

Add in 2 1/4 cups whole milk (or suitable substitute) and whisk constantly the whole time.  Add in another 2 1/4 cups milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.

Use it immediately or press plastic wrap to the surface (to prevent it forming a skin) and let it cool.  You can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days like that.

Lasagna

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Put your oven racks in the middle and upper third of the oven.

Slice up 1 1/2 pounds eggplant into 1/4″ rounds and divide between two baking sheets.

Toss with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and bake until tender, stirring and rotating halfway through, about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, but leave the oven on.

In a large skillet, heat some oil over medium-high.  Add in 1 pound lean ground beef and stir until cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Add some allspice and dried oregano and season with salt and pepper.  You can also add some fresh chopped mint if you like.  Remove from heat and transfer the meat to a bowl.

Pulse 1 1/4 cups (3 1/4 oz) romano or parmesan cheese in your food processor, or use the pre-grated variety.  I prefer using whole cheese because it tends to be less dry.

In a baking dish (size dependent on your noodles, mine were slightly smaller than a 9×13″ pan), spread one cup sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Top with no-boil lasagna noodles to cover (I used three).  Make sure to leave some space between the noodles, as they will expand as they cook.

Layer with half the meat, then another cup of sauce and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Add more noodles, then half the eggplant, a cup of sauce, and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients, reserving the last 1/4 cup of cheese.

Cover lasagna loosely with foil and bake on the top rack until the sauce is bubbling, about 35 minutes.  If you’re worried about spillage from a bubbling lasagna, place a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven to catch drips.

Remove from oven and heat your broiler.  Take off the foil, sprinkle on the last bit of cheese and broil the lasagna until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Allow your lasagna to cool for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes great leftovers.

 

Fruity Yogurt Parfait

On a hot day there’s nothing better than a cool and refreshing fruity dessert.  And if it looks a little fancy, then all the better.

This dessert is quick and easy to make.  In a tall glass, drop in a dollop of your favourite yogurt.  I love the Astro Balkan style plain yogurt (full fat of course).  Add a little bit of your favourite jam or honey (we used Newfoundland partridgeberry jam here) and a few leaves of fresh mint.Then drop in some fresh watermelon and blueberries.  They really work well with the mint.Layer with some more yogurt and repeat the whole process until the glass is full.  It makes for a quick and elegant breakfast as well.

Chopping Herbs

Instead of blindly stabbing your chopping knife into a pile of herbs, ending up with bits of leaf everywhere and uneven pieces, try this trick next time.

Put the herbs you need to finely chop in a close pile.  Scoop them over themselves so that you make a folded mass.

Fold the herbs over themselves and hold on tight.

Hold the leaves tightly with your hand and hold a sharp knife with the tip touching the cutting board with the other.

Using the tip as a fulcrum, start your chopping, making sure to always hold the leaves tightly but not, of course, to cut your fingers off.

Carefully chop the herbs while still holding on tight.

You’ll find this way is a lot quicker and you can mince the herbs more easily from this stage, if needed.

Tabouleh tabouleh tabouleh

I really like the word tabouleh.  I remember eating it often as a kid.  It’s a good quick salad and it works well in a pita sandwich.

We made this recipe with couscous, but you can substitute it for quinoa or bulgur or other grains.

Stir the couscous and oil into the water and allow to expand for 2 minutes.

To prepare the couscous, bring a cup of salted water to a boil in a small pot.  Remove from the heat and pour in a cup of couscous.  Add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, stir, and allow the pasta to expand for two minutes.

Return the couscous to a low heat on the stove.  Drop in 2 to 3 teaspoons of butter and stir until well-blended.  Allow to cool.

Add butter to couscous and stir on low heat until melted.

We got this tabouleh recipe from the Joy of Cooking (2006 edition) by Rombauer & Becker, and we replaced the bulgur with couscous, of course, and  we weren’t all that good at measuring, either, so we fiddled with the amounts.

Finely chop 2 to 3 tomatoes, 2 cups of fresh parsley, 1 cup of fresh mint, and 1 bunch of scallions or green onions. See my tips and tricks entry on how to finely chop herbs.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, emulsify 1/3 cup olive oil with 1/3 cup lemon juice.  To do this, I took a very small whisk and rubbed it between my palms until the liquid was creamy and custard coloured.

Use a small whisk to emulsify the ingredients.
Rub the whisk briskly between your palms until the liquid is custardy.

In a large bowl, mix the couscous, tomatoes, onions, and herbs together thoroughly.  Toss with the olive oil/lemon juice emulsion and serve.

Serve as a salad or in a sandwich.

We spooned the tabouleh into open pita pockets lined with baby spinach and home-made hummus and ate them with Garbage Soup.

Pita pockets with hummus, tabouleh, and baby spinach.