I wish I liked to weed as much as I like to read; it would improve my garden much more than reading about gardening, which I've been doing lately thanks to several books that have floated into my ken.
One is The Beginner's Guide to Edible Herbs: 26 Herbs Everyone Should Grow & Enjoy. Bit sweeping, that subtitle--I suspect Paris Hilton would rather prance around with her dressed-up chihuahua than transplant hyssop after all danger of frost has passed. Still, one prefers an excess of enthusiasm in a writer to the drear of a dutiful tone, and Charles W.G. Smith is nothing if not enthusiastic about herbs. "Experiment!" he enjoins herb growers who might feel timid about branching out beyond basil and parsley for pesto, "You'll be amazed by the pesto possibilities!"
The book (Storey Publishing, $12.95, www.storey.com) offers good information on growing, harvesting, and preserving 26 basic herbs. I like the recipe he offers for Herb-Marinated Goat Cheese; what with layering slices in jars with herbs and oil and letting them commingle for a week, it has an air of the mad scientist about it, like Alexander Fleming letting a petri dish of staphylococci sit out while on vacay, and therby accidentally discovering penicillin. Here it is:
Herb-Marinated Goat Cheese
Adaptable to many cooking uses, fresh goat cheese may be best appreciated as an appetizer or snack when simply marinated with herbs—especially basil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, chives, or fennel. Use both fresh leaves and flowers for the marinade and as a garnish.
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons whole or coarsely chapped fresh herb leaves or edible flowers
10 black, green, or white peppercorns
Extra-virgin olice oil
1. Cut cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices. In a glass jar, layer slices with herbs and pepercorns. Cover with olive oil and attach the lid.
2. Let sit for at least a day to allow the flavors to blend. This will stay fresh for about a week at room temperature. If desired, store in the refrigerator, bringing to room temperature before serving.
Makes 8 ounces