What to do with summer herbs

News-DemocratJune 17, 2013 

Here are some recipes that use herbs. Two new cookbooks also offer a variety of ways to use herb: "Cooking with Herbs" by Lynn Alley ($16.99, hardcover, Andrews McMeel), and "Flavored Butters" by Lucy Vaserfirer ($12.95, hardcover, Harvard Common Press).

LEMON AND MINT INFUSION

2 slices lemon and 2 sprigs fresh mint

For a refreshing start to the day, place the lemon and mint into a heatproof glass and cover with boiling water. Allow to steep for two minutes before drinking. Serves 1.

"Share: The Cookbook That Celebrates Our Common Humanity" (Kyle Books, $35)

Roasted Zucchini and Goat Cheese with Balsamic-Thyme Vinaigrette

4 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-inch thick strips

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1/2-inch thick strips

2 Roma tomatoes, each cut in thirds

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 red onion, thinly sliced

8 ounces goat cheese

3 tablespoons basamic vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves

Preheat the broiler. Toss the zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place under the broiler and cook for about 10 minutes, tossing once while cooking, until tender.

Toss together the roasted vegetables and red onion in a serving dish. Crumble the goat cheese over the top.

Whisk together the vinegar, thyme, and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drizzle over the roasted vegetables and serve.

MyDailyMorsel.com

TARRAGON BUTTER/CHERVIL BUTTER

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or 2 tablespoons minced fresh chervil

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Blend together the butter, tarragon or chervil and salt in a medium-size bowl. Form into a log and refrigerate until firm before slicing and serving. Makes 8 servings.

Note: Tarragon has an assertive anise-like flavor. Chervil will give the butter a more subtle flavor.

Adapted from "Flavored Butters" by Lucy Vaserfirer

MOCK BOURSIN

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, or a combination of cream cheese and goat cheese

2 cloves garlic, pressed, or more as desired

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs, such as tarragon, basil, chervil or oregano

Place the cream cheese and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor and blend well. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and blend.

Add the herbs and pulse until the herbs reach your desired consistency.

Pack the cheese into a crock or other serving container, cover, and refrigerate for several hours until the flavors have blended. Makes about 1 cup.

Note: Use on twice-baked potatoes, as a spread on crackers, or even as a spread in sandwiches.

Adapted from "Cooking with Herbs" by Lynn Alley

HERBY RANCH DRESSING

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

3 teaspoons white vinegar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Salt and ground pepper

Combine the mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, basil, parsley, chives, oregano, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Chill for a couple of hours before serving. Makes about 2 cups, approximately 8 servings.

Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, www.foodnetwork.com.

If you don't have any buttermilk on hand for spur-of-the-moment baking, it is easy to make a substitution. Simply mix 1 cup of low-fat milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and let it stand for 10 minutes. Or thin 3/4 cup of plain low-fat yogurt with 1/4 cup of milk.

BUTTERMILK BREAD WITH PARMESAN, OLIVES AND THYME

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

2 eggs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan

1/2 cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and dry mustard in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs, oil and buttermilk in a large glass measuring cup.

3. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture. Add cheese, olives and thyme. Use a rubber spatula to mix until just moistened. Do not overmix.

4. Scrape into prepared pan and bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out dry, about 45 minutes. Let stand in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes before turning over, reinverting and letting cool completely. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Newsday

LOS RANCHOS CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

2 bunches fresh parsley, chopped

8 to 10 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Ground white pepper to taste

1/2 cup vinegar

1 1/2 cups olive oil

Place parsley and garlic in a food processor, and pulse until well blended. Add salt, oregano, pepper, vinegar and oil; pulse to combine. Let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Separate a portion of the sauce and brush it on steak just before grilling. Serve the rest on the side for dipping or topping cooked steak. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Baltimore Sun

LIME AND MINT SCALLOPS WITH RED ONION

1 cup shucked peas

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

12 large sea scallops

1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, minced

Blanch peas in a pot of boiling salted water, 3 minutes. Drain immediately; shock in a bowl of ice water. Drain; transfer peas to a food processor. Add mint leaves and lime juice; pulse a few times or until mixture is somewhat chunky. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Cover; keep at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion. Cook until onion begins to caramelize, 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; keep warm.

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel; season with salt and pepper. If skillet is dry, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add scallops; if they don't fit all at once, cook in 2 or 3 batches. Cook scallops until they have a nice sear and are golden brown, 2-3 minutes on each side. To serve, divide caramelized onion among 4 plates. Top with 3 scallops each. Spoon a tablespoon of mint topping over each scallop.

Servings: 4 Per serving: 143 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 15 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein, 250 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.

Chef Art Smith, author of "How America's Favorite Celebrity Chef Got It Together, Lost Weight, and Reclaimed His Health!"

And here's some advice from The Washington Post about using herbs:

Thyme

Because of its sweet and savory characteristics, thyme is my go-to herb. It's rounded and balanced, which means it can work in any dish: orange vegetables, meats, sauces, beans and even desserts. It pairs especially well with garlic, mushrooms, squash and onion. Its sweetness makes it a good infuser for alcohol and for homemade bitters.

It makes the best vinaigrette for Greek salad (see accompanying recipe).

Use lots of thyme in a tomato sauce instead of basil or oregano.

Stir it into scrambled eggs and chili.

Add 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves during cooking for every pound of black beans or pinto beans.

Flavor batches of white sauce, whole-grain mustard with lots of chopped fresh leaves.

Toss a handful of lemon thyme (on the stem) into any fruit salad; macerate, then remove the stems before serving. I use lemon thyme in a spice cake (cake and frosting; see accompanying recipe).

Tip: It takes time to harvest those tiny leaves from their thin stems. Hold the top of the stem, about a half-inch down; gently pinch your thumb and forefinger together and zip down the stem. It's easier to get the leaves off after the thyme stems have air-dried for a day or two.

By Susan Belsinger, an herb expert for more than 40 years who published her first article on herbs in Gourmet in 1980

Mint

Of all the varieties, I like chocolate mint the best. It has a dark note to it and seems less minty. The most delicately scented and flavored leaves are the three or four tender ones at the top of the plant. I like the taste of mint and basil together; at the restaurant, we use the combination in a shaved asparagus salad with a licorice vinaigrette.

Make mint tea: Tear up a big bunch of leaves and throw them into a large Mason jar filled with water. Let it sit in a full day's sun.

Tip: Don't chop it up too much. Use a sharp knife so it doesn't get all black.

By Tucker Yoder, executive chef of the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville, Va.

Chives

They are part of a classic fines herbes blend that can include parsley, chervil, thyme and tarragon. I like them paired with tarragon best. Chive blossoms can come on strong, so discard the purple petals and stir the remaining head of the blossom into risottos or cold soups such as vichyssoise.

Use a sharp knife or kitchen scissors to chop chives, as opposed to slicing them. You will be cutting across lengthy fibers, and the cleaner cut will keep them from becoming slimy.

Pasta doughs, bread doughs and quiches can take a lot of chives -- I'd say a big handful if you're making fresh pasta for four people.

Blend them into panko crumbs to use as a coating for fish.

Fold them into ricotta cheese; stir them into risottos or cold soups such as vichyssoise.

Cover a bunch of finely chopped chives with just enough oil to coat, and cover them. Refrigerate for several weeks.

Make a salsa verde with finely chopped parsley, capers, green olives and/or cornichons. The pickled components provide acid but won't discolor the chives, as vinegar would.

Tip: When you pick the chives, you have to assess their moisture content in order to store them properly in the refrigerator. If they seem dry, wrap them in a damp paper towel. If they are wet, put them in dry paper toweling.

By Aliza Green, a Philadelphia chef and author of several cookbooks as well as "Field Guide to Herbs and Spices" (Quirk, 2006)

Marjoram

It's true that marjoram is subtler than regular oregano. I find it to be elegant, floral and lemony. It loses something when it's dried.

Use lots of chopped fresh marjoram when slow-roasting tomatoes (at 275 degrees, with garlic, olive oil and salt). They can become a sauce, or you can use them as a sandwich component.

Make a citronette dressing for fish: lemon juice and zest, olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, roasted garlic, capers and/or anchovies and plenty of chopped marjoram.

Tip: Lemon and olive oil are complementary flavors.

By Michael Costa, executive chef at Zaytinya in D.C..

Chervil

It's a fragrant and light version of parsley. I appreciate its subtlety; it needs to be treated with a soft hand. Keep it in the warmest place in your refrigerator, wrapped in lightly dampened paper towels.

Use lots of chervil to garnish salads, along with chopped parsley and chive.

Fold it into a compound butter, but make sure the chervil doesn't get overwhelmed. Try a mixture of about 2 ounces of the herb with a generous amount of shallot, salt and a few drops of lemon juice to help bring the flavor through the fat.

Make it the base of a salsa verde, or create a green oil by processing a bunch of chervil to a paste and adding it to oil. Leave in the pulp or strain it out.

Puree it with spinach for a side dish.

Sprinkle it into a beurre blanc.

Tip: Chervil is all about the finish. Don't put it in a cooked dish early.

Jeff Black, chef-restaurateur of the Black Restaurant Group.

Cilantro

It's so fresh and clean-tasting. You just have to be careful with it, so it doesn't overpower anything. Tear the leaves, or use a mortar and pestle to bruise them to release their oils. Even people who have problems with the taste of cilantro like a cilantro pesto when it's made with almonds instead of pine nuts.

We used lots of cilantro at Poste, in sweet corn soup; with smoked salmon; and with a saute of lobster mushrooms in the summertime.

To flavor vinegar, wrap 1/2 cup of the dried seeds or 2 bunches of fresh cilantro (28 to 36 stems total) in a cheesecloth sachet, then sink it in 4 cups of apple cider vinegar. Seal in a jar and let it sit in a cool, dark place for a month or two.

Chop up cilantro and add to a black bean and corn salad; it's classic and delicious.

Steam a bunch with mussels, chilies, garlic and lime.

Tip: Use the stems as well as the leaves whenever you have a recipe that calls for cilantro. They have great flavor.

Chef Rob Weland.

Sage

The herb has a great mineralistic, almost briny quality; it's not sweet like chervil. Sage is also fat-soluble, so we like to use lots of it when we confit turkey. We cure the turkey thighs in salt, sugar and spices for a day, then submerge the thighs in a mixture of duck and chicken fat and tons of sage leaves. Cover and cook in a low-temperature oven for hours till really tender.

That mineral quality pairs well with the taste of active, lean poultry -- not lazy chickens!

Same goes for shellfish, flavorwise. Try sage with oysters and clams and mussels; it complements their brininess. Not long ago at my house, I tossed a bunch of sage in a pot with mussels, a lot of onions, some duck fat and beer; use any kind of beer you have on hand. Steam them, then add butter to finish.

Infuse homemade kombucha with sage leaves and raw turnip juice. You'll be surprised at how sweet it can be after a week or 10 days. After that, the sage lends more of an earthy note as the kombucha gets fizzier. Sage marries well with the flavor of gunpowder tea kombucha.

Tip: Sage flowers are purply-blue and sweet; not like the flavor of the leaves. Use them in salads.

Tarver King, executive chef at the Ashby Inn in Paris, Va.

Rosemary

Theories abound regarding food and wine pairing, but none has ever held more weight to me than the idea of pairing like to like, molecules to molecules, an approach propounded by sommelier and author Francois Chartier. Finding those pairings that sing means searching out combinations that share similar aromatic compounds.

With rosemary, I head straight to fino sherry, a dry fortified wine. They both share floral terpenic compounds that give them strong aroma and resonance.

So, when you have excess rosemary, simply add it to good olive oil. Heat them up together for a few minutes, and, after cooling, transfer the oil to a glass bottle. I always add a sprig of rosemary to the bottle as well. It's decorative. Drizzle the rosemary-infused oil over goat cheese or cured ham and pour yourself a chilly glass of fino sherry. You'll see.

Tip: Its leaves become more resinous, piney and tough in the summer, so use fewer of them, and chop them finely.

Derek Brown, mixologist and co-owner of three bars in D.C., including the new Mockingbird Hill.

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