Growing herbs in the summertime is so rewarding. There is nothing better than being able to walk into my backyard and clip some fresh herbs for a dish that I am preparing. The smell, the look and the taste is just glorious!
Herbs, especially tender ones, need to be handled with care. Follow the tips below to keep them bright, fresh and fragrant.
Washing Wash herbs in a large bowl of cool water, swishing them with your fingers to release grit. Lift the herbs from the water with your hands. If there’s a lot of grit left behind in the bottom of the bowl, wash the herbs again in fresh water. Spin them dry in a salad spinner or blot them dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Storing Wrap the washed and dried herbs loosely in a damp paper towel and refrigerate in a heavy duty zip lock storage bag( or plastic container) left slightly open for air to circulate. Most herbs will last up to a week in the fridge, longer for hardy herbs like thyme and rosemary. Basil is best stored at cool room temperature, with its stems submerged in a glass of water.
Chopping Chop herbs using a very sharp knife, a dull one can cause bruising. After stripping the leaves from the stems, gather the herbs in a pile on a cutting board. Rest the fingertips of your guiding hand on the tip of the chef’s knife to keep it in contact with the cutting board. Keeping the tip against the board, lift and lower the knife to chop through the herbs, pivoting the blade across the pile s you chop and stopping to gather the herbs back into a pile as needed.
Ideas for Extending the Flavor of the Fresh Herbs Well Past the Season
Flavored butters Mash chopped herbs (chives, parsley and thyme for example) plys salt and pepper into a stick of softened unsalted butter. Brap the butter well in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. Melt over potatoes or just about any grilled fare. For a Thai-inspired hefrb butter, combine 4 oz. of unsalted butter with 1/4 cup each of Thai basil, cilantro, mint, the finely grated zest from 1/2 lime, 1 tsp. finely grated fresh finger and salt and pepper to taste.
Simple syrup Bring 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, and 1./2 cup packed herbs to a rolling boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, let cool completely, strain, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Use the syrup to flavor iced tea, sorbet and cocktails. Mint is especially versatile, but rosemary and lavender can be more fun to play with.
Herb oil In a blender, puree 3/4 cup tender herb leaves and stems with 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 small cloves garlic, and 1-1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice. Brush on bruschetta, drizzle over grilled fish, or add to vinaigrette. The oil will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
Herb vinegar Put herbs and other aromatics, such as garlic and spices, in a wide mouth jar. Heat white wine vinegar to 110º F and pour over the herbs. Let cool, then seal the jar and refrigerate. Decant after 1 week.. The vinegar will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a month. A combination of half dozen sprigs fresh dill, a pinch of dill seeds, 1 tbs. mustard seeds, and a garlic clove makes a delicious vinegar to splash on potatoes or grilled salmon.
Herb stock In a medium saucepan, saute 1 chopped celery stalk, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves chopped garlic in about 2 tsp. olive oil until tender. Add 2 cups of herb stems and leaves and 1 quart water. Simmer for 15 minutes, then strain. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months. Us to make risotto, to cook grains for grain salads, or in your favorite vegetable soup.
Fried herbs In a small bowl, combine 3 tbs. all purpose flour with a dizzle of olive oil and enough water to make a mixture the consistency of pancake batter. Dip sage leaves or clusters of curly parsley in the batter and fry in a small saucepan of hot oil until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Serve as a garnish for grilled meats and fish.