Friday, October 31, 2008

It's a jungle in here: Of herb gardens and savory muffins

Herbs are so rewarding for a gardener of very little talent. The only way anything grows around here is of its own initiative. I put it in the ground, and then it's sink or swim time. But this year I sprinkled some plant food on the garden and the plants really were happy.

This week freezing temperatures hit here in Georgia, earlier, actually than average. Although I do love the crisp weather, it means the end of my little herb garden. Last year I dug up the herbs and brought them in for the winter but they were a pretty pathetic lot, and only one pot of oregano survived to be planted outside in the spring.

This year I decided to harvest the herbs, and let the perennials go dormant outside. (I'm hoping against hope that they come back next year.) I brought in the little pots of arugula, cilantro, and flat leaf parsley that I bought in September. And I cut all of the basil, oregano, thyme, and sage and stuck it in glass jars and vases.

Herb pots and vases of cut herbs join the three pre-existing unruly plants on my kitchen counter. The plant in the middle is a cutting from a Cuban Ivy plant that belonged to my grandmother Olga (1885-1973).
Faced with the bounty of the harvest, I got busy researching recipes for these herbs. First up was a recipe for Sweet Potato Muffins with Fresh Sage, that I'd seen on the Baking and Books blog. It uses a modest amount of sage, but the picture and the recipe intrigued me.

cook's notes

- Faced with the prospect of grating a hard sweet potato by hand, I suddenly remembered that my new food processor came with a shredder attachment. Boy, is that ever handy! I shredded the sweet potato and the cheese in no time.

- I added 1/8 tsp finely ground black pepper.

- The batter was really thick, so I added a couple tablespoons of plain yogurt. I could have added more buttermilk, but I had a lot of yogurt on hand.

- I made 12 minis and 6 med/lg muffins.

- Turning up the heat 4 minutes before the muffins were done was not going to work on the first bake-through of this recipe, so I skipped that.

mini muffins with a mini sage sprig

the verdict

I love a good savory muffin or bread. And I loved the idea of these muffins. But they didn't deliver that fantastic cheesy/sagey experience I was expecting.

I enjoyed the first muffin, warm from the oven with a pat of butter. But they are missing something. They absolutely don't work without the butter. Or without being warmed. I gave my brother half a muffin over lunch and he agreed. In fact he didn't want the other half.

I think they would be fine split, toasted, and piled with something, sort of sandwich style. Otherwise they are a bit bland and lacking. If I were to make them again, I think I'd add some grated onion. And maybe some bacon! (of course!) Also I think I'd substitute some rolled oats for some of the flour.

I do like the sweet potato in the muffin - it looks great, boosts the nutritional profile, and adds a subtle sweet-potato-ness. If I don't make this recipe again, I'll try adding some grated sweet potato to a different savory muffin recipe.


The Blonde Duck said...

I love muffins! Yum!

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

It pays to read the fine print. I was going to ask about the shiny leaf'd beauty in the middle. That's so cool that you have this living memory of her. The muffins look swell, but yeah bacon makes everything taste better.

Cristine said...


natalia said...

Ciao ! There look is great maybe with your addictions their flavor will have a boost !Your herb's photo is beautiful! (I made the veggies pie ! We liked it ! I must say that the crust was yours but the vegetable were what I had)

Cathy said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy these more. I really love the concept. I agree that growing herbs can be gratifying (and successful!) for even a brown thumbs like me. Have you seen the "Aerogarden" in the Williams-Sonoma catalog? It's this space-age indoor garden appliance thing. I'm always drawn to it, but it just looks so darn goofy. But I would love growing fresh herbs year round!

Oh well, maybe next time on the muffins. How wonderful that you have your grandmother's ivy plant!

Carla said...

Where in GA do you live? I visited Savannah last year, and boy was it beautiful!

I tried a mini veggie garden this summer, but the squash plants failed. Then I learned they need pollinated either by bees or by hand. Oops. Maybe I'll try herbs next year and hope they don't die either!

The muffins do sound good, although I wish they were good enough to eat without butter or being warm. Guess you could serve them with dinner, kinda like rolls or cornbread! Maybe scallions instead of shredded onion?

Nancy/n.o.e said...

Oh, Carla, I think that chopped scallions would be perfect in these.

And, Cathy, the indoor contraption sounds intriguing but I'm not sure how I can work it into the decor! Although I am thinking of a grow light for my potted tomato that I brought in last week. After languishing all summer, it has decided to pick this week to make a pile of baby tomatoes.