Our shelves are practically buckling under the weight of cookbooks. But our reference library could use a refresh.
We’ve recently been taken with Stepehn Orr’s The New Amercian Herbal ($27.50).
With 900 entries on every herb we’ve ever heard of (plus plenty we haven’t) and dozens of herb-centric recipes, it’s a newly indispensable tome on our table.
Orr lays out the alphabet of herbs (agrimony to yarrow) and describes herb families, herb-drying techniques and fun new words to use like “demulcents,” a class of herbs (including coltsfoot, horehound, licorice, marshmallow, mullein and oats) that coat and lubricate inflamed throat tissues. Plus, the stunningly lush photographs are a reminder that spring surely will come.
The book introduced us to a new Persian dish that we are wild about: Panir Sabzi, a platter of herbs and feta that truly equals more than the sum of its parts. Orr says, “I admire its simplicity: just handfuls of various green herbs combined with cheese, nuts, and radishes and, rather surprisingly, no dressing. It truly is an appetizer as it seems to wake up the senses and digestion for whatever main course is coming.”
Serve the salad with sprouted flatbread and dig in using your hands to pluck a customized mix of herbal flavors.
- 1 small bunch fresh mint
- 1 small bunch fresh tarragon
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro
- 1 small bunch fresh basil
- 4 scallions, trimmed of roots and any damaged leaf tops
- 4 to 6 small radishes, topped and tailed
- 1 cup walnuts
- ¾ pound feta cheese
- Remove any damaged leaves or tough stems from the herbs and place them in groups in a salad spinner to rinse and dry them thoroughly. Set aside.
- Wash the scallions and quarter them lengthwise. Wash the radishes and cut them in half. Dry roast the walnuts in a skillet until they are lightly brown. Slice the feta into 1⁄4 inch slices.
- Arrange each type of herb on a large flat platter, add groups of scallion, walnuts, radishes, and cheese, and serve. Everyone should eat with their hands, grabbing the cheese, vegetables and nuts and using the herb leaves to wrap them in tidy bundles.