Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #155 Round-Up


We’re back from Greece, my life and family are back on an even keel, and I’m ready to blog again. It’s fitting to resume blogging today; October 26 is my blog’s first birthday.

What a year this has been.

I’ve improved my writing and photography, but still have much to learn about both. I’ve struggled to maintain the discipline that regular blogging requires. Over the next year, I’ll continue that struggle and will do my best to provide interesting content and delicious recipes.

The best part of blogging is something I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams - the dynamic and vital community of food writers. The generosity of fellow writers has been never ending. This kindness and thoughtfulness is a welcome counterpoint to the difficult economic and political challenges facing today’s world.

One way in which food writers build bonds and share information is though “events,” in which all are invited to write posts on a similar theme by a date certain. One of my favorite such events is
Weekend Herb Blogging, an event created by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen to highlight the herbs and other plants used by cooks around the world.

As it happens, today it’s my turn to summarize this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging entries.

Next week (October 27 – November 2, 2008) is the three year anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging, and Kalyn encourages everyone to join in the anniversary celebration by submitting a recipe featuring their favorite herb, vegetable, or fruit. Kalyn has put together a whole week’s worth of anniversary events, including drawings for three fabulous prizes. Kalyn also has an important announcement about the future of Weekend Herb Blogging.

This week’s Weekend Herb Blogging entries are listed in the order I received them. If I’ve made an error, please let me know and I’ll fix it right away. Remember, next week’s third anniversary host is Kalyn from
Kalyn's Kitchen.

Drunken Crabs
Manila, Philippines

Ning, of Heart and Hearth, was lucky to receive a gift of several kilos of live crab. Ning’s maid generously contributed her family’s secret recipe for Drunken Crab, which Ning says is “the best crab we have ever tasted.” The crab is seasoned richly with fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, garlic, sesame oil, chili paste, and an entire liter of gin. Ning advises that what “cooking wine is to the Chinese, [gin is] to the Filipinos.

Cardamom Pear Cake
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tina, of Choosy Beggars, used her glut of pears to make Cardamom Pear Cake. Tina says her coffee cake is “wonderfully moist” and is “just perfect with a cup of Earl Gray tea or coffee.” Tina reports, “Five pears down, 500 more to go.”

Chania, Crete, Greece

Inspired by the current economic crisis, Maria, of the wonderful blog Organically Cooked, boldly tried eating nettles for the first time. She put on her gloves and picked a pile of them. She substituted the nettles for spinach in Spanakopita and also made Kalitsounia (little Cretan hand pies) with nettle filling. Sadly, Maria wasn’t able to take a picture of the Kalitsounia because her family devoured them all as soon as they came out of the oven.

Pork and Vegetable Kebabs on Rosemary Skewers
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

Last week, Nikki, of Niksnacks, had a date with her stovetop smoker. She marinated chunks of pork tenderloin with orange juice, sage, and lavender, and threaded the pork and vegetables on rosemary skewers. Nikki briefly smoked the kebabs and finished cooking them in the oven. Nikki says, “Yum. If only every date I have could taste this good.” (For anyone who hasn’t tried rosemary skewers, I highly recommend trying them; here’s another idea for using them.)

Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Kalyn, of Kalyn’s Kitchen, created Weekend Herb Blogging and has faithfully organized it for the last three years, to well-deserved acclaim. This week, she made Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemon, Thyme, and Parmesan by roasting chunks of squash with olive oil, fresh thyme, and lemon juice, and finishing the roasted squash with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Autumn Fruit and Nut Salad with Pita Chips
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Yasmeen, of Health Nut, has been having a good time cooking and baking with seasonally fresh pumpkins. She reminds us to always use the “bounteous” and “beneficial” pumpkin seeds. Yasmeen’s Autumn Salad gets its “sensational flavor from crunchy pumpkin seeds … fresh apples, oranges, toasty almonds, and homemade pita chips.” She also describes her pumpkin seed roasting method.

Sfouggato with Asphodels
Athens, Greece

Mariana, of History of Greek Food provides a very interesting lesson about the Greek omelet called Sfouggato. Mariana’s Sfouggato is particularly interesting because she made it with shoots of the asphodel, a flowering plant seen often in Greece. For anyone interested in food history, Mariana’s blog is a must read.

Sunroot Leek Flan with Horseradish Sauce
Valsorda, Lake Garda, Italy

Brii, of Briggis Recept Och Ideer, writes about Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes, sunroots, and earth apples). Brii used them to make individual Sunroot Leak Flans, rich with cream cheese and seasoned with fresh ginger. Brii served the flans with a simple mixture of creamy yogurt and tangy horseradish.

Chocolate Poppy Seed Cake with Apples
Bardolino, Lake Garda, Italy

In honor of her Grandfather Silvio, Cinzia, of
Cindystar, made Chocolate Poppy Seed Cake with Apples. Cinzia says the cake is “a sweet fantasy … made even more special by the poppy seeds that give this cake a unique and unusual taste and texture.” Cinzia also likes using poppy seeds in salads, sweet breads, and pastries.

Sagu Gula Bali (Sago with Spiced Coconut Milk)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Anna, of
Morsels & Musings, uses sago pearls (similar to tapioca pearls) and pandan (screwpine) leaves to make an Indonesian dessert called Sagu Gula Bali. During a cooking class on Bali, Anna’s teacher explained that pandan is used in Southeast Asian cooking in a similar way to how vanilla is used in Western cooking. In the US and Australia, many Asian stores sell frozen pandan leaves which Anna says retain their flavor.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Cheryl, of Gluten Free Goodness, hosts a pumpkin carving contest every year for Halloween. This year she served Pumpkin Seed Brittle, based on an old nut brittle recipe in her collection. Because she cooks the sugar syrup in the microwave, Cheryl’s simple brittle takes only 10 minutes to make.

Petis Pois à La Française
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Haalo, of Cook (Almost) Anything at Least Once, recently found red-skinned peas in her local market. The peas look like, well, green peas, but the pods are something to behold; be sure to check out Haalo’s amazing pea pictures. Haalo used the peas to make Petis Pois à La Française, “a bistro favorite … made with onions, bacon, lettuce, and fresh peas [c]ooked in a good amount of butter.” Haalo recommends serving the peas with fresh baguette, perfect for sopping up the delicious juices.

Stir Fried Squid in Black Bean Sauce
Long Island, New York USA

Beachlover, of Beachlover’s Kitchen, combined pre-cleaned squid with fermented black bean sauce to make quick and easy Stir Fried Squid in Black Bean Sauce. Beachlover says that fermented black beans are very fragrant, and are quite popular in China and other Asian countries.


Peter M said...

Laurie, welcome back and glad you're easing back into blogging after your vacation.

I look forward to your new dishes inspired by your last trip to Greece.

FOODalogue said...

Some very beautiful and unique dishes here.

Beachlover said...

thanks alot !! I have no idea where my email goes. I just saw your comment today and hop over your blog to get then exect email address again and saw your posting up! Anyway,I appreciated your effort!Thank you very much:))

Beachlover said...

thanks alot !! I have no idea where my email goes. I just saw your comment today and hop over your blog to get then exect email address again and saw your posting up! Anyway,I appreciated your effort!Thank you very much:))

Núria said...

Laurie!!! Welcome back :D :D :D.

Ahhhh if I just knew you were hosting this time, I would have sent a recipe... uff, I need a vacation in Greece... this blogging thing is getting so heavy! 2 days away from the screen and there's tones of posts to check... I can't handle it :(

Anyway, love the dishes here, there's such beautiful shots too :D and I will check Kalyn's 3rd year blogging thing.

Congratulations on your Blogiversary Sweetie♥

Kalyn Denny said...

Congratulations on reaching one year of blogging! It does go by quickly doesn't it? Great job on this. I'm at school (supposedly) working but later I'll come back and check the entries I've missed.

Anonymous said...

How convenient, to take a picture of a nettle and say that they made spanakopita (lol).

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Welcome back and a tasty looking roundup

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Congratulations on your one-year blogiversary! It's a huge thing to blog for a year -- lots of work, lots of satisfaction. Looking forward to year two!

Nikki @ NikSnacks said...

Great roundup! Yes, yes! Here, here! Happy blogiversary! My 27th and a half birthday was yesterday, so I understand the excitement around important days :)

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

Thank you for hosting and doing a wonderful roundup. Here's looking to more WHB-fun in the coming year.

Maria Verivaki said...

happy anniversary - can't wait to see more!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your blogiversary and the great roundup!!!

Anna (Morsels and Musings) said...

greece. sigh. what a wonderful place full of exquisite food.

thanks for hosting!

Anonymous said...

Happy Happy bloggerversary!!! Thank you for a wonderful round-up! :)

Joanne said...

Welcome back Laurie! I've missed you! I hope you had a great vacation! I'm sure you brought back a little slice of the island with you :D

I have a huge wheel of 'salamoura' cheese in my fridge (soaking in brine) and a container of wrinkled bitter, black olives and a jar of delicious pickled octopus from the island, all brought back to North America by my mother in her suitcase. And, of course, a can of thyme honey from the island too. LOL!! Every time I eat one or all of the these food items, I am transported back to Greece. The flavours just do not compare with what I normally buy here at the market. Anyway, it's great to see you jumping back into blogging full speed! Happy Blog Anniversary to you!

Anonymous said...

Happy blogging Birthday!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Happy blog anniversary Laurie. We look forward to another year of great food and stories. Great job on the roundup as well:D

Laurie Constantino said...

Thanks Peter!

Foodalogue - I agree - it's a wonderful collection of interesting food.

Beachlover, I'm just glad I caught it! Thanks again for entering.

Nuria, darling! I so completely understand about the many posts to check. I'm tragically far behind in reading my beloved favorites. :(

Kalyn, thanks!

Anonymous, actually using wild greens to substitute for spinach in spanakopita is quite common - the dish when made with wild greens is called hortopita.

Mike, thank you!

Lydia, yes, there is something very satisfying about having completed a year of blogging. Thanks for the congrats!


JS, I do love WHB - it's very educational!

Thanks Maria!

Mariana, glad you liked it.

Anna, yes, exactly. Greece really is "a wonderful place full of exquisite food."

Thank you Ning!

Bijoux - I thought about you more than once during our vacation. Someday we'll be there at the same time and I'll cook you dinner! I do envy you the octopus, but other than that, sounds like your mom and I had the same idea when we packed our bags for North America. And for exactly the same reason, they bring me back to Greece. Island cheese is SO GOOD! I also have some fig jam and dried tomatoes that I canned and am saving for some extra special occasion.

Laurie Constantino said...

Thanks Junkie!

Val, thank you so much!

Joanne said...

Ah, yes!! The fig jam. How could I forget. I have a small container of that too :) My mother brought it back especially for my husband who eats it with almond butter on bread.

Thank you Laurie for your dinner invitation! Hopefully our paths will cross sooner than later :)

It's funny, ever since I mentioned you and your blog to my mother she often asks me what you cooked on that specific day. Coincidentally, she also asked me the other day if you had returned from your trip and I said yes. Her response was, well did she mention what foods she brought back with her from the island? LOL

Laurie Constantino said...

Bijoux, that's funny about your mom. But just for her - here's what I brought back: hilopites, traxanas, dried black olives, grape leaves, several kilos of passatempo (the best I've ever had are from a little shop in the agora of the island's largest town), lots and lots of cheese, fig jam, canned dried tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, wild thyme, honey, loukoumi, vanilla for submarines (this to try and use for venizelika coating), mastixa, dried okra, flour, dried ambelofasola, and maybe more but that's all I can think of right now!

Cheryl said...

Hey Laurie, welcome back and Happy Anniversary! You're blog is one of the best!
I always like reading the recipes for WHB, great job!

Joanne said...

Laurie - My mom gave you the thumbs up on your list of food items :)
She was also inspired to copy your idea next time of drying the okra so she can bring some back with her. And she also regrets not bringing back grape leaves this time.

CaliforniaKat said...

Hi Laurie, this has only partial relevance to the post, but Cheryl and I were talking today and saying how great you are and the unique recipes and perspective you give on food, so I thought I'd come over and tell you so.

I know I don't comment much here, namely because I don't do a whole lot of cooking Greek food. But I do stop in from time to time to see what you're doing and cooking, and your site is a wonderful resource for finding more unique recipes, such as that I found for using the half kilo of coarse salted preserved bone-in anchovies.

It's obvious to me that you care and know a lot about food, but I like that you write in a style that showcases the special qualities of ingredients, is well researched and isn't all about you, like so many foodies out there. I find that refreshing.

Thank you for being a presence, and congrats and many well wishes for the future! :)

Tay said...


Bravo on your first blogging anniversary! I am so glad you joined the blogging community and have found out what a warm, wonderful place it is! I've *so* enjoyed watching your journey as this blog has developed.

Every time I stop by here, I feel I have stepped into your kitchen and it always smells amazing and makes my mouth water. Thank-you for sharing your stories, recipes and pictures with us.

Someday, I hope to meet you in Greece, as I am dying to return to those islands...

All the best to you, Laurie!

Laurie Constantino said...

Thanks, Cheryl!

Bijoux, glad I got the ever-important mom seal of approval.

Kat, you've made my day. I truly appreciate your kind thoughts.

Tay, if you lived closer, I'd invite you over. By the way, your earrings were a big hit - I do love your jewelry. You have a wonderful eye.

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