Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Using and Preserving Summer Herbs: Rosemary Comes to Dinner

I've been friends with Rosemary for a long time now. When we first met, she was dry, and her disposition sharp.  When we talked, I always seemed to get her caught in my teeth.  And I couldn't seem to appreciate her harshness.

However, as the years wore on, I found that there were many sides to Rosemary.  If I caught her in the morning, fresh from the garden, her smell was intoxicating -- a bit like fresh pine boughs, and filled with the earth.  But, if left alone for too long, she grew parched and brittle, and her perfume would start to smell astringent.

Her marriage to garlic is almost too good to be true. But, it's taken many years of practice.  When they first met, they both tried to hog the spotlight. Inevitably, one of them ended up wounded or broken. But, over the years the two lovers have learned to move together in perfect harmony. And everyone is happier -- including the neighbors.

Although she turns some people off with her assertiveness, I'm Rosemary's biggest fan. You always know where you stand when you're with her. And there's no hiding behind false pretenses. She puts herself right out there in front, and you can't help but notice her.  And I'll be honest, that's a big part of her appeal.

I had her over for dinner the other night. At first, we were uncertain about what to make. So, we took a trip to the supermarket. Rosemary pointed to the tender young Strauss free-raised veal shanks and smiled. I knew then that we were in for something special.
 She took me by the arm and led me back into the kitchen. And that's where the lessons began.  I learned to rely on the basics -- celery, onions, carrots, a splash of white wine, and very good chicken stock.  But, she also taught me to think outside the box -- adding petitely diced guanciale, briny anchovy filets, last summer's dried Principe Borghese tomatoes, and (of course) a generous helping of garlic.
As the ingredients simmered, I was mesmerized by how the ingredients danced together -- playing off of one another's strengths, waxing and waning and gradually mellowing.  And, as the components came together, they formed a symphony of flavors... of colors...
With Rosemary at the helm, I began to realize that it couldn't help but become a thing of beauty.  So, I reliquished control. While Rosemary worked her magic, I pulled together a pot of risotto. Simple. Elegant. Embellished only by a grating of Carr Valley Gran Canaria -- an intensely nutty cheese that I figured would be the perfect match for Rosemary's intensity.

The dance took almost two hours to complete, but when we finished, I wasn't even tired. In fact, I felt invigorated. Delighted. Inspired. And as we finished, I couldn't help but savor those final bits of sauce -- deliciously unctuous and smooth, subtly herbal, and ... well, perfect.

Sometimes there's nothing like a new dinner with an old friend.


Osso Buco with Rosemary & Sundried Tomatoes

This guest post wraps up our Summer 2010 Herb Series: Using and Preserving Herbs. Thanks to everyone for making this series such a great success!  And we wish you much luck making use of your bountiful harvest.

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8 comments:

  1. Oh, Baby!!!! Yum. That is all I can say. oh, and what the heck is guanciale?

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  2. I'm not a fan of veal (don't hate), but you certainly make a good case for it here, as do so many of my other foodie friends. Some day, I swear, I will get on board so I can stop missing out on all these fab recipes. I do however, love Rosemary as you know. And I absolutely LOVE this post.

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  3. Amy - Even if you decide not to give veal a try, this recipe would be AMAZING made with lamb shanks (or even pork). Let us know if you give it a try!

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  4. This post was just so much fun. I love rosemary. I love meal. I'm inviting both of them to dinner. Soon.

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  5. I loved reading your post... so rosemary seems to rather happy in your veal dish. Since I do not eat veal, I will have to think of other ways to please her :-)

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  6. I think that last picture just brought a tear to my eye. Looks so tasty, so pretty!

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  7. Another reason to love Rosemary -- if you touch her, her scent lingers on your fingers. Oo la la.

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  8. Great post, Lo! I have a potted rosemary plant that I've kept alive for more than a year, but sadly she rarely comes into the kitchen with me. I should really change that...

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