The Magnificent Seven: Stars of the Herb Garden

May 16th, 2012 by

Potager Garden

Of all of the herbs readily available, it’s sometimes confusing to try to make a decision about which ones to include in your garden. Why spend your dollars and hours of your time in growing herbs that you may never use? Often, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. In the classic 1960s movie, The Magnificent Seven, starring Eli Wallach as the “bad man,” Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz were the “magnificent seven,” who performed miracles and saved the town. Why not narrow your choices down to seven herbs and create your own Magnificent Seven Herb Garden. Concentrating on only seven herbs will allow you more time to learn about, and experiment with, a manageable amount of herbs and use them to create your own culinary miracles.

Herb Garden

A good design for your Magnificent Seven Herb Garden would be in a pie shape. Draw a circle, as large as you want, in the area you’ll plant your herb garden, and divide it into six pie slices. Enrich the soil with a little compost and create a border for each pie slice, using stones, bricks or whatever you have on hand. In the center of the pie, leave space for a medium to large pot. This is where you will plant the invasive lemon balm. Of the magnificent seven herbs listed here, basil, dill and chives are annuals (although chives will probably re-seed and return next season). Lemon balm, rosemary, sage and tarragon are perennials and should re-emerge every spring, except in very cold climates. Feel free to substitute any one of these herbs if you have a favorite that’s not included here. Enjoy your magnificent seven herb garden this summer. Below is one recipe for each herb to get you started cookin’! You’ll find many more by doing an internet search for each herb.


Herb Garden - Basil

Basil Pesto - 2 packed cups of basil leaves - ½ cup olive oil - 2 Tablespoons pine nuts - 4 cloves garlic Blend the above ingredients in a blender, then mix in by hand ½ cup of freshly grated parmesan and 2 Tablespoons of softened butter.


Herb Garden - Chives

Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Chive Sauce (Serves 4) - 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 pound), trimmed of fat - 1 teaspoon salt, divided - 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided - 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 2 large shallots (or small onions), finely chopped - 1/2 cup dry white wine - 1 14-ounce can chicken broth - 1/3 cup sour cream - 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard - 1/2 cup chopped chives, (about 1 bunch) -- Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Season both sides of the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow glass baking dish and dredge the chicken in it. Discard the excess flour. -- Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate, cover and keep warm. -- Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots (or onions) and cook, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon flour; stir to coat. Add wine, broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, stirring often. -- Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until heated through and no longer pink in the center, about 6 minutes. Stir in sour cream and mustard until smooth; turn the chicken to coat with the sauce. Stir in chives and serve immediately.


Herb Garden - Dill

Cheddar and Dill Biscuits (Makes 12 biscuits) - 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour - 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon baking soda - 1/4 teaspoon salt - 1 teaspoon dry mustard - Few grinds black pepper - 4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut up, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for brushing - 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese - 1/4 cup snipped fresh dill (no thick stems) - 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese - 1 large egg - 1/2 cup buttermilk -- Preheat oven to 400. Set out a large baking sheet. -- In large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, mustard and pepper. Add cold butter and cut in with pastry blender or your fingers until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in cheddar, dill and parmesan. -- Break egg into buttermilk and beat with a fork. Pour into flour mixture; stir until soft dough forms. Turn dough onto lightly floured board. Flour hands. Knead 10 to 12 times until fairly smooth. Scrape board and dust again with flour. Pat dough into 1/2-inch-thick rectangle, about 9-by-7 inches. With floured knife, cut into 12 pieces; arrange apart on baking sheet. Brush tops with melted butter. -- Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Transfer to wire rack to cool. If sticking, let stand 2 to 3 minutes, and they will loosen from sheet. Best served the same day.

Lemon Balm

Herb Garden - Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm Bread (Makes one loaf) - 1/2 cup unsalted butter - 1 cup sugar - 2 large eggs - 1 pinch salt - 1/2 cup, packed, lemon balm leaves, finely chopped - 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted - 1 teaspoon baking powder - grated rind of one lemon - 1/4 cup chopped walnuts nuts -- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. -- Cream butter and the lemon balm leaves together. -- Add sugar and mix well. -- Add the remaining ingredients and pour into a greased loaf pan. -- Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. -- To test for doneness use a toothpick. -- After bread is done, remove from oven, punch tiny holes into the top of the bread with a toothpick and pour glaze over it. Glaze for Lemon Balm Bread - juice of one lemon - 1/2 cup sugar - 1/2 cup hot water - 1/4 cup, packed, lemon balm leaves, finely chopped -- Mix juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup hot water and 1/4 cup lemon balm. -- Allow the glaze to settle in loaf for 4 to 6 hours


Herb Garden - Rosemary

Rosemary Potatoes (Serves 4) - 4 large potatoes, scrubbed - 1/2 cup olive oil - 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and slivered - 3-4 Tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary - coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste -- Cut each unpeeled potato into 8 spears. Place in mixing bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. -- Preheat oven to 350. -- Spread potatoes in a roasting pan and bake for 45 minutes, tossing occasionally. Sprinkle with rosemary and continue roasting until potatoes are crusty brown, about 15-20 minutes.


Herb Garden - Sage

Yellow Squash Dressing (Serves 8) - 2 cups diced fresh yellow squash - 2 cups cooked and crumbled cornbread - 1/2 cup margarine, melted - 4 teaspoons fresh sage - 1 (10.75 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup - 1 egg, beaten - 1 large onion, chopped - 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar - salt and pepper to taste - 1/4 cup milk -- Place squash in a pot fitted with a steamer basket over boiling water, and steam 10 minutes, or until tender. -- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. -- Lightly grease a medium baking dish. -- In a bowl, mix the squash, cornbread, margarine, sage, cream of mushroom soup, egg, onion, sugar, salt and pepper, and milk. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. -- Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned.


Herb Garden - Tarragon

**Be sure to plant French tarragon; it is much more flavorful than Russian tarragon. Tarragon Cream Chicken Breasts - 1 Tablespoon butter - 1 Tablespoon olive oil - 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - salt and pepper to taste - 1/2 cup heavy cream - 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard - 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon -- Place chicken between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch -- Melt the butter and heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and place in the skillet. Brown on both sides. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and continue cooking 15 minutes, or until chicken juices run clear. Set aside and keep warm. -- Stir cream into the pan, scraping up brown bits. Mix in mustard and tarragon. Cook and stir 5 minutes, or until thickened. -- Return chicken to skillet for one minute on each side to coat with sauce. Drizzle chicken with remaining sauce to serve. Here’s an “extra” recipe that uses three of the magnificent seven herbs. Deviled Eggs with Dill, Tarragon, or Chives - 6 hard boiled eggs - 1/4 cup mayonnaise - 1 teaspoon herbal vinegar - 1/8 teaspoon salt - 1 teaspoon prepared mustard - freshly chopped dill, tarragon, or chives (as much as you want) -- Slice each egg lengthwise; remove the yolk and mash it with a fork. -- Stir in mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Stuff egg whites with yolk mixture. -- Garnish with chopped herbs.