Rosemary is synonymous with Italian favorites like Tuscan flatbread and chicken cacciatore. Native to the Mediterranean, it's a woody herb with a solid texture and intense, pinelike aroma and flavor.
Heat mellows and transmits rosemary's flavors during a long braise with beef or pork, for example, or a high-temperature roast with lamb, and even fish.
Recipes that call for rosemary tend to require the needles to be stripped from their branches and chopped, but don't over look the woody stems, which can be used to flavor soups and roasts.
Be sure to taste the rosemary you're using before adding it to a dish, since it can vary in intensity. Mincing rosemary releases its essential oils, making its flavor more pronounced. Remember that a little goes a long way. Rosemary is best with strong flavors, and can overwhelm delicate dishes.
With its sturdy stalk, rosemary makes a great skewer, infusing grilled food with its garden-fresh flavor. Soak stalks for a half hour before adding meat, fish or vegetables. You may need to poke through the food first with a metal skewer.
Choose straight rosemary branches that stand upright without drooping. Leaves ought to be brightly colored and without brown spots, and their aroma should be strong and fresh.
Stand the rosemary bunch upright in a glass or jar of water before refrigerating and cover loosely with a plastic bag. If dry rosemary is your only option, the general rule is one teaspoon dried for one tablespoon chopped fresh. Crush needles between your fingers to release scent before using.
Lamb Shoulder Chops With Rosemary Potatoes
• 5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
• 2 pounds lamb shoulder chops
• Salt and pepper
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
• 3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
Put the potatoes in a large pot of salted cold water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until potatoes are barely tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Season lamb chops well with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the olive oil. Brown chops, in batches if necessary, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook about 3 more minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Add the garlic and rosemary to the skillet, reduce the heat a bit, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the potatoes in one layer, season with salt and pepper, and cook undisturbed until they have developed a crust, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, turning only occasionally, until tender and golden brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve chops and potatoes, garnished with more fresh rosemary.
Per serving: 397 calories (27 percent from fat), 12 g of fat, (2.9 saturated fat, 7.5 g monounsaturated fat), 157 mg cholesterol, 53 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 1.6 g fiber, 221 mg sodium.
Adapted from "Canal House Cooks Every Day" by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer (Andrews McMeel, $45).