While many people are chomping at the bit to bite into their first sun-ripened tomato, herb lovers aren't looking that far ahead.
They enjoy the fruits of their labor much sooner.
Herb connoisseur Lynn Alley's new book, "Cooking With Herbs" (Andrews McMeel, $16.99, 128 pages), offers 50 intriguing recipes to tantalize your taste buds.
It also includes tips on selecting and growing herbs.
The hardbound book is broken into five categories including soups and salads; main dishes; and breads and spreads.
Recipes focus on the use of 10 herbs: mint, dill, rosemary, thyme, parsley, tarragon, sage, basil, cilantro and oregano.
The recipes below are featured in the book, which was released last month.
1 recipe of basic pizza dough (see below)
1 1/2 cups grapes, cut in half
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest, cut in strips
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or fontina cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 500 degrees about 15 minutes before baking.
Prepare baking sheet or pizza stone and paddle and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to desired shape and thickness, then place on pizza sheet. Cover and let rest and rise 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cover and use your fingers to dimple the dough all over.
Evenly distribute the grapes, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and Parmesan over the surface of the dough. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted.
Remove from the oven, slice and serve.
Basic pizza dough
Makes 1 pizza
3 cups flour, preferably freshly milled whole-wheat, plus more for rolling
2 teaspoons instant yeast (SAF instant yeast is recommended)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating
1 cup water, plus more if needed
Combine flour, yeast and salt in work bowl of a food processor and pulse to mix.
Add olive oil to water, then, with machine running, quickly pour liquid down feed tube and let the machine run until the dough forms a clean ball in the food processor. This should take no more than a minute or two.
Remove the dough ball from the food processor and pat it into a flat, round disk. Place a thin coating of oil on the outside of the dough and put it in a large plastic bag. At this point you can press the air out of the bag, then freeze the dough for later use.
Let it rest for 20-30 minutes before using. (If dough has been frozen, remove it from the freezer a few hours before you plan to bake, then let it come to room temperature before rising.) Follow directions above to prepare foccacia recipe.
Curry cilantro cream cheese spreadYields 1 cup
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
2 teaspoons curry powder or more as desired
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, plus more for rolling (optional)
1/2 cup golden raisins or dried currants
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Crackers or bread, for serving
Combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, sherry (if using) and curry powder in bowl of food processor and blend well. Add walnuts, raisins and cilantro, and pulse just until mixed. Be sure to leave plenty of texture.
Season with salt to taste. Spoon the mixture into a crock or roll into a ball. Cover with walnuts, then refrigerate at least three hours before serving.