August 04, 2007

Herb Salad with Cheese Custards

I love herbs. I grow them all the time around my house wherever I live. I use them all the time in my cooking. I prefer fresh but I dry my own and buy dried of others to use when I cant get the other. When I worked at the restaurant many yrs ago, I convinced them to let me start growing herbs. This was before many wineries had their own gardens. They gave me one lil patch around a cork tree ( ya right, big garden , giggle). In the meantime till it took off tho I found a local herb grower to supply the restaurant. This place wanted local produce and growers to feature in their foods. Over time and after I left they moved the herbs to a bigger area and actually started a real garden. Today its huge and Im very proud to have been a part of that.

This is one of the salads I created for our spring menu. It features a spring mix of greens with herbs added, topped by baked cheese custards, served with a Garlic Herb dressing. Of course I would bake dozens of custards at a time. I had to cuz the darn staff loved em so much they sucked half of em down before service! I was always shooing them away from the bakery while they cooled. The custards are yummy warm or cold. They call for using fontina cheese and parmesan but since I used to make huge cheese boards for catered parties. I always had sm. chunks of this and that leftover and would use them up in this way. They are simply awesome!

First you want a mixture of spring greens and herbs....
Radicchio, Sorrel, Bibb, Arugula, baby lettuces, or you can buy spring mix in the grocery stores
I added basil.. red and green if you have it, you want this to be colorful its spring!
Dill and tarragon leaves

3/4c. heavy cream
1/8 tsp, each nutmeg,cayenne pepper, white pepper
1tsp. mustard ( I always used Dijon)
1 bunch chives, chopped
3/4c. (4oz) shredded Fontina cheese
1/2c. shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, spices and herbs. Add cheeses, blend well. Divide between 4 buttered custard cups. Place on baking sheet. Bake 20min. till puffed and golden. Let cool. Blot excess oil from custards after unmolding and chill. ( can be served warm or rm. temp. if serving soon.) Feel free to play with the cheeses you add to it, use up bits you have around and add them to this mix. Just make sure the proportion of cheese is the same, at least 1 1/4c. of cheese for the recipe. Ive added cheddar and a touch of blue cheese too.

1/4c tarragon vinegar
1c. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
6 green onions, chopped
1/4 c. dill, chopped
2tb. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tb. fresh chopped garlic

Put in food processor and blend. If you dont have tarragon vinegar its ez to make, just get a good white wine like champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Regular white vinegar is way too strong. Then add some tarragon sprigs you buy in the produce section and let sit in a bottle on the counter for 2 wks. The longer it sits the better it tastes and you can even use the tarragon thats in the bottle for things you cook. We used just regular olive oil for this instead of extra virgin so the delicate flavors would come thru.

To serve toss lettuces with the herb leaves, I tore up the basil cuz the leaves are big. Tearing is better because the basil will darken if you cut it and dont use it right away. Top with cheese custard and drizzle on dressing or pass it around. Ive also garnished this with herbal flowers or Nasturium blossoms, must be organic tho, not pesticide sprayed.

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