‘Less is more’ with rosemary

During the holidays, certain aromatic spices are difficult to escape: mint, cinnamon and ginger act as the cornerstones of many holiday recipes.

As much as I love the spiciness of ginger or cinnamon, these ingredients are not the only ways Louisiana residents can add seasonal flavor to our holiday tables.

December is a great time to embrace fresh herbs that can tolerate normal winter freezes, but are frequently forgotten between recipes for cocoa and cookies.

One such herb, rosemary, is one of Louisiana’s strongest perennial warriors, almost impossible to kill and vibrantly fragrant.

Because of rosemary’s natural oils, the woody herb has an earthy quality that is easy to infuse into breads, sauces, soups and even cocktails. When cooking with rosemary, it’s wise to think, “less is more.” Unlike most herbs that grow weaker when dried, rosemary’s natural oils become concentrated, so be sure to measure your ingredients carefully.

In this recipe for a vodka-based Rosemary Pear Martini, I use fresh rosemary sprigs infused in a 1-to-1 ratio of simple syrup. While I wish I could take credit for this lovely combination of sweet pears, vodka and seasonal rosemary, I was inspired by the Grey Goose La Poire Rosemary Martini made by bartender Derek Messelt at Baton Rouge’s Le Creolé. Derek’s version is earthy, crisp and clean, available for $10 or less during lunchtime.

If you like my version, his is even better, including a fresh rosemary sprig that he torches in front of patrons. (It’s quite a show.) For your drink menu this holiday season, try a seasonal martini without the mint or cinnamon and reach for fresh ingredients that set a mature tone. And, to save time, make your cocktails by the pitcher instead of the glass.

Helana Brigman is a food writer, photographer and cookbook author. She can be reached with daily recipes at http://clearlydeliciousfoodblog.com or via email at hbrigm1@tigers.lsu.edu.