Some of the myths surrounding the herb rosemary are a bit on the racy side. Legend has it that when the goddess Aphrodite emerged from the ocean, stepping foot onto the Isle of Cypros, she was greeted by water nymphs who draped her naked body in rosemary. That’s why its been called “dew of the sea.” As a result of its association with the goddess of love, beauty, and sexual rapture, the pungent herb has been considered for centuries as an aphrodisiac. Science seems to support the lore because rosemary has been found to increase the circulation of blood in the body making skin hypersensitive. Ooh la la!
I can vividly remember my first encounter with rosemary. It was nearly 25 years ago at a tiny restaurant outside Chattanooga, Tennessee when a waiter brought to the table a basket of golf ball-sized rolls, with an aroma of yeast and a pine-like scent I could not quite place. Out of the millions of bites of food I’ve taken in my lifetime, my first nibble of that rosemary-laced roll is one of the most memorable. Had I not already been in love (and married) to my dining companion, I would have undoubtedly fallen in love with her on the spot.
Although rosemary is a year-round staple in my kitchen, as the weather turns from summer to fall, I find myself craving it even more and reaching for it dried from the spice jar or freshly clipped from our backyard rosemary bush, and adding it to vegetables I’m roasting, chicken I’m baking, or using it in a number of other ways.
There does indeed seem to be something special about rosemary, it’s wafting into every nook and cranny of the house, building the anticipation of dinner to great heights. Whether its the myth, the science, or a little of both there seems to be a little more cuddling on the couch during movie nights that begin with a dinner in which rosemary is featured.
One of the great things about rosemary is that it can be added so simply to things you might already be planning to cook anyway. It doesn’t require any special preparation or equipment. Here are five of my favorite ways to use it.
Rosemary Baked Potato: Slice a raw russet in half and sandwich a generous twig of fresh rosemary between the halves. Wrap the whole thing in foil and bake as you normally would. The rosemary permeates every bite of the spud.
Rosemary Butter: Soften butter and whip in dried rosemary. Let the butter harden again and then use it to on your dinner rolls or a crusty loaf of bread. You can add garlic to the butter too if you like.
Rosemary Chicken: If you are roasting or baking a chicken, simply roast or bake it on a bed of rosemary by placing several twigs in the bottom of your roasting pan and then placing the bird on top.
Rosemary Skewers: Use sturdy rosemary twigs as skewers for shish kabobs. Use any meat and vegetable you like. Lamb, however, works especially well with rosemary.
Rosemary Au Gratin Anything: Rosemary loves cheese, especially strong cheeses like sharp cheddar or Parmesan. Adding fresh or dried rosemary to an au gratin of potatoes, cauliflower, or nearly any other au gratin-able vegetable adds a whole new level of flavor.
No need to stop with these five. Experiment away. I can’t guarantee that rosemary will bring romance your way but you never know. If you’re new to the herb, however, you just may start a lifelong love affair with it. One word of warning. It’s a bit prickly so cuddling with it on the couch on movie night might not be a good idea.
Originally published in the Fall Issue of B Magazine