Since my internship with The Herb Companion began, I’ve sought out new ways to incorporate herbs into my daily routine. Learning new recipes and adding herbs to my favorite recipes was a great first step and easy to do.
A week ago I came across Organic and Chic (HarperCollins Publishers, 2009) by Sarah Magid at my local bookstore—a bake book filled with 60 yummy, organic recipes. Although I’m still in the "undercooked or burnt phase" of baking Magid’s recipes, I am enjoying the process of making organic treats with the herbs from my backyard. My favorite recipe is Minty Strawberry Shortcakes (see below). The recipe is an easy summer treat and most of the ingredients can be found at your local farmer’s market.
Magid and her husband are teaching and raising their two young children to love cooking and baking. One of my favorite sections is the children’s goodies section because the recipes are easy to make and they introduce children to the baking process.
Check out my chat with Sarah Magid!
Q: What's your favorite recipe in the book?
A: It’s a tie between the Goldies and Crisp, Crumbly Shortbread. I make the Goldies so much—they are so easy. The shortbread is a great excuse to create new flavors with herbs that are in season.
Q: Why do you choose to use organic ingredients in your cooking?
A: Organic is important to me because of the quality and purity that is inherent—no hormones, no GMOs, no pesticides, etc. I am a mom of two, so besides worrying about what I eat I think about my kid's growing bodies and I want to make sure they have what is best for them.
Q: What herbs and/or vegetables do you grow in your yard?
A: Right now (in my NYC apartment window!) I have lots of herbs—such as rosemary, oregano, thyme and basil—and some that my son picked out to make summer drinks with—lemon verbena, pineapple sage and rose geranium.
Q: What's your favorite herb to cook with or incorporate into your baking?
A: I love lavender, it is perfumed and tastes amazing in cookies. I also love rosemary because it can be added to my lemon cake and it gives the dish a new flavor.
Q: When it comes to cooking, what's your motto?
A: Fresh, farmers market, simple.
Q: What advice would you give people who are just starting to cook or bake?
A: Keep it simple and try to have fun!
Minty Strawberry Shortcakes
Makes 12 shortcakes
• 2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
• ¼ cup organic cane sugar
• 2 tablespoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1½ sticks (3/4 cup) organic unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
• ½ cup organic buttermilk
• ½ cup organic heavy cream, plus more for brushing
• 2 teaspoons grated organic lemon zest
• Organic raw sugar, for sprinkling
• 3 pints farm-fresh organic strawberries, hulled and quartered
• 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh organic mint
• ¼ cup organic cane sugar
• 1 teaspoon fresh organic lemon juice (use the lemon you zested for the shortcakes)
Vanilla Whipped Cream
• 1 pint organic heavy cream
• 1/3 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted
• Pinch of salt
• 1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract
1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to combine.
2. Add the butter, a few cubes at a time, pulsing on and off until the mixture looks like a coarse meal. This should take 20 to 40 seconds. Dump this mixture into a large bowl and set it aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cream, and lemon zest. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms.
4. Lightly flour a work surface. Gently knead the dough on the floured surface a few times, until all the ingredients are combined. Form it into a disk. Place the disk on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly sprinkle the disk with flour, and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough to 3⁄4- inch thickness. Let the dough chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using 2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutters, cut out the shortcakes as close together as possible, so that you’re using almost all the dough. Place the heart shapes at least 1½ inches apart on a baking sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle with raw sugar for sparkle. Reroll the scraps, following the directions until all the dough is used up.
7. Bake the shortcakes until they are pale brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to place them on a wire cooling rack.
8. While the shortcakes are cooling, combine all the strawberry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for about 30 minutes, until the strawberry juices come out. (You may need to drain the mixture before placing it on the shortcakes.)
9. When you are ready to assemble the shortcakes, chill the metal bowl for a standing mixer (or if you’re using a hand mixer, a stainless-steel bowl) for about 10 minutes in the freezer. Pour the cream into the chilled bowl and beat with the whisk attachment on low speed, gradually increasing to high speed as the cream thickens. Slowly pour in the powdered sugar, and when the cream has thickened, add the pinch of salt and the vanilla. Continue beating until fully whipped.
10. To assemble, slice the cooled shortcakes in half and arrange them on individual plates. Spoon ¼ cup or more of the strawberry-mint mixture onto the shortcake bottoms, and finish with a dollop of Vanilla Whipped Cream. Place the other halves of the shortcakes on top and devour!