The timing couldn’t have been more perfect: it was just the right day, and just the right weather, with just the right sort of food arranged around the right theme, presented by the right person.
That person was Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood Cookbook and restaurant fame), at a recent lunchtime seminar at Dudley House in Harvard Square, organized by Theresa McCulla and the Food Literacy Project at Harvard University.
Herbs were Katzen’s focus, and guests received recipes showcasing herbs for all the dishes available at the lunch: Mediterranean Yogurt, Persian Eggplant Appetizer, Spring Vegetable Herb Salad, Couscous-Quinoa Tabouli, Creamy White Beans, Chimichurri (either with tofu or salmon), and Crispy Sage Leaves.
Katzen — no surprise to anyone who’s used her cookbooks — is at her best with a wide variety of fresh (but not exotic) ingredients, guiding cooks through easy, yet revelatory, preparations. In addition to their signature Katzen style, the recipes evoke visions of the Mediterranean — the sights, sounds, and tastes travelers will experience on WGBH’s Mediterranean Voyage of Discovery.
For the Mediterranean Yogurt recipe, for example, she uses many ingredients you’d expect such as cilantro, mint, and lemon juice. But then she throws a curveball you never saw coming: dried apricots, giving the recipe all manner of “special something” to it. Whether that came from the apricots, or the mix of herbs, or the raisins, or the walnuts, or the combination of all of those is deliciously hard to tell.
Here’s the recipe. Give it a whirl, and see for yourself.
Reproduced from the handout at Katzen’s lunchtime seminar, “Fun & Creative Uses of Fresh Herbs,” sponsored by Harvard University Dining Services and the Food Literacy Project.
1 medium clove garlic
1/3 cup parsley
1/3 cup cilantro
1/3 cup fresh dill
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 or 4 dried apricots (a soft, tart variety)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Preparation: Place garlic, all herbs, dried fruit, and walnuts in a food processor, and pulse until it forms a paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon juice and yogurt. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Cover tightly and refrigerate until serving. Just before serving, you can sprinkle a little extra cayenne on top and decorate with small sprigs of parsley and a few walnut halves, for a finished look.
Optional garnishes: a light dusting of cayenne, small sprigs of parsley, and/or walnut halves.
This sauce can be served alone, as an appetizer, or as a light lunch entrée — and it is amazingly compatible with a number of foods. You can serve it as a dip for raw or steamed vegetables, in pita bread with anything and everything, as a sauce for vegetables or grains…the list is endless. Mediterranean Yogurt keeps for about a week in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.
Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.
WGBH LearningTours presents: Mediterranean Voyage of Discovery with Diane Rehm and Scott Simon