Sunday, August 1, 2010
Herbes de provence
As I write this, I'm sipping a cup of cherry rose sencha and smelling the delicious smell of potatoes roasting in the oven. Such a simple thing for a Sunday morning, but always two of my favorite things to include on a relaxing morning. As I was preparing the potatoes for the oven, I was thinking about how simple it is to make them, but how amazing they taste when they come out of the oven.
I've known quite a few people that are intimidated by cooking and I can totally understand that, especially when it's never been something that you've attempted or you don't even know where to start. We all feel like that about something in life.
Well, for all of you out there that get anxious thinking about trying to cook something, I have a tip for you. Go out and buy some herbes de provence. Get yourself a pepper grinder (you can even get them at the dollar store these days) and some sea salt. Probably you'll want some olive oil, too. All of a sudden you've just armed yourself with the basics of what you need to cook quite a few things with little or no effort.
Seriously, quite often you can just cook something in a small amount of olive oil, add some salt and freshly ground pepper and you're golden. If you want a bit more flavor, add some of the herbes de provence. That herb blend is quite adaptable to many different vegetables and grains. That's right - grains, too! The difference between having some plain old quinoa and some quinoa with a dash or herbs is astounding. Instant side dish!
Here's a great way to use them for breakfast: Get yourself some red or yellow potatoes (not the Russets, you want a thin-skinned potato), chop them up, toss them in some olive oil, salt and pepper and herbes de provence. Maybe add a little bit of chopped garlic or some diced red onions. Stir it up and put it in a baking dish and bake them at 400F for about 45 minutes or so. Just check them after about 30 minutes or so by poking one of the potatoes with a fork. If it slides in and out easily, they're done. If not, give it another 10 minutes. You can just eyeball all of the seasonings. I know that can be scary for some people, so if you're worried, start out with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon or so of dried herbes. Just give it a slight dusting of salt and pepper and stir it all up. You can always add the salt and pepper later if you're worried about making it too salty. Once you've made this a time or two, start experimenting. Maybe add some shallots instead of garlic or onions or include some mushrooms or tempeh or something.
Trust me, it'll be delicious no matter what you do if you start with some nice, basic things like that. I've always urged some of my single guy friends who are just discovering cooking to go out and buy some herbes de provence as their go-to herb. It's just one jar and then it's much less scary then having to learn what herbs do what when you're first getting into cooking.
What's in this magical herb mix, you ask? It all depends on where you get it, but the typical herb mix for herbes de provence is savory, basil, thyme and lavender. Sometimes there will be fennel or rosemary or tarragon or oregano or marjoram in the mix as well. I get mine in huge bags from the farmer's market. It's quite cheap to get it that way, but most grocery stores and markets have this, too.
So what're you waiting for? Go make something awesome!