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Celebrating National Herb Week can be carried on through Sunday for Mother's Day!

Receiving potted herb plants is a perfect present for the mother or mother-in-law, who loves to cook. This is one of those gifts that keeps giving too. Besides inspiring new spring recipes from Mom's kitchen, it's also a convenient way for her to enjoy and have easy access to the fresh earthly scents of rosemary, basil, oregano or thyme on her countertop or window sill. And this gift may give back to you in a few weeks when that first batch of pesto is plated up.

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TIP:

 It is a good idea to purchase glazed pots, so the herb plants won’t dry out so quickly. Unfinished terracotta pots soak up the moisture from the soil like a sponge. This added step will prevent frequent watering. And planting potted herbs today, will offer you tasty additions to your dishes in a couple weeks!

George Hirsch Herbs with 5 dishes

Enjoy a flavorful Green Goddess Dressing prepared with fresh herbs.

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Vision of Spring

With spring now upon us it's the perfect time to plan the early spring herb garden.

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PLANNING YOUR OUTDOOR HERB GARDEN

Nothing compares to the flavor of fresh herbs in cooking. Now is the time to plan your fresh herb garden for an abundance of flavorful herbs at your fingertips. But before you start digging, there's a little bit of planning to take into consideration.  

First consider the amount of time you have to spend and tend to your garden. If you're a weekend gardener, then a little patch of kitchen herbs is a great start, you can always increase the size of your garden next year. But if you're an avid gardener, go crazy! Add more exotic herbs and fragrant ones such as lemon verbena, lemon grass, pineapple sage and Thai basil. 

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Find a good location for your garden. Most herbs need five or six hours of sunlight and a soil slightly on the dryer side. Plant close enough to your back door for when you're running from the kitchen to the garden.

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Lay out your garden on paper. Think about style. Do you like a formal orderly appearance to your garden, or a more natural style? Keep in mind when planning to include walking paths so you can reach to weed and harvest your herbs and keep your feet dry when the ground is wet.  

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What to plant?  If you intend to cook with the herbs make a list of the ones you use most common.  If you like fragrant herbs or colorful herbs, ask your local garden shop what grows well in your area. And, herbs like a fairly neutral or slightly alkaline soil. If you know your soil is acid, add some lime when preparing your soil. 

When planting, try to keep the annuals and perennials separate so when the end of the season comes you won't disturb the roots of the perennials when you pull out annuals. Try to keep taller plants to the back of the border or in the center of your bed and smaller ones near the edges to form borders.  

Enjoy my Green Goddess aka. Sauce Au Vert Recipe with fresh spring chive and parsley.

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Perfect Pesto

George Hirsch Pesto Ingredients

My basil is growing so fast with all this warm weather we've been having. What better way to enjoy the first batch of fresh basil than whipping up my first summer pesto. Pesto is one of those recipes that is ready in minutes, it just requires a bit of patience; first rinsing the basil free of soil and then carefully removing the basil leaves from the stems. Once your mise en place is set up, you can be enjoying pesto in a matter of minutes.

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Perfect Pesto Recipe

Makes one cup

chefgeorgehirsch.com | Recipe from Living it UP! Cookbook

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried 

1 head Caramelized Garlic or 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds, chopped 

1 ice cube (keeps basil from cooking from friction in the food processor) 

3 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano 

3 Tablespoons olive oil 

Place garlic and pine nuts in a food processor or blender. Puree gently. Add ice cube, basil and slightly grind. Do not over grind too long, or you will actually be cooking the tender leaves. Add the olive oil and cheese and process until it makes a paste. Refrigerate until ready to use.  

Use for more than pasta. Pesto is a great addition to salad dressing, topping bruschetta, poultry, seafood and vegetables. 

Serving Accompaniments: Tossed Salad with No Yolk Dressing,  Grilled Garlic Shrimp,  fresh shaved Grilled Corn. And top off with Double Chocolate brownie Cookies.

TIPS: 

- Use good quality extra virgin olive oil. 

- Great make-ahead dish for work-week dinner crunch. Simply make the pasta and toss in refrigerated pesto sauce, top with grated cheese.

- Use a mixture of leafy greens like spinach, parsley or cilantro in addition to the basil for a different pesto spin.

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Often Neglected

Really, I don’t mean to play favorites and cause any bad feelings among my herb seasonings, but we all get into a rut sometimes. Don't we? I know I am one of the world's greatest promoters of basil. I’ve even been advised at times by my director to ease up on my passion for basil. So, you can say I’m turning over a new leaf. My fresh herbs this season are now planted and I’ve included a new family member to the group. Yes, there still is basil, but I've added lemon verbena to the group. 

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Native to Argentina, Chile and Peru where it grows wiild on roadsides; Aloysia Citriodora aka, Lemon Verbena leaves are ideal to use for a lemony flavor addition to grilled fish, poultry dishes, marinades, and beverages. I’ve even used this very aromatic herb in place of lemon zest for desserts, such as my Lemon Squares. Thirsty? Try adding lemon verbena to iced tea in addition to mint. Also, when added to herbal tea it provides a fresh from the garden taste to your warm beverage. 

The aroma is intoxicating. It was love at first whiff, when we met at the nursery!

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KYFF, Caramelized

Dill may be the 'a Herb of the Year', but for me, garlic wins every year. I know you must all agree, from the great responses I have received over the years, cooking with this magical herb on my shows. It’s truly a culinary staple with multiple uses. Slather it on bread, toss into pastas, whisk into dressings, marinades... So you see why I and my followers will grill or roast up a half dozen or more heads at a time.  

Once caramelized, they are at the ready, stored in mother nature's natural garlic skin packaging. Just place in the fridge. When ready to use, squeeze, but like toothpaste - from the bottom please.

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Caramelized Garlic Recipe

Makes 6 heads

chefgeorgehirsch.com | From Grilling with Chef George Hirsch cookbook, Hearst ©1994, 

6 heads fresh garlic

2 Tablespoon olive oil

one 12‑inch square aluminum foil

Lay each garlic head on its side and cut off 1/4 inch from the bottom or root end, exposing the garlic cloves. Brush with olive oil.  

Place the heads, exposed end down, in a single layer in an ovenproof dish or directly on the grill. Roast in a 325 degree oven or on a very low temperature grill, uncovered, until light brown. Cover with aluminum foil and roast 8-10 minutes longer, or until creamy.

Allow garlic to cool and remove cloves from head as needed.  Garlic may be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for several days.  

To puree, crush garlic cloves with the flat of a knife. 

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