Rosemary in the Garden…
As autumn approaches, rosemary has become the star of my garden. In my new yard in Tennessee the serpentine retaining wall near our small vegetable garden is topped with a row of five rosemary bushes. As the other herbs and vegetables begin to play out these resilient plants remain dense and vibrant as their branches reach for the wall. Their sturdy foliage is thick and fragrant, heavy with pungent oil. Gathering a few twigs for cooking, I find the resinous scent clinging to my skin and bathing my senses in its rich perfume.
Rosemary is an asset in early fall cooking. Its woody twigs make great skewers for grilled kebabs and a few tender sprigs tied together make a pretty brush for basting meat or vegetables. You can also add a few twigs to the barbecue to impart flavor in the smoke or to the fire pit to add fragrance to a special event. Or place a fresh twig in a warm oven to add a wonderful touch of scent to your home.
…and at the Table
The tender tips of rosemary branches make a beautiful garnish. They can also add a natural touch to your table décor. These brighter more pliable strands of rosemary are especially beautiful when in bloom. Weave them loosely into napkin rings or tuck them into table bouquets or wreaths. The flowers are small but pretty. They are also edible and can be added to salads or used as a garnish.
Here rosemary is used to add flavor and texture to cocktail nuts. These nuts are first oven toasted and then, at the last minute, fried with a large fist full of chopped rosemary leaves until the nuts are browned and the rosemary leaves are crisped. The smell is heavenly and it alone is worth the small effort devoted to turning out this recipe. Try it now and keep it in mind throughout the coming holiday season.
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
3-4 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
½ teaspoon cayenne or other red pepper
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spread nuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven on a middle rack. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring to redistribute nuts once or twice during the process. Remove from the oven and set aside until just a few minutes before serving time.
Just before guests arrive, or even just after, heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. (Any type of skillet can be used, preferably one without non-stick coating, but somehow using my cast iron skillet for this one really adds to my personal satisfaction with this recipe.) When the skillet is hot add the olive oil.
When the olive oil is hot and shimmery, add the chopped fresh rosemary. How finely you chop the rosemary is a matter of personal preference. I like having bits of rosemary that are all different sizes. The longer bits of rosemary leaf separate into their own savory bite in the bowl. Many of the finer pieces will adhere to the ridges of the walnuts and especially the pecans while frying which adds a boost to the appeal of those when you are eyeing the bowl for the best nut to target. Then again, a few leaf clusters from the tips of the rosemary stems you chop are a nice addition to the mix, adding some visual interest and variety. Not that I thought this all out in advance or anything. It’s just the sort of rustic chopping that comes about naturally most of time.
Stir the rosemary in the oil for about one minute. (If you have a handsome wooden utensil for stirring, all the better.) Breath deeply! The scent of the rosemary alone, as it crisps in the hot oil, is reason enough to prepare this recipe often.
Add the brown sugar and chili pepper to the oil and stir in quickly. Add the nuts and continue stirring as you fry the nuts over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until coated and hot throughout.
Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the salt and toss with the nuts. Scoop nuts (and every last bit of rosemary and salt you can) into your favorite serving bowl.
Serve and Enjoy!