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Dill does it all

The tension builds as the announcement nears. Will the 2010 Herb of the Year be mint or another perennial favorite? Has garlic — not really an herb, but a contender nonetheless — sufficiently ramped up its campaign?

The envelope from the Missouri Botanical Garden arrives. The winner is .æ.æ. dill!

But dill’s ascension really isn’t a surprise.

“Actually, we chose it about 2007,” says Chuck Voigt, a vegetable and herb specialist in the department of crop sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Voigt is a member of the board of directors of the International Herb Association, which names the Herb of the Year. “We’ve picked them all through 2015.

“We chose them based on being outstanding in two of three categories: medicinal, culinary and decorative,” Voigt says. “Dill is, of course, widely used in cooking, especially in northern Europe and the Scandinavian countries, and down into the Mediterranean. Some varieties have such a quality in their bloom that they’re used in flower arrangements, and it can help quiet the digestive tract. It’s almost a triple threat.”

Chef David Guempel uses dill in several dishes on the menu at Cafe Osage, the restaurant at Bowood Farms garden center in the Central West End. “It goes with fish, but it almost needs something creamy,” he says. “I also think it goes very well with earthy things — I make a cucumber and beet salad with dill dressing.”

But Guempel warns against overdoing the dill.

“You need to be very light-handed with it,” he says. “It can overpower.”

Dill will be the subject of at least two seminars Saturday at the annual Herb Day event at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center, 21st and Ridge Road. Cooking with dill will be discussed at 8 a.m. and, at 10 a.m., cooking and baking with dill will be demonstrated by master chef Chris Miller and dietitian Paula Miller.

Here are some recipes with dill to try.

Dilled Onion Relish

1/4 cup olive oil

6 large red onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock or broth

2 tablespoons honey

Freshly ground black pepper

Salt, optional

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Saute onions about 15 minutes or until soft but not browned. Add vinegar and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add stock and simmer until the liquid is again reduced by half.

Add honey and pepper and salt to taste. Remove from heat; stir in dill. Relish can be served warm, cold or at room temperature. Will keep for several days in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed glass jar. Makes 6 cups.

Nutrients per 2-tablespoon serving: 20 calories; 1 g fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 3 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; no fiber; 2 mg sodium; 5 mg calcium.

Adapted from "Season to Taste," by Jeannette Ferrary and Louise Fiszer (Simon & Schuster, 1988)

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/28/10

Cucumber Dill Sauce for Salmon

1 cup Greek-style yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

Juice and zest (colored portion of peel) of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 orange

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

Coarsely ground black pepper

3 cups peeled, seeded and diced cucumbers

8 green onions, trimmed and finely sliced

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, lemon juice and zest, orange zest, garlic and a dash of pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as several days.

Soak diced cucumbers in salted ice water for 1/2 hour to ensure crispness. Drain; pat dry. Refrigerate until ready to assemble. Add cucumbers and onions to yogurt mixture. Let sit at room temperature until no longer cold. To serve, spoon over cooked salmon. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.

Source: Chef David Guempel, Cafe Osage

Nutrients per 1/2-cup serving: 90 calories; 8 g fat; 2.5 g saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 4 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 45 mg sodium; 40 mg calcium.

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/28/10

Dilled Cucumber and Beet Salad

1/4 cup sour cream (see notes)

1/4 cup mayonnaise (not reduced-fat or fat-free; see notes)

1 tablespoon vinegar (any type except balsamic)

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar

4 cups cubed pickled beets, drained (see notes)

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

4 cups peeled, seeded and diced cucumbers

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, mix sour cream and mayonnaise. Put vinegar in another small bowl. Mix in dill, pepper, salt and sugar until salt and sugar have dissolved. Stir vinegar mixture into sour cream mixture until well-blended.

In a medium bowl, combine beets and onion. Stir in dressing. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate as long as several days.) Just before serving, add cucumbers and toss well.

Notes: For a lower-calorie, lower-fat version, substitute 1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt for the sour cream and mayonnaise. Use good quality jarred beets or make your own pickled beets. Makes 8 servings.

Variation: Add any or all of the following for variety — cold diced cooked potatoes, coarsely chopped radishes, thinly sliced sticks of raw carrot, shaved fresh fennel bulb.

Source: Chef David Guempel, Cafe Osage

Per serving: 140 calories; 7 g fat; 1.5 g saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 17 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 220 mg sodium; 40 mg calcium.

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/28/10

Ceviche of Scallops

1 1/2 lbs. scallops

Juice of 6 or 7 limes or lemons

2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced

3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

1 small red onion, finely chopped 6 tablespoons chopped dill

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt

1 avocado

3 to 4 sprigs dill

If using sea scallops, slice them horizontally. (Keep bay scallops whole.) Place scallops in a rimmed dish and add enough lime or lemon juice to cover. Turn the scallops so that all sides are coated with juice. Cover the dish with plastic wrap or a plate. Marinate in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. The scallops should become opaque.

Drain and discard the juice from the scallops. Add jalapenos, tomatoes, onion, chopped dill and olive oil. Season with salt to taste. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until ready to serve.

Peel and slice the avocado; brush the slices with lime juice to prevent discoloring. Garnish scallops with avocado and sprigs of dill.

Note: As in all ceviche recipes, these scallops are "cooked" by the citrus juice. Be sure to buy only the freshest scallops and handle carefully to reduce the chances of food poisoning. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Adapted from "The Classic Herb Cookbook," by Jill Norman (Dorling Kindersley, 1997)

Per serving (based on 6): 280 calories; 18 g fat; 2.5 g saturated fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 16 g protein; 13 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 145 mg sodium; 40 mg calcium.

-- The Wichita Eagle—04/28/10

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