Saturday, May 3, 2014


Hierba luisa (lemon verbena), a new herb to try.

After I wrote about capers last week, I decided I really had to have a caper plant. So, off to a vivero (nursery gardens) I went. I got my caper bush, which has a few teensy buds on it.

But, of course, I came home with much more than that. The caper plants were smack in the middle of flats of all sorts of herbs, culinary and aromatics.

For sure, I need to replace an oregano plant that had been lost from lack of water. And, must have some fresh dill for spring. Look at this gorgeous purple basil—it’s sensational in summer salads.
Basil adorns watermelon salad.

Lavender? I’ve never grown lavender before.

Oh, here is some hierba luisa, lemon verbena. I once had a lemon verbena bush in the garden where I lived in the village and loved using the fragrant leaves for making infusiones, herbal teas. Onto the cart it goes.

Herbal border--at the top, manzanilla (chamomile); center, romero (rosemary); below, tomillo (thyme) and santolina, an aromatic not used in the kitchen.

Once home with my pots, I must decide where to plant them out. The oregano will join the herbal border by the front steps.

Chives in flower.
Cilantro (coriander leaves).
The dill goes in a pot on the patio, next to the parsley, cilantro, mint and chives. They are steps away from the kitchen, so I snip one or another every day.

Before I even decide where to plant the lemon verbena, I have snipped off some leaves, infused them in milk and whipped the flavored milk with mascarpone (about ¼ cup of the milk to 1 ¼ cups mascarpone) to make a gorgeous cream to serve with sliced peaches. The flavors and aromas enhance each other.

For the lemon verbena-infused milk: Bring 1 cup milk to a boil with 1 tablespoon sugar and a strip of lemon zest. Remove from heat and add ¼ cup loosely packed lemon verbena leaves. Cover and steep until milk is cool. Strain the milk and discard the solids. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator. Add the flavored milk to desserts such as pudding, ice cream. 

Mascarpone cream with lemon verbena tops sliced peaches and strawberries.

Other ideas for using lemon verbena: make a sugar syrup infused with the leaves. Add to ice tea or vodka. Serve chopped fresh leaves as a garnish for chicken or fish. Infuse chicken or fish stock with the leaves before using it to make sauce. 

Salvia (sage), part of herbal border.

Tomillo (thyme), beginning to flower. My favorite herb.


  1. Janet I love putting one big leaf of lemon verbena in a large goblet of white sangria or just sparkling water and a drop of fruit juice. You choose which! It looks beatiful in the glass especially outside at a party. Some in the pitcher as well.


    1. Jay: Lemon verbena in white sangria is a great idea--I'll try it.

  2. Hi Janet, I continue to love your blog! I can't wait for each new post. I have a couple of questions/suggestions for blog posts:
    1. I've been reading about Lardo Iberico. Can you talk about it and comment on the general use of lard in Spain? Here in the states there seems to be a renewed interest. We are actually rendering our own this weekend.
    2. Can you talk about the use of olive oil in Spain...particularly when Spaniards use regular olive oil versus extra virgin or other types?

    Thank you so much for these considerations. Also, if you remember, I posted last fall about growing judiones in my garden in Alabama. I got a few beans from them and am replanting this weekend with the beans that I saved. I'm hoping for a better harvest this year...I'll let you know!
    Nicholas Lemonds

    1. Nicholas: Glad you like the blog! Good luck with those judiones. I just happen to have a bowl of rendered ibérico manteca (lard). I used it in a sofrito recipe from Jeff Weiss's new book, Charcutería--The Soul of Spain. I'll be writing about the book on an upcoming blog.

      Olive oil: Spanish cooks would use extra virgin olive oil for everything, including deep frying, except when cost is an issue. In that case plain "olive oil" (which is refined) would be used instead. It is considerably cheaper, but does not have the properties of extra virgin.