Magazine article Newsweek

A Summer Party on a Plate

Magazine article Newsweek

A Summer Party on a Plate

Article excerpt

Byline: Julia Reed

We had people over and served them cantaloupe daiquiris with basil and fresh coriander.

On Memorial Day weekend, my husband, John, and I planned a much-needed getaway to the Gulf Coast of Florida, which I then managed to delay by more than two hours due to the slightly obsessive notion that if I did not tend to my unruly herb garden right that minute, as opposed to, say, three days later, the whole thing would go immediately to hell. By the time we finally got into the car, we had with us (in addition to Henry the beagle) three enormous garbage bags stuffed with herbs, including three kinds of mint (Kentucky colonel, peppermint and chocolate), two kinds of thyme (English and lemon), marjoram, Greek oregano and long branches of rosemary.

Upon arrival, the obsession continued: instead of curling up with my favorite detective, Spenser, I insisted on using the entire bounty in a marathon of herbal cookery. We breakfasted on omelets enlivened by parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives (known as fines herbes when used in combination), and lunched on tuna carpaccio with mint and chives. We had people over and served them cantaloupe daiquiris with basil and cilantro from my friend Martha Foose's excellent new cookbook "Screen Porches and Sweet Tea." We marinated a butterflied leg of lamb in a little rosemary and garlic, a whole lot of mint and a syrupy dessert wine that produced the excellent char Mario Batali promised it would. For dessert we steeped chocolate mint in custard and made ice cream with chunks of the best chocolate we could find.

My husband was a great sport and willing sous chef throughout, but then he is happy as long as he gets his share of fresh basil. It's an obsession he shares with Elizabeth David, the great English food writer who said in "Italian Food" that "nothing can replace the lovely flavor of this herb. …

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