There’s nothing better than finishing a dish with fresh herbs, whether it’s a sprinkle of parsley, a chiffonade of basil or a snip of chives. And we all know that fresh herbs smell amazing, add an unmatched depth of flavor to recipes, and – best of all – are healthy and even healing. Herbs: You have to love them.
Most herbs – even those that used to be considered exotic – are now readily available at major supermarkets; at any given time, I have several packets in my fridge. But lately, I’ve discovered that growing my own herb garden at home, with herbs that I’ve picked up from my local farmer’s market, is incredibly easy and rewarding. All it takes is a little research and a little effort.
Sunlight and water are crucial to growing herbs successfully, of course. Make sure they get at least six hours of sunlight a day, and keep them in a temperate (read: mildly cool to warm) climate. A certain amount of humidity is good for herbs, so the kitchen or even the bathroom is a great place to keep them. Don’t ever overwater your herbs or they’ll drown; keep the soil moist and make sure there’s plenty of drainage in whatever planter you choose to grow your herbs in (clay is best). If your herbs become infested with insects, give them a soapy bath. And finally, harvest your plants often – even daily – so it will grow back abundantly.
If you have an overabundance of herbs on your hands, you can dry them by heating them in the microwave for a couple of minutes and rub them together so they crumble between your fingers, creating your own dried herb. Alternatively – and this is one of my favorite herb storage methods – you can chop your herbs, coat them in olive oil and then freeze them in ice cube trays. Just pop the whole cube into whatever recipe you’re making as needed.
So that’s a little Herbs 101 for you – below are three of my favorite herb-centric recipes for you to try, as well. And tell me: What’s your favorite way to use herbs?
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup loosely packed fresh arugula
½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ tsp. grated lemon peel
2 Tbsp. lukewarm water
Place ½ cup oil and basil, arugula, cheese, pine nuts, garlic and lemon peel in a food processor. Process to thick paste. With motor running, add remaining ¼ cup oil and 2 Tbsp. water to processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chive Tartine with Smoked Salmon
1 cup 1-inch pieces fresh chives
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 Tbsp. crumbled soft fresh goat cheese
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
20 ¾-inch-thick diagonal slices French baguette
6 oz. thinly sliced smoke salmon
Additional chopped fresh chives
Puree 1 cup chives and oil in blender for two minutes. Pour into fine sieve set over medium bowl. Let drain 1 hour (do not press on solids). Discard solids.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix goat cheese and shallot in a small bowl; season to taste with pepper. Place bread slices on a large baking sheet. Brush both sides of bread lightly with chive oil. Spread each slice with 1 ½ teaspoons cheese mixture.
Bake until light golden, about five minutes. Transfer to platter. Drape one salmon slice over each piece of bread. Sprinkle with additional chopped chives.
Thyme Garlic Butter
1 garlic clove
½ tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. grated fresh lemon zest
¼ tsp. black pepper
Mince garlic and mash to a paste with salt using a heavy knife. Transfer to a food processor along with remaining ingredients and blend.
Roll into a 6-inch log in a sheet of plastic wrap, twisting ends closed. Chill covered, at least 2 hours for flavors to develop. Bring to room temperature before using.