Some things are mysterious and unexpected. For example, how can I explain the gargantuan rosemary plant now in my garden? The Mediterranean climate is confined to the stuff of dream vacations here in the Northeast, so how did this happen in my little semi-urban herb patch? Just so you know, I am a neglectful gardener. I plant and clean in the spring, and then try to remember to weed and water throughout the summer. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. Mostly I don’t.
A couple of years ago, I planted three 3-inch pots of rosemary. They grew together to make a pretty substantial (but not unusually large) plant. Normally I would dig it up, shove it in a big pot, and bring it inside to pick sprigs until late winter when the plant would expire. But I did not do that. I procrastinated, and decided to deal with it in the spring. Along came an unseasonably mild winter. By spring, the plant looked dead, but with more procrastination on my part, it began to show signs of life. Okay! More benign neglect and the plant thrived.
Repeat the following year, with no expectations that my good luck would hold. As you can see from the photo above, taken in June, it did. This summer I luxuriated in a profusion of rosemary.
Other mysterious and unexpected events have transpired lately. We sold our house and got ready to move. I made peace with parting with my garden by promising myself to make lots of lots of this herb salt to take with me as a token, and laid plans for a new garden somewhere, as yet unknown. After readying our house to sell, packing, and finding a new house, suddenly, our house wasn’t sold after all. All bets are off now. We are riding a roller coaster and I’m hanging on and hanging in. It’s not comfortable. I am trying to enjoy the ride, but like most people, I’m not so good at open-ended uncertainty.
But who knows, perhaps the mysterious and unexpected will show up at my door any minute now. Perhaps by next summer I will have a new herb patch. Or perhaps not. In the meantime, while my life shifts and turns, I plan on using this salt to season all the comforting cool weather foods: roast chickens, roasted potatoes and squash and onions, pan roasted pork chops, vegetable tians, and whatever else I might imagine (
? Crackers? Thick, buttery shortbread rounds with a touch of salt?) Mmmm.
I spent a good deal of time in the car this summer, and often listened to
through Stitcher Radio and my phone—a boon for long drives. The recipe here is adapted from Sally Schneider’s description on that program. I made three versions, which I noted below. One is simply rosemary and salt, another is with rosemary, sage, and lavender (lavender is very bossy, so go easy) and another is rosemary, sage, and lemon. You could chop some garlic along with the salt, but I refrained, preferring to add the garlic later. You can chop by hand or in the food processer. Lazy bones (me) prefers the processor, but be careful not to overdo it and make a mush of it. The formula is basically 1/2 cup coarse sea salt (salt grains the size of kosher salt) to 2 cups loosely packed herb leaves. Mix and match as you please, then spread on a baking sheet to dry for a couple of days. While the salt draws out the moisture from the herbs it also absorbs a ton of flavor.
Herb salt recipe (adapted from Sally Schneider)
Makes 1 cup herb salt
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
2 cups loosely packed rosemary leaves
1/2 cup coarse sea salt
1 cup loosely packed rosemary leaves
1 cup loosely packed sage leaves
5 or 6 lavender buds
Any of the above, plus
Finely chopped zest of 1 lemon
1. In a food processor, pulse the herbs with 1/4 cup salt repeatedly until the herbs are chopped but not annihilated. Add the remaining salt and pulse once or twice to mix.
2. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and leave to air dry for 2 or 3 days, or until completely dry. Store in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid.