Author Jeanne Kelley adds three fragrant herbs to her kitchen garden to enliven her summertime cooking.
Written and produced by Stephen Exel
Photographs by Peter Krumhardt
Recipes in This Story
• Cherry Tomato, Green Bean, and Wax Bean Salad with Lavender Vinaigrette
• Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Nectarines and Savory
• Lemon Verbena Granita with Limoncello and Vanilla Cream
Jeanne Kelley is an avid cook, gardener, food stylist, and writer. A longtime contributor to food publications, she combines her talents in three cookbooks; the latest, Kitchen Garden Cookbook, is a primer for a garden of edibles, including a variety of fresh herbs waiting to be snipped from pots, window boxes, or raised beds to invigorate summer cooking.
“A big part of being a cook is sourcing your ingredients,” says Kelley, who is shown above in her kitchen herb garden. “The best ingredients are those you grow yourself. Herb gardens are beautiful with fragrant possibilities. They add wonderful flavor to food and contribute to a delightful decor in your garden.”
Kelley’s herb garden goes beyond the ubiquitous parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, bumping up the quotient of aromatics with fragrant lavender, lemon verbena, and savory. She uses their unusual flavors to round out the most basic dishes.
The forward floral flavor of lavender pairs well with honey, cheeses, baked goods, ice cream, and even chicken, perfuming a dish with a hint of the South of France. Added to vinaigrette and tossed with Cherry Tomato, Green Bean, and Wax Bean Salad, lavender gives the salad an unexpected floral burst. Toasted bread crumbs add crunch.
Lemon verbena has a fresh, citrusy quality; there’s a hint of lemon without its puckery notes. Use it to make a syrup for drinks and baked goods; thinly sliced, it brightens salads or adds spark to grilled fish or chicken. “I make Lemon Verbena Granita for a dessert I can prepare in advance,” Kelley says. “Pairing it with Limoncello Cream creates an elegant, delicately flavored combination.
“Savory is an underappreciated herb,” Kelley says of this aromatic annual. It has a slightly menthol, woodsy flavor and is often used as a summer substitute for more power-fully scented rosemary. A little bit of savory will go a long way in dressing up beef and pork. The leaves have a lot of body and stand up well to grilling, as in Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Nectarines with a Savory Rub. “This dish has a minty and slightly resinous flavor,” she says. “The savory rub brings out unexpected sweet and tart nuances in the fruit and pork combination.”
Alongside their culinary talents, consider the advantages these herbs have in the garden. A lavender border or a handsome line of potted herbs takes a kitchen garden from utilitarian to gorgeous. That’s the kind of double dipping we like.