It happens most every time I buy a bunch of herbs. I use one tablespoon for a recipe and then the rest is placed in my vegetable bin only to find itself being pushed further and further back until, one day, I notice a not so pleasant odor and discover a slimy, dark mass and wonder how long it’s been there. Sound familiar? Here are my 10 tips for using those herbs so they won’t end up in your compost bin.
It sounds super fancy but it’s really just butter with add-ins. Take a stick of softened butter and add herbs. Re-form using plastic wrap or parchment. Place in refrigerator to harden if you plan to use soon, in the freezer if not. Once firm it can be sliced and added to many dishes or placed on top of a steak, think blue cheese and shallot butter. Having a log of garlic and Italian parsley butter to slather on bread for garlic bread is a last minute wonder, or try one of my favorites. Start with one stick of unsalted butter, add one heaping tablespoon of chopped dill, one heaping tablespoon of minced shallot, a teaspoon of lemon zest, an 1/8 of a teaspoon kosher salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Pulse in a small food processor or mix by hand.
Simply take your herbs, gather at the base of the stems and tie together with string, twine or rafia. Turn upside down and hang away from direct sun in a well-ventilated area. I’ve hung mine from cabinet knobs, cork board, rope and, as you can see below, from a laundry drying rack. Drying time depends on the herb. Once dry, pick off the leaves and grind in a spice grinder or a well-cleaned coffee grinder. Store in air-tight containers. Label and use for up to one year. Have a lot of herbs? Mix together, decant into mason jars and label. Makes a nice gift.
There are a million recipes online and in cookbooks. I use a James Beard recipe, it’s simple and easy to make. The recipe will be in my next post along with a tomato dish to die for.
It’s a shame to throw away stems from a bunch of beautiful cilantro or Italian parsley. But what to do? If you are using parsley stems chop them up and add lemon juice, minced garlic and olive oil. Have an open bottle of white wine? Add some of that too. A big pinch of salt to finish then pour into a ziplock bag and add chicken breasts. Place in the refrigerator for 4 hours, I prefer skin-on/bone-in for maximum flavor.
If you are using cilantro stems, start by adding garlic, sliced jalepeno, lime juice, neutral flavor oil (I like avocado oil), a bit of tequila and a large pinch of salt. This is a wonderful marinade for fish, which only needs about a half hour as the lime juice will start to cook the fish and end up tasting gummy.
Both marinades can be made in a blender.
Yep, that’s right you can freeze herbs. This post has 8 Tips for Freezing Herbs in Oil.
Herbed Cream Cheese
The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to herbed cream cheese. I start with an 8oz package of softened full-fat cream cheese. I never measure my add-ins, it’s purely just to my taste.
Tip: you can always add more, not take away, so start with a little taste then adjust.
Add all ingredients to a mixer or mix by hand in a bowl. I do not add salt as I usually use this spread for bagels with all the fixings including capers which have a salty taste and I offer a pepper mill for people to use what they like.
Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
Garlic & Chives: Using a softened 8 ounce package of cream cheese, add one garlic clove that you have minced using a microplane. Mince up some chives, I used about 2 tablespoons, blend in a mini food processor or by hand.
Sun-dried Tomato & Basil: In my last post I talked about sun-dried tomatoes and how to make them. I used ones that I made and put in olive oil. I drained about 5-7 tomatoes added about 5-7 large roughly chopped basil leaves and processed.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper: I LOVE pimento cheese, so I thought why not use some of the same ingredients to make a tasty bagel spread. Using an 8 ounce block of cream cheese I added one and a half roasted red bell peppers, a 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, a 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and a few shakes of worcestershire sauce.
Give your cocktails a lift! Combine equal parts sugar (1/4 cup measured in a dry measuring cup) and water (1/4 cup measured in a glass measuring cup) in a sauce pan add one of the following herbs (I just throw in a few sprigs). My favorites are mint, rosemary, lemon verbena, and basil. Place in a sauce pan and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Let sit until cool. Remove the herb stems and leaves and pour into a glass jar. If you use rosemary, this is one of my all-time favorite cocktails. Mint or lemon verbena simple syrup added to iced tea is a welcome addition.
It’s so 90’s! I have visions, I cringe when I think of it, of those expensive red wax topped or twine wound bottles of vinegar decorating countertops, too pretty to use.
For this you’ll need to purchase white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar rather than distilled, and tarragon as my herb of choice. Making infused vinegar is considerably less expensive than buying at your local gourmet grocery store.
I use this recipe, it makes 2 one-pint bottles. At my local market tarragon vinegar sells from $7.50 (25.5 fl.oz) for low-end and $11.30 (6.8 fl.oz) high-end. It also make a nice gift.
The Argentines call is chimicurri, the French sauce verte, the Germans Grüne Sobe, the Italians salsa verde. My favorite is chimicurri. The taste is bright, fresh and herbaceous. I use this recipe (I add a 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro). It’s a natural complement to steak, I especially like it on skirt or flank steak. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers make a sandwich. Cut open a soft roll, slather the chimicurri sauce on one side. I like mayonnaise on the other side. Then layer steak, red onion and arugula-delicious!
In a Bowl
My friend Julie gave me this idea. It’s brilliant and one of those “why didn’t I think of that” ideas. Place chopped herbs, whatever you have on-hand, in a small bowl and set on the dinner table. It could be just one herb or a combination of whatever you like. Adding a pinch of freshly chopped herbs to your dinner will certainly add a welcome punch.