Our Pinecrest Garden Club had a Zoom meeting last week that I actually looked forward to. One of our members- Theresa Gilmore– conducted a cooking class called Cooking with Herbs. Theresa is a certified acupuncturist and homeopath who was excited to teach us how herbs can create tasty recipes AND improve our health. I went out and bought all the ingredients for the four recipes and had them, my cutting board and Cuisinart ready in my own kitchen, as we started the class at noon on Tuesday. I cooked along with Theresa as she talked about the health benefits of the different ingredients we were cooking with.
Basil, which was in the basil pesto we made, contains many vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and may help prevent cancer and fight free radicals. The other plus to basil is it smells delicious, so it gives aromatherapy benefits. Garlic, also in the pesto, is highly nutritious, improves cholesterol levels and combats sickness. Pine nuts contain magnesium and antioxidants and help keep your skin healthy. I asked if she used the basil stalks in the pesto. She said she did if they weren’t too woody, as the stems also contribute valuable nutrients.
Basil Pesto recipe by Theresa Gilmore
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts (can sub chopped walnuts)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pulse basil and pine nuts in food processor. Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times. Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the side of the food processor with a rubber spatula. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the side of the food processor. Stir in the salt and freshly ground pepper, add more to taste.
Serving suggestions: Toss with pasta (and some pasta water) for a quick sauce, dollop over baked potatoes or spread onto crackers or toasted slices of bread. *I would add to this list, use to top tomatoes and mozzarella, on chicken or steak, in scrambled eggs or on a sandwich. I made a delicious tomato, mozzarella, arugula panini sandwich with this pesto the next day for lunch and also stirred some into my minestrone soup. Yum!
The Olives in this next recipe are high in vitamin E and anti-oxidants and are a source of healthy fat. They are also good for your heart and may protect against osteoporosis and cancer. Cilantro is good for so many things, Theresa recommended eating it every day. It clears your body of heavy metals, lowers anxiety, improves sleep, lowers blood sugar levels, protects against cardiovascular disease, prevents urinary tract infections and settles upset stomachs. It’s also an anti-depressant that’s good for hair and skin. Lemons obviously contain Vitamin C, but Theresa also recommended including a couple pits in the blend. Lemon seeds detox the body, relieve pain, prevent candidiasis (fungal infection of the digestive tract) and fight against parasites.
Za’atar Olive Tapenade by Theresa Gilmore
- 1/2 cup green pitted olives (or use Kalamata)
- 2 Tablespoons Za’atar (either make or buy on Amazon or Middle Eastern market0
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until roughly chopped. Serve room temp with flatbread wedges, celery sticks or cucumber slices for dipping. * I loved this recipe and also added a little low-fat cream cheese to celery sticks and cucumber slices, before topping them with this spread.
Tarragon reduces blood sugar, helps fight inflamation, improves sleep, appetite and helps with heart health. It has a licoricey taste that goes well with chicken, fish and on vegetables such as steamed artichokes, asparagus and carrots. Theresa said different kind of vinegars can be used for this recipe; she used a Tarragon Vinegar she won at a Pinecrest Garden Club meeting raffle that I’d made with tarragon from my garden.
Tarragon Mustard Dressing by Theresa Gilmore
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 3 to 4 good sized sprigs of fresh tarragon, lightly chopped
In a large salad bowl, add the mustard, salt and pepper. Using a small balloon whisk, beat the vinegar into the mustard until completely blended and smooth.
Beating continuously, add the olive oil, then half the water until completely combined and until the dressing is a thick, smooth cream. Stir in the tarragon.
Taste the dressing; if it’s too sharp, beat in the rest of the water. Season and let sit 10-15 minutes before serving. Delicious over steamed green beans. *This is also a nice salad or sandwich dressing and I served it over sauteed yellowtail and it was delicious. It would also be nice on a grilled steak.
I hope you enjoy the recipes from Theresa and learned something about the health benefits of fresh herbs. I’ve always had an herb garden, no matter where I’ve lived, because I love adding them to whatever food I’m cooking; there aren’t many dishes that can’t be improved with some freshly chopped herbs. The wonderful thing about this cooking class was that, after a short time, I was left with four different sauces to use in my future meals.
If you would like to experience Theresa’s Cooking with Herbs Class, she is holding another one on St. Patrick’s Day, this March 17th, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. She will be making a Mint Mojito, Chicken with Basil Pesto, Asparagus with Tarragon Mustard Dressing and a Parsley Mint Millet Tabbouleh. The cost is $10 and the proceeds go to raise money for the Coral Gables Women’s Club Children’s Dental Clinic, serving underprivileged children in the community. It’s a great cause which has been around since 1939 and they need your help this year, more than ever. So “get lucky” this St. Patty’s Day with a wonderful cooking class to help a good cause and your health!
To participate, contact Theresa Gilmore at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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