Category Archives: Herbs

Pick Your Own Mint & Make a Refreshing Apple-Lime Spritzer

You meet the most interesting people. If you have a farm stand in your back yard, that is. The farm stand didn’t start out as close to the house as it is now, but there were a couple of little problems that forced our decision to move it down the driveway. On a positive note, now when people get out of their cars, they get a great view of the garden, and some even wander over to take a look at the chickens and Cocoa bunny. Also, since I am often outside working, I get to meet more of them now.

This past weekend I was chatting with a lady who’d just returned from a trip to Paris with her husband. She had her eye on our “pick your own mint” patch (which is actually mint planted in an old dresser drawer—very cute!), because she wanted to recreate a drink she had in Paris for her friends on the Vineyard. She told me it was a (non-alcoholic) combination of lime juice, apple juice, and mint, with lots of ice and a splash of soda. I didn’t get any more details, but the notion of making one of these stuck in my head because it sounded so refreshing, and I love any concoction that takes advantage of the lime-mint synchronicity.

Back at my desk, I did a quick Google search of similar drinks and couldn’t find one just like that. But since the drink sounded a bit like a mojito to me, I decided to follow the method in a mojito recipe by Jen Armentrout over at I started out by using the handle of a wooden spoon to “muddle” the mint with a little bit of sugar (not too much since apple juice is sweet, also). I added a pretty generous amount of freshly squeezed lime juice, a little apple juice, lots of crushed ice and a bit of club soda. It was delicious and a dead-on thirst quencher. I drank the whole thing right up as I seem to be constantly thirsty from working outside. But I’ve no doubt you could sip on one, too (and add a splash of your favorite spirit), in the cool shade of a maple—or a palm—tree.

Apple-Lime-Mint Spritzer

For a printable recipe, click here.

I have a wonderful old wooden spoon that’s about 2 feet long (I think it must have been used for candy making) and has a thick handle perfect for “muddling” the sugar and mint. But look around your kitchen and you’ll likely find something (shorter!) that will work. To make crushed ice, put ice cubes in a zip-top bag and bang with a wooden meat mallet or other heavy object.


6 to 8 big peppermint or spearmint leaves, plus an extra sprig for garnish

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 cup apple juice

crushed ice

club soda


Put the mint leaves and the sugar in a tall glass. Crush the mint leaves with the  handle of a wooden spoon until the mint is macerated and broken up. (The sugar will have a green tint.) Add the lime juice and stir well. Add the apple juice and a generous amount of crushed ice. Top off with club soda. (Start with a small amount of soda, taste and add more if you like.) Garnish with a mint sprig.

Serves one

My Favorite Herb of all Time is Thyme

Sorry for the bad-pun headline, but I do love fresh thyme. Right about now I’m getting to use a lot of it, for two reasons. First, I’ve got several plants flourishing, both right outside the kitchen door and also along the edge of the vegetable garden. Secondly, I keep cutting bunches to sell at the farm stand, and no one buys it. So it goes. Herbs are not a huge seller, even in the high months, but I stubbornly put them out there, just in case. Secretly, I just like to look at the pretty little bunches arranged in cute cups. Thyme and all the rest of the herbs cut fresh from the garden last a remarkably long time compared to store-bought herbs. (And despite how pretty they look at room temperature in a little container, they will keep even longer in the fridge in a sealed zip-top bag. Dry them well before storing.)

My friends in the test kitchen at Fine Cooking magazine, where hundreds of my recipes have passed through, used to give me a hard time about the amount of fresh thyme I use in my recipes. Everyone groans when they see thyme on the ingredient list, because it means somebody has to pick all the little leaves off the stem. But it’s really not that big of a deal. (Libby actually likes to do it. I told her—in my version of Huck Finn getting Tom Sawyer to paint the picket fence—that it’s an important job for a sous chef.)

The easiest way to pick thyme is to slide two fingers down the stem (from flowering end backwards), stripping the leaves as you go. Usually this works pretty well, but it does depend on the variety of thyme. If you decide to grow your own, pick a variety at the nursery with relatively big leaves spaced far apart on the stem. I usually buy something labeled “common thyme” as opposed to the “English” thyme. There are lots of other varieties; lemon thyme always seems to grow quickly, and I love brushing my hand through it and smelling it in the garden, but it can be overpowering in the kitchen if not used judiciously (it’s good with fish and in chowders).

I use thyme (both the leaves and flowers) in vinaigrettes and herb butters, in fresh tomato sauces and pan sauces, with roasted potatoes and roast chicken, and in egg and pasta dishes, too. But a favorite simple destination for it is a marinated goat cheese appetizer I’ve been making for years. I sprinkle fresh thyme leaves, a little lemon zest, chopped sundried tomatoes and olives over medallions of fresh goat cheese, pour olive oil over them, and let marinate in the fridge for a few hours. I bring the whole thing back to room temperature before serving, and the creamy, herby, salty cheese makes a wonderful summer topping for crackers or crostini. It’s also a quick and easy dish to make for a party. Last night we were invited, along with a few other couples, to a wonderful bouillabaisse dinner at our friends Buck and Kay Goldstein’s open, airy house high on a hill in Chilmark. Buck and Kay have mastered the art of Zen entertaining (and Kay is an amazing cook), so while we arrived with goat cheese appetizer in hand, we left with contentment, full bellies, and the pleasure of having been in good company, too.

Marinated Goat Cheese with Fresh Thyme and Lemon

For a printable recipe, click here.

This is a great hors d’oeuvre to take to a party. Make it a few (or several) hours ahead, refrigerate it, and then let it warm up a bit before putting out with toasted baguette slices or crackers. After serving, there will probably be some olive oil left in the dish. Save it and drizzle it over grilled or toasted bread the next day.


1 4-ounce log fresh goat cheese, sliced into 6 pieces

1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves and flowers, lightly chopped, plus a sprig or two for garnish

1 packed teaspoon fresh lemon zest

2 teaspoons finely chopped pitted black olives

2 teaspoons finely chopped sundried tomatoes

sea salt or kosher salt

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, more if necessary

Toasted crostini, baguette slices, or crackers for serving


Arrange the slices of goat cheese snugly in one layer in a small shallow dish. (I use a little straight-sided tapas dish for this, but a small gratin dish would work, too.)  Sprinkle the thyme, lemon zest, olives and sundried tomatoes over and around the cheese, and sprinkle the cheese with a little sea salt. Pour over the olive oil. It should just barely cover the cheese. Add more if necessary. Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours, and bring it to room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Put the dish of cheese, the baguette slices or crackers, and a couple small knives out for serving.

Serves 6

Summer’s First Basil Pesto—And 10 Things To Do With It

A nice couple stopped by the farm stand early this morning while I was still getting the veggies and herbs set up. “We’re in need of basil,” they announced. “How much?” I said. “About this much,” the man gestured, hands open as if he were about to pass a basketball. “Okay, I’ll go pick it for you if you’ve got a second. You can go take a look at the baby goats if you like.”

Off they went and I headed to the garden to harvest the basil. We’ve got sweet basil, lime basil, Thai basil (right), and purple basil, all flourishing in the semi-shade among the tomato plants. Those tomatoes, so spindly when we transplanted them, are now lush and vigorous, covered with little yellow blossoms and tiny green fruits. We planted 40 tomato plants, and basil between each, so basil is something we have oodles of. I was so happy to be able to go out and harvest something I grew myself and hand it over to some appreciative folks who wanted and needed it.

This whole weekend has been like that. Out by the road, we have a new sign that Roy made, and with the crush of visitors to the Island for the July 4th holiday (and those adorable baby goats), the farm stand is hopping. This morning we sold our first harvest of fingerling potatoes, and yesterday we couldn’t keep bunches of carrots around for longer than it took to pull them out of the ground.  I get goose bumps just thinking about it—I’ve always wanted to grow and sell vegetables, and now here we are actually doing it. Only wish we had planted more, as we can already see we’ll run out of carrots (and lots of stuff) well before the next planting can mature.

Now I have another dilemma. We’re going to a potluck party this afternoon, and I, of course, have to bring something garden-y, something vegetable-y—something you’d expect the author of a vegetable cookbook who grows vegetables to bring to a potluck. But I don’t want to harvest anything we can sell!! So I thought about that basil. There’s plenty of it, and the more you pick it, the bushier it gets. So last night I made my first batch of pesto for the summer.

I had the Parmigiano and the olive oil, but my pine nuts were rancid. After swearing at the Stop ‘n Shop, I decided to make pesto without nuts.  (I don’t know why I go anywhere near that grocery store, except that last weekend I had a cooking demonstration to do at Morning Glory Farm, and needed a lot of pine nuts for a Swiss chard dish. Two out of the three jars I bought were bad. Yuck. Be sure to smell nuts before you use them, and when you buy them fresh, store them in the freezer if you’ll not be using them all right away.)

My pesto came out plenty tasty. (I added a little parsley, too, to keep it a bit greener.) So you can certainly make pesto without pine nuts, or you can substitute walnuts or almonds. But ideally, I not only like to use the pine nuts, but I also like to toast them first to pump up the flavor. Here’s the basic basil pesto recipe I usually follow (more or less!). I find the food processer easiest for making a quick pesto. Following the recipe are some ideas for what to do with your pesto once you make it.

Food Processor Basil Pesto


A 1-inch chunk of Parmigiano or ¼ cup grated Parmigiano

1 clove garlic

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon plus ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt

several grinds of fresh pepper


Get out your food processor. (I have a smallish one I like to use. Not tiny, but not huge.)

If your Parmigiano is a chunk, cut off about a 1-inch piece and process that until it is nicely grated. (Grating Parmigiano in the food processor turns it into fine sandy pebbles, giving a bit more body to something like pesto than finely grated cheese would.) Add the garlic clove and process until minced.

If you’re using grated Parmigiano (and make sure it is Parmigiano, not the pre-grated fake stuff, which will taste like dust, or worse), start by putting the garlic clove in the processor first and processing it until minced. Then add the grated cheese. Next, add all of the toasted pine nuts and process.

Add all of the basil, a good pinch of salt, several grinds of fresh pepper and a tablespoon or so of the olive oil. Process until very pasty. Then, with the processor running, gradually add the rest of the olive oil—or as much as you like—through the feed tube to get a nice, smooth pesto. Adding the olive oil with the motor running will help the pesto emulsify a bit for a more creamy texture. Taste again and add more salt and pepper to taste if you like.

Yields about 1 cup.

How to use your pesto:

  • In a vinaigrette. Combine with white balsamic vinegar, a little lemon juice and a bit more olive oil. Drizzle on grilled vegetables, green beans or new potatoes.
  • On pizza. Use as a base instead of tomato sauce. Add sliced cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
  • In sandwiches. Sure, you can use it on bread, but try it in a different kind of sandwich—one made with two slices of grilled eggplant or grilled zucchini. After cooking the veggies, let them cool and put a bit of goat cheese or mozzarella and some pesto between two slices for a fun appetizer or side dish.
  • On pasta, of course! Toss with warm angel hair or linguine, fresh peas, and grilled shrimp. Yum.
  • With fish. Top a white fish fillet like halibut or striper with a bit of pesto and some fresh breadcrumbs before baking.
  • On crostini. Slice and toast baguette, spread with pesto, top with a slice of fresh mozzarella and a roasted or sundried tomato.
  • With soup. Swril a little pesto into a cold carrot or potato or tomato soup. Or drizzle some into a seafood chowder.
  • In a dip. Layer softened goat cheese, pesto, chopped sundried tomatoes, and chopped toasted pine nuts in a wide, straight-sided dish (4 or 5 inches across, a few inches deep). Repeat the layers. Serve with crackers or bread.
  • With eggs. Add a little pesto to omelettes, frittatas, or even scrambled eggs.
  • On tomatoes. Dress up the classic tomato and fresh mozzarella antipasto with pesto instead of fresh basil and a smattering of pitted Nicoise olives.