Lemon Herb Butter

  • 2 tablespoons lemon balm, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 cup butter, softened

Cream butter, and stir in herbs. Chill for at least 3 hours to allow flavors to blend. Use with seafood, vegetables, and breads.

Cilantro Tomato Relish

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1½ pounds plum tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • salt to taste
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Combine the tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, salt, cayenne, ground cumin, and lime juice. Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Just before serving, add cilantro. Serve with grilled meats, burgers, and sandwiches.

Penne With Butter, Sage, and Parmesan

Makes 4-6 servings.

  • 16 ounces penne (or other cut pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt it. Cook the pasta until it is tender but just short of the point at which you want to eat it.

Meanwhile, place the butter and olive oil in a skillet or saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta; turn the heat to medium, and add the sage. Cook until the butter and oil begin to brown and the sage shrivels. Turn the heat down to low. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out a cupful of the cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta, immediately add it to the sage mixture, and raise the heat to medium. Add 1⁄2 cup of the reserved water, and stir. Cook for about 30 seconds or until some of the water is absorbed and the pasta is perfectly done. Next, stir in the cheese until the sauce becomes creamy. Thin it with a little more water if necessary. Season liberally with pepper, and salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

  • 1 loaf rustic bread, such as Ciabatta, sliced and torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 8-10 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish
  • 6-8 ounces goat or feta cheese, to taste
  • 12 large eggs
  • 3½ cups half & half (or milk)
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • crème fraîche
  • paprika, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter eight 4-ounce ramekins. Put bread in a large bowl. Chop rosemary leaves, and sprinkle over bread. Crumble in goat or feta cheese, and mix gently with a slotted spoon. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, half & half, cayenne, and dried thyme. Pour egg mixture over bread, and mix gently with
a large slotted spoon until well combined. Divide bread mixture among ramekins, filling each ¾-full. Put ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until puffed and golden. Remove from oven, and let stand for 5 minutes. With a flexible spatula, remove strata to plates. Drizzle crème fraîche over strata. Sprinkle with a little paprika, and top with a sprig of fresh rosemary to serve. Yields 8 servings.
North Carolina Bed & Breakfast Cookbook, C.W. Worth House, 3D Press, Boulder, Colorado, 2005, $19.95.

This article and recipes by Erica Derr first appeared in the August 2007 issue of Our State.

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