My neighbor and dear friend Kathy is an amazing cook.  Earlier this year, she taught a cooking class that focused on Cuban cuisine as that is her background and area of specialty.  I was blown away by how much I learned in the few classes I was able to attend and got some great advice that will affect how I cook forever.  Two tips that she really drilled in were to use fresh herbs whenever possible and to grow your own herb garden.  I grew up with a garden that included fresh herbs but for some reason I never thought myself capable of having a successful herb garden of my own (mostly due to many failed attempts at growing tomatoes).

Herb Garden

I had two large planters that were empty so I filled them up with soil and planted a wide selection of herbs – basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, chives, flat parsley, dill and cilantro.  Most of the herbs have thrived!  The basil shown above is enormous and the thyme is a monster too.  The only herb I have really struggled with is cilantro, but it seems like it is difficult for many home gardeners to grow because it goes to seed so quickly.  Before this garden, I used to buy packs of fresh herbs and I often threw out a lot of unused herbs because they spoiled before I had a chance to use them.  Packaged fresh herbs are not cheap.  My herb garden allows me to use a variety of different flavors to season my meals with minimal cost in a healthy way.  The nice thing about a potted garden (vs. one in the ground) is that once it gets cold I can bring the herbs inside, however, the planters weigh a LOT so that might be harder than it looks.

Herb Garden

This past weekend I made a lamb roast and wanted to season it with tasty yet healthy flavors.  I don’t make lamb very often so I was not sure what would be best.  I opted for fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and parsley), Dijon mustard and garlic.

Lamb Marinade

I chopped the herbs and garlic and mixed them with the mustard and some salt, pepper and olive oil to make a paste which I rubbed over the roast and then refrigerated it for a few hours.  I made a lot of small slits in the roast to allow the marinade to permeate below the surface.

Marinating Lamb

It was a small roast so I knew it would cook quickly and I prefer my lamb medium rare.   I roasted it at 300 F until the internal temperature was 120 F.  It took a little over an hour.  Voila!

Finished Meal

I paired with roast with some pan roasted brussels sprouts and a Petite Verdot.  The wine was so amazing that it warrants its own post.  It was a 2004 from a winery in Napa called Rutherford Hill.  It is unusual to see Petite Verdot on its own as it is typically a blending grape.  It was a great wine and went so well with the lamb.  I have more to say about this wine so check back in a few days.

Back to my original point.  I love my herb garden!  It was very inexpensive to create and has paid for itself in many ways.  I love adding fresh and healthy flavors to meat, fish and vegetable dishes and am so happy that I don’t have to throw out any half used little bags of herbs anymore.  While I would love to expand and have a full blown garden to feed my family with, an herb garden is a great place to start (aka Level One).