Easy-to-Grow Essential Herbs

There’s nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal with aromatic herbs grown in your own garden. Get started with this guide from Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together.

Whether you’re an urban dweller with a window box, you’ve cultivated an acre of countryside, or you find yourself somewhere in between, planting your own herbs is the perfect way to brighten up your surroundings and your cooking. It’s a great money saver too. A few young plants from your local farmers’ market or garden center will produce fresh herbs all season long and cost the same as one dinky bunch of herbs from the grocery store.

Essentials: If you only have room to grow a few herbs, try these. They grow very well in most environments and are the most commonly used in our kitchen.

  • basil
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • thyme
  • rosemary

If you have the space, add these to your garden:

  • dill
  • tarragon
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • chives
  • sage

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Italian herbs

Easy-to-Grow Essential Herbs

There’s nothing more satisfying than preparing a meal with aromatic herbs grown in your own garden. Get started with this guide from Brooke Parkhurst and James Briscione, authors of Just Married & Cooking: 200 Recipes for Living, Eating, and Entertaining Together.

Whether you’re an urban dweller with a window box, you’ve cultivated an acre of countryside, or you find yourself somewhere in between, planting your own herbs is the perfect way to brighten up your surroundings and your cooking. It’s a great money saver too. A few young plants from your local farmers’ market or garden center will produce fresh herbs all season long and cost the same as one dinky bunch of herbs from the grocery store.

Essentials: If you only have room to grow a few herbs, try these. They grow very well in most environments and are the most commonly used in our kitchen.

  • basil
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • thyme
  • rosemary

If you have the space, add these to your garden:

  • dill
  • tarragon
  • marjoram
  • oregano
  • chives
  • sage

LEARN MORE

Italian herbs

Jonathan Waxman’s Tips for the Perfect Pizza

Making pizza at home can be easy with tips from Jonathan WaxmanPizza fanatic? Celebrity chef Jonathan Waxman explains what ingredients and equipment are critical for homemade pies–it’s simpler than you think. From Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life Into Italian Classics.

San Francisco had some damn good pizza when I was growing up. I played in a lot of pizza joints as a trombone-playing rock ’n’ roller, and Tommaso’s in North Beach was way ahead of the curve. The restaurant has been offering wood-oven pizza since 1935, and hungry customers still line up around the clock to eat at this landmark.

I’ve eaten pizzas all over Italy, and one standout was in the old Milano train station many years ago. I noticed three things: a roaring wood fire, a reluctance to hurry the pie, and dough that was both tender and sticky. The image of that perfect pie has stayed with me, and over the years I have worked hard to replicate the dough. Flour is critical. I’ve tried bread flour, organic pizza flour and Italian hard wheat flour, and I have settled on one that is readily available: King Arthur white organic flour. It is perfect. It does change according to the season, and altitude is a huge factor, as is relative humidity.

I agree with the argument that fresh dough is not as delicious or as imbued with that certain tang as it is when enhanced by adding old dough. Therefore, I find that saving the dough for a day in the fridge helps achieve two things: a crisp crust and a better taste. I want bubbles to appear as the dough bakes, and day-old dough helps to promote those bubbles. Don’t keep the dough in the fridge for longer than a day or it will look like pita.

Yeast is a major factor. I like fresh yeast, but it is sometimes hard to come by. Granular yeast is convenient but has a less interesting flavor. I add some organic unprocessed honey as a feeder for the dough. A little stale organic beer is good as well. Sea salt is important for texture and flavor, and last, the water needs to be fresh. If your water is hard, too warm from the tap or otherwise suspect, use bottled water.

Ovens are an exciting subject. I have used electric, wood-burning, grills, gas, gas/convection, and a new-fangled device with convection and microwave. I find that an oven with a tight seal is not as good as one that has a bit of a gap that allows it to breathe. The addition of a pizza stone is nice, but unnecessary. An old-fashioned perforated pizza pan is good, but a simple baking sheet works well, too. Your oven needs to have constant, regulated heat; always use a thermometer. I worry about the crust more than the top, and always check the pizza’s bottom as it bakes. Timing can be erratic; the first pie is always a tester.

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3 Smart Travel Tips

Learn how to look your best for travel photographs, select clothing for travel, and save space when packing for wrinkle-free clothes, from Eva Scrivo, author of Eva Scrivo on Beauty: The Tools, the Techniques, and Insider Knowledge Every Woman Needs to Be Her Most Beautiful, Confident Self.

Look your best for photographs
Unlike photographs taken at events such as weddings or reunions, pictures from a vacation usually do not capture us looking our best. Yet we show them off for years to come. If you know you will be photographed at a special destination or a picturesque spot, make sure that your clothing does not clash with the backdrop. During my trip to India, on the day I visited the Taj Mahal I wore a cream-colored top and scarf that I knew would look great in the photo with the surroundings. This may sound like compulsive planning, but being photographed at one of the wonders of the world is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I knew that I was going to have those photos forever. You will be thankful for years to come by making sure that at times like these you are wearing something flattering and your hair and makeup look good.

Smart packing tip 1: How to select clothing for travel
Plan ahead and lay out your wardrobe on the bed to begin the “editing” process. I place my shoes on the floor near my potential outfits so that I can mix and match and see how everything works together. Omit items that you can do without to avoid overpacking. Think about ways to maximize what you have by pairing things and layering them, which should allow you to pack even less. For instance, bring a cardigan that can work with a skirt, pants, and a dress. Select a blouse that is versatile enough to go with the pants and the skirts you are bringing. And choose a pair of shoes that look good with all your outfits. Always pack flats for walking and heels for going out to dinner.

Smart packing tip 2: The space-saving, wrinkle-free packing solution
Because I often travel for work, I have gotten packing down to a science. Here is the most effective way to fit more items into carry-on luggage and ensure that they will not be wrinkled upon arrival. Instead of folding each garment, lay them out on top of each other and roll them into one large, compact parcel. Start with one article of clothing and smooth it out on a flat surface. Be sure to smooth away any wrinkles with your hands, since creases will lock into the fabric once it is packed. Place another piece of clothing on top of that one and smooth it out, and so on, stacking them like pancakes until you have assembled a nice flat stack. Fold in the sleeves on top of the pile and carefully roll the entire stack inward, as if it were a yoga mat, into one big roll. Your shoes (tucked in shoe bags) should be placed around the perimeter of your suitcase, with the roll of clothes in the middle. Compress it with your hands before closing the bag. Upon arrival, you will be surprised at how smooth your clothes have remained.

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Create Quick Meals with a Pantry Essentials Checklist

Keep these key ingredients on hand in your kitchen pantry — they’ll help you create and flavor your meals, and save many a dish from disaster. From 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients, by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham.

SAVORY

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Beef and chicken bouillon cubes
  • Bread crumbs
  • Curry Powder
  • Dijon mustard
  • French onion soup (dry mix)
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Garlic
  • Ketchup
  • Lemons
  • Mayonnaise
  • Minced ginger
  • Peppercorns
  • Pesto
  • Pine nuts
  • Refrigerated piecrusts
  • Rice
  • Sea salt
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soups (canned): asparagus, celery, etc.
  • Sour cream
  • Soy sauce
  • Spaghetti and noodles
  • Vegetable broth
  • Vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce

SWEET

  • All-purpose and self-rising flour
  • Bamboo Skewers
  • Canned fruit: pineapple, pear
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut, shredded
  • Condensed milk
  • Cornstarch
  • Cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Eggs
  • Evaporated milk
  • Food coloring
  • Fresh fruit
  • Gelatin
  • Graham crackers
  • Honey
  • Jams: apricot, strawberry, etc.
  • Jell-O
  • Marmalade
  • Mixed dried fruit
  • Mixed spices
  • Nutmeg
  • Puff pastry and short crust pastry
  • Sugar (confectioners’, granulated, superfine, brown)
  • Vanilla cake mix
  • Vanilla extract

Try These Healthy Recipes from 4 Ingredients
Asparagus with Balsamic Dressing
Baked Salmon with Pesto Crust

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachael Bermingham, author of 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients (Copyright © 2007 by Meymott Enterprises Pty Ltd PR International Pty Ltd), is the energetic, dynamic, and proud mum of Jaxson and six-month-old twin boys, Bowie and Casey. She has written six bestselling books in the last four years and is regarded as one of Australia’s number one female authors.

Kim McCosker, author of 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients (Copyright © 2007 by Meymott Enterprises Pty Ltd PR International Pty Ltd), is the proud mother of three boys (Morgan, eight; Hamilton, five; and Flynn, two), the lady who had the idea and who is now the coauthor of the internationally bestselling 4 Ingredients series, which includes 4 Ingredients4 Ingredients 2, and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free.

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4 Ingredients Recipe: Asparagus with Balsamic Dressing

Asparagus with balsamic dressingBored with bland weeknight salad? Spruce it up with the season’s asparagus harvest. Get this and more fast weeknight meals from 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients, by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham.

Asparagus with Balsamic Dressing
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 bunches asparagus
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced

Preheat the broiler. Brush the asparagus with some of the oil, then broil for 5 minutes, or until tender. Serve drizzled with combined remaining oil, vinegar, and diced tomato.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rachael Bermingham is the energetic, dynamic, and proud mum of Jaxson and six-month-old twin boys, Bowie and Casey. She has written six bestselling books in the last four years and is regarded as one of Australia’s number one female authors.

Kim McCosker is the proud mother of three boys (Morgan, eight; Hamilton, five; and Flynn, two), the lady who had the idea and who is now the coauthor of the internationally bestselling 4 Ingredients series, which includes 4 Ingredients, 4 Ingredients 2, and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free.

4 Ingredients Recipe: Baked Salmon with Pesto Crust

PestoSpringtime yields beautiful basil, and what better way to use it than by making a fresh batch of pesto? Then you can spread it atop a gorgeous salmon filet in this fast, healthy recipe from 4 Ingredients: More Than 400 Quick, Easy, and Delicious Recipes Using 4 or Fewer Ingredients, by Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham.

Baked Salmon with Pesto Crust
Serves 4
This is fantastic!

INGREDIENTS
4 salmon steaks (5 ounces each)
1/2 c. pesto
1/2 c. finely grated pecorino cheese
1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large skillet, sear salmon steaks on each side for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, combine pesto and cheese. Spread over salmon steaks and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top. Bake for 15 minutes.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Rachael Bermingham is the energetic, dynamic, and proud mum of Jaxson and six-month-old twin boys, Bowie and Casey. She has written six bestselling books in the last four years and is regarded as one of Australia’s number one female authors.

Kim McCosker is the proud mother of three boys (Morgan, eight; Hamilton, five; and Flynn, two), the lady who had the idea and who is now the coauthor of the internationally bestselling 4 Ingredients series, which includes 4 Ingredients, 4 Ingredients 2, and 4 Ingredients Gluten Free.

Jonathan Waxman’s Essential Kitchen Tips and Tools

Leave your linens, overpriced olive oils and al dente anxieties at the door. Get kitchen kudos from your guests with these easy tips from casual-cuisine chef Jonathan Waxman, author of Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics.

We grabbed a few minutes with Jonathan to discuss the focus on simple, flavorful dishes and how you can make the most of seasonal produce — and even recreate his most popular dishes at home.

You brought a very California style of fresh cooking and casual eating out to NYC, which as Tom Colicchio mentions in the foreword to your bookJonathan Waxman, was very formal at the time (in the 1980s). What are the major differences between top California and New York restaurants today?

Jonathan: Everybody now is leaning toward informality. The day of tablecloths, fancy service, and the big wine list is, at least temporarily, disappearing. What people want is really good food and they don’t want to spend four hours eating dinner. The world has changed in that respect. At Barbuto people dine in an hour and a half, forty-five minutes. After, they’re going to a movie, going back to work, whatever — they’re busy! Back when I had Jams, dinner was entertainment. What you had planned for the night was dinner: You spent money, you had a great time.

That’s all changed. The food now is much more casual, everywhere.

What makes everyone so gaga for your gnocchi?
It’s really the dish itself. I didn’t like gnocchi in Italy; it was gummy and sticky and not delicious. I made it by accident at a dinner party by sautéing it — it was a happy accident, or rather, a forgotten step. Forgetfulness turned into what has become a great dish.
Make It at Home: Jonathan Waxman’s Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables

Learn how to make Jonathan’s legendary roasted chicken:

What are 5 things everyone should know how to cook properly?
There’s 20 things probably, but these are my 5.
–How to cook a hamburger properly (which no one does)
–Scrambled eggs
–Soup
–Salad and salad dressing
–Pudding
*Bonus:
Pie

I always seem to screw up risotto lately, even though I bought a good pan, good rice, and keep the heat low. What is the secret to making it turn out great?
When you sweat the onions, throw the rice in at the same time so that the rice gets cooked by the oil, for five minutes. Immediately add the wine and cook it down to nothing. If you don’t, you’re going to ruin the risotto. Don’t add the stock until all the wine is gone. The stock has to be hot, and you should add just enough to have a finished dish.

The soupiness never changes. Never let it go too dry or too hot. Now, you can relax: You can drink wine, you can watch TV, just don’t rush it. Don’t be impatient. That’s why it never turns out — impatience. Use a small wooden spoon, circle the rim and zigzag the middle. Don’t do it hard, just do it gently. You want the rice kernels to absorb. When they get hard, they’re not absorbing liquid.
Make It at Home: Jonathan Waxman’s Risotto with Spring Peas

Your wife shops at the Greenmarket frequently. What are your favorite spring veggies? What are some dishes you love to make this time of year?
I don’t have a favorite. Spring really has too many choices: Morels, peas, ramps, baby leeks, fava beans, baby spring beans, the first new potatoes. Yesterday I cooked Easter supper, and made a little wilted vegetable thing with spring onions, and took some other veggies and sautéed them pretty hard and added roasted baby cauliflower. I did celery root puree with cream and butter.

Lucky family! How do you pick great produce at the greenmarket or store?
I let the vegetables talk to me, not the other way around. They say “Pick me!”

Do I really need to buy overpriced olive oil, or does the everyday stuff do the trick?
The trick is three-fold. Buy different ones and look online, too. Read surveys. Don’t buy cans; they’re terrible unless you’re massaging it on your body. Don’t buy big bottles, buy small. I have five different olive oils in my house. Spanish ones are a little buttery, the Tuscans are green and peppery and fun for salads.

Ceramic knives: yay or nay?
I have a gorgeous one, but I don’t even know where it is right now. They’re really weird, I love them. They’re very fragile and sharp as hell. You can’t sharpen them at home — you have to send them to the manufacturer. But they do stay sharp for a long time.

I read in your book that your wife does all the shopping and you just make whatever you can from what she brings home. Do you think being a good cook is the key to a solid relationship?
Of course. You knew I was going to say that!


What if you both want to cook?

We just draw straws.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Waxman first stepped into the culinary scene in 1970 when he retired from his career as a professional trombonist to enroll in the La Varenne cooking school in Paris. After working at the prestigious Chez Panisse alongside Alice Waters, he brought New American cuisine to New York City by opening the restaurants Jams and Washington Park. Today, he is the chef-owner of the Big Apple’s Barbuto, an Italian brasserie.

Recipe: Jonathan Waxman’s Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables

Hit the local greenmarket and whip up this beloved springtime dish from New York City’s Barbuto, owned by celebrated chef Jonathan Waxman, author of Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics.

I’ve never liked the renditions of gnocchi that I’ve eaten in Italy and America. They were always gummy, covered with béchamel or another yucky sauce. One day my chef, Justin, knowing of my aversion to the classic preparation, froze a batch of raw gnocchi after he had rolled them out and cut them. We had a dinner party at my house and I took the gnocchi along as an afterthought. At home, I threw the gnocchi into a sizzling hot pan with butter and olive oil, while Justin looked at me with a crazy, quizzical expression. But the gnocchi turned into crisp pillows that were tender and fluffy on the inside and golden brown and crunchy on the outside. We served them with English peas, mint and a little fresh butter. They were a hit.

We prepare gnocchi at the restaurant the same way, but we do alter the vegetables, herbs and sauce occasionally.

INGREDIENTS
3 large organic russet potatoes
2 tbsp. organic all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 c. thumbelina carrots, washed and stemmed
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 c. shelled English peas
12 fresh basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
1. Prepare the gnocchi:
Steam the potatoes in a pot until cooked and tender (about 30 minutes). Remove and let cool for 2 hours. Peel the skin (this is very easy). If you have a food mill or ricer, rice the potatoes in it, or better yet, pass the potatoes through a fine-mesh sieve. Rice the potatoes onto a lightly floured marble or wood surface. Dust the potatoes with the flour and dribble 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on top. Very gently form a soft dough, making sure not to overwork it or it will be tough. Do this for 2–3 minutes and let the mass rest. Roll the dough into 1-inch-diameter tubes. With a paring knife cut the gnocchi into 1-inch lengths. Then roll each gnocchi over the tines of a fork to create slight grooves. When the gnocchi are finished, freeze them for at least 1 hour and up to 1 month.

2. Cook the carrots in simmering water for 20 minutes. Cool and cut into bite-size pieces.

3. Cook the gnocchi: Heat the butter and the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter and oil are almost golden, add the frozen gnocchi and sauté for 3 minutes, moving them around so all sides start to darken.

4. Add the peas and carrots and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Toss in the basil leaves and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Serves 4 as a first course

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Waxman first stepped into the culinary scene in 1970 when he retired from his career as a professional trombonist to enroll in the La Varenne cooking school in Paris. After working at the prestigious Chez Panisse alongside Alice Waters, he brought New American cuisine to New York City by opening the restaurants Jams and Washington Park. Today, he is the chef-owner of the Big Apple’s Barbuto, an Italian brasserie.Gnocchi with spring vegetables

Recipe: Jonathan Waxman’s Risotto with Sweet Peas

Risotto with peasDon’t fear the risotto. Indulge your guests with this savory spring dish from celebrated chef Jonathan Waxman, author of Italian, My Way: More Than 150 Simple and Inspired Recipes That Breathe New Life into Italian Classics.

This recipe is easily adapted to any other ingredient, so feel free to improvise, but as they say in Italy, it’s all about the rice.

INGREDIENTS
2 c. shelled fresh peas
4 qts. cold water, plus more as needed to cook the peas
2 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion (white or yellow), peeled and finely minced
Sea salt to taste
2 c. Carnaroli rice
2 c. good white wine (unoaked)
4 c. hot water
1 c. pea shoots
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the peas for 1 minute, drain and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking.

2. Bring the 4 quarts of cold water to a simmer in an 8-quart stock pot. In a heavy casserole add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bring the heat to medium. Add the onion and sweat for 8 minutes; season with sea salt only. Add the rice and continue to stir for 5 minutes, then add the wine.

3. Cook the rice until the wine has reduced to 1/2 cup, then slowly add the hot water, 1/2 cup at a time. You want the risotto to remain loose, but not too soupy.

4. Continue to add more water until the rice is done (al dente). Add the peas, the pea shoots, butter and three-quarters of the Parmesan. Taste for seasoning and add the black pepper. To finish, drizzle with 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and the chopped tarragon.

Serves 6

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Waxman first stepped into the culinary scene in 1970 when he retired from his career as a professional trombonist to enroll in the La Varenne cooking school in Paris. After working at the prestigious Chez Panisse alongside Alice Waters, he brought New American cuisine to New York City by opening the restaurants Jams and Washington Park. Today, he is the chef-owner of the Big Apple’s Barbuto, an Italian brasserie.