Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hard to Find this Summer Treat - WHB

Summer savory. It’s hard to find.

For one thing, a search on the internet confuses the word savory (i.e. not sweet) with the herb savory. So 90% of the search results have nothing to do with herbs of any sort. This leads me to believe that a lot of people don’t use the herb savory because it’s too frustrating to find a recipe for it.

But, it’s also hard to find because it seems to be rarely available for sale.

Not really sure why. As savory has a wonderfully full flavor and aroma.

Eaten raw, it has a powerful peppery minty flavor. A real mouth tingler. And you can taste a bit of that epazote essence as well. The online descriptions indicate a strong similarity to thyme, but that comes out more in the cooking.

And it’s a native to California, as well as the Mediterranean. In fact, Yerba Buena, in the San Francisco Bay area, which translates to ‘good herb’, refers specifically to the herb savory.

Savory seems a lot more common in Europe, and Germany in particular. There, it is called ‘Bohnenkraut’- i.e. ‘bean herb’. And it is used quite a bit, obviously when cooking beans. This has to do with its characteristic to aide in digestion, as well as to work as a bit of an anti-flatulent. Like epozote.

Here are a few links for additional info:

I think that, as with most herbs, the dried savory is such a poor substitute for the fresh, that many have never really had the chance to appreciate the flavor fresh savory, summer or winter can bring to dishes.

One this to be aware of is that the characteristic pungency disappears very quickly with heat. Long cooking tends to reduce the flavor to a subtle thyme-oriented taste. But adding the herb at the very end of cooking lets more of the full savory flavor shine through in the dish.

Aside from its affinity to beans, savory goes well with fish, especially salmon, and works well as a seasoning for vinaigrettes. It seems to work well in conjunction with other summer herbs, such as basil and dill. I haven’t tried this yet myself, but I may have a chance later in the week.

For this edition of , sponsored this week by Gabriella of , I made a corn chowder flavored with savory. I figured that since thyme and mint go with corn, the savory would work as well.

To get the full flavor from the corn, I cooked the corn cobs in some broth after I removed the kernels, and used this enriched broth as the basis for the soup. This adds a lot of deep corn flavor.

I added the savory at the every end, after the soup was done, and just stirred it into the soup for a few minutes before serving. Even so, the pungent savory flavor had mellowed to a nice background accent by the time the soup was on the table.

This chowder got rave reviews from everyone. I had to fight to keep a little bit of it reserved for the pictures!

(And yes - I of course served the chowder in my super exclusive snowflake design bowls - perfect for the summer!)

Corn Chowder with Summer Savory
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

3 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from 6 ears of corn, cobs reserved for broth
2 ½ cups chicken broth
4 thick cut slices of bacon, cut into thin strips
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 red pepper, in ¼ inch dice
½ pound starchy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and diced
2 ½ cups milk
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp fresh savory leaves, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, chopped in ¼ inch dice, for garnish, if desired
fresh chives, chopped, for garnish, if desired

Heat the broth in a large sauce pot with the corn cobs until it comes to a boil. Turn down the heat, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the corn cobs and reserve the liquid.

In a large, heavy pot, heat the bacon over medium heat until it starts to render some fat. Turn the heat up to medium high, cooking until bacon is crispy. Pour off extra fat, leaving 2-3 tbsp fat and bacon in pot.

Add onion, celery and red pepper. Sautee, stirring, until vegetables have softened.

Add butter and stir until melted. Add flour, and cook the roux for 1-2 minutes, stirring.

Slowly add the broth mixture, whisking until smooth, then add the milk, corn kernels, potatoes, cumin, turmeric, pepper and salt, and stir. Simmer soup until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.

Just before serving, add the cream and savory. Heat through just for 1 to 2 minutes (the savory flavor will be destroyed quickly by cooking). Adjust seasoning.

Ladle soup into 4 serving bowls. Garnish with some of the chopped tomato and sprinkle with chives, if desired. Serve. Enjoy!

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Blogger Kalyn said...

This sounds good. I have some savory in my garden, but I think mine is winter savory, and to tell the truth I have no idea what the actual difference is. Any idea?

7:56 PM  
Blogger Gabriella True said...

I have always wanted to know the difference between summer and winter savory. I know that I have dried summer savory.

Thanks for participating this week and look for the round up tomorrow!

9:44 PM  
Anonymous sher said...

It is hard to find either savory. I need to grow some. Corn broth--made with the corn cobs--is great to use in soup. Yours looks so delicious.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Dick Margulis said...

I can answer several of the questions raised here. This may take a while...

1. Winter savory is a perennial herb that is not particularly productive. While the flavor is quite similar to that of summer savory, it is a plant for the rock garden or ornamental herb garden. Summer savory is easy to grow, prolific, easy to harvest, pest-free, just a wonderful, thrifty plant. I can't say enough nice things about it, and I grew it, in some quantity, in Zone 3b in upstate New York. So if it's that easy to grow there and it's native to the Mediterranean, you can see how well adapted it is over a very wide range. Seeds are available from many reputable seedsmen.

2. I was in the herb business for a number of years, and we frequently got referrals from the nutritionist at one of the local hospitals. She would send people to us who had just been put on salt-free diets and had thereby lost the one flavor they could actually identify (other than sugar, of course). I quickly came to realize that summer savory was the key to giving these people some hope in life. Of all the common herbs and spices, it is the one that best evokes "saltiness" on the tongue, and it is highly valuable for that.

3. I disagree somewhat about the flavor of dried savory. Like most members of the mint family, it actually retains most of its oils quite well when properly dried. Of course, if it's old, it loses flavor. But the difference between fresh and dried is not so great that I'd go out of my way to find fresh savory.

4. I agree it is not generally available retail (except occasionally in those ridiculously expensive plastic boxes in the produce section at the supermarket). However, I've picked it up when I've seen it in fancy kitchen shops. I have two containers in my cupboard right now, and I'll go grab them and type the contact information here. Give me a second...

Coastal Goods Organic Savory

Doubling Point Provisions
189 Middle St.
Bath ME 04530

5:52 AM  
Blogger Christa said...

Just last week, I was also looking for ways to use fresh summer savory. I have lots of it growing in my garden, but I couldn't find much around the Web for how to use it. This dish sounds -- and looks -- great. Thanks for posting it.

8:26 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Whew! Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

Regarding summer and winter savory, most of the Web sites agree with Dick, that summer savory is the one of choice. They indicate that the winter savory can be too harsh tasting.

The dish was easy to make, everyone loved it, and since we are coming into corn season, it seemed like good timing.

Thanks again!

9:10 AM  

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