Friday, July 9, 2010

Tarragon…Pretty to Look at and Tastes Good Too! by Gardener Janet

As I wait for the vegetable garden to begin producing, it is fun to come up with new ways to use the herbs in my garden.  Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus – or Dragon’s Wort) is a great perennial herb that nestles right into my perennial garden, providing interesting long, slender leaves and great texture.  It reaches about 2 – 3 feet in height and about 1.5 feet wide.  Tarragon is hardy in Colorado and grows in well-drained soils in full sun/part shade.   Leaves can be used fresh or dried and used in the winter in stews and soups.

Tarragon is most commonly used in chicken, fish and egg dishes, but I decided to try to jazz up a Father’s Day pasta salad with Tarragon.  Reviews around the table (including Dad, Morfar (means mother’s father in Swedish) and Uncle) were positive!

Macaroni Salad with Peppers and Tarragon Dressing

1 lb pasta (small shells or similar shape)
1red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 orange pepper
1 small red onion
2 – 3 stalks of celery
¼ cup fresh tarragon (cut enough for the dressing below, too)

Champagne-Tarragon Dressing
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1 clove garlic
¼ cup fresh tarragon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
¼ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¾ tsp mustard seed
½ tsp salt

Boil 1 lb of  pasta (small shells or similar shape) until al dente.  Drain. 

While cooking pasta, finely chop peppers, onion, celery (and/or any other fresh crispy vegetables you have on hand or in the garden…including peas, beans, brocolli, etc).

Make the dressing by placing the Dijon mustard, vinegar, garlic clove, salt, spices and tarragon into a food processor.  Pulse until well mixed.  Add olive oil through the feed tube.  Pour into bowl. 

The sour cream and mayonnaise are used to thicken the mixture so that it sticks well to the pasta.  You can vary those amounts according to your own taste. 

The dressing (without the sour cream and mayonnaise) is also great on a fresh salad. 

Toss pasta, vegetables and dressing together in the big pasta pot and transfer to a nice glass bowl (pretty colors should be seen, don’t you think?)  Chill (overnight is even better) and garnish with a few sprigs of tarragon.  Add salt to taste.