One of the easiest, most satisfying ways to use fresh herbs is to simply throw handfuls into your salads. We've become quite interested in Vietnamese cooking and fresh herbs are a major component of their salads - and we're not talking about a few leaves for a polite garnish, either! Mint, parsley, basil, lemon balm - any of these and more can be thinly sliced and added to salads. Salad burnet, thyme, tarragon and sorrel make great additions, also.
And speaking of sorrel....
Sorrel is a perennial dark green leafy vegetable and ready long before anything else (except asparagus) from the garden. It is very lemony in flavor and can be "a bit much" by itself. The flavor is best during the spring and fall - when temps are cooler. You can cook it mixed with milder greens like spinach or Swiss chard or add it, finely chopped, to a salad.
Cream of sorrel soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups sorrel leaves, chopped
2 quarts chicken stock
2 Tbsp. flour stirred into 2 Tbsp. water
1 cup half and half OR a can of evaporated milk
1/8 tsp. nutmeg (always a good addition to anything with milk or cream)
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened. Add sorrel, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, or until well wilted. Add stock and flour slurry. Simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until thickened. Add cream and nutmeg, heat through, do NOT boil once the cream is added! Season to taste.
Puree the mixture before adding the cream.
Add some white wine in place of part of the chicken stock.
Add garlic to the onions when sautéing them.
Need a quick dish for supper?
You can use whatever you like for the herbs in this dish -
lemon balm or basil are great places to start.
Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in a skillet. Chop 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and put it in the pan. Then chop up 1/4 cup herb of your choice and add it to your pan. Turn on the heat between low and medium heat and cook it just long enough to wilt what ever herb you've added. Pour it over cooked pasta, toss it a little, sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese and enjoy.
Herbs on the grill
Herbs are an easy way to impart the flavor onto whatever you’re grilling. Gather a few fresh sprigs of aromatic herbs like sage, rosemary, bay leaves, oregano, marjoram and thyme, cut about six inches long. (Leafy herbs like parsley and basil are not suitable for this purpose, as they burn too quickly.) Tie the herbs together with some kitchen twine, and soak them in water for a few minutes to keep the herbs and twine from burning too quickly. Simply place the food along with the herbs on the grill, and close the lid. Be sure to place the herbs away from direct heat so they don’t burn too quickly. You want them to slowly burn, imparting their flavor to the grilling food. For a real treat, try a bouquet of fresh lavender blooms the next time you grill a pork tenderloin.
Don't forget dessert!
Grilled Pears with Cinnamon Basil
This is a delightful way to finish a grilled dinner on a warm summer evening. The beautiful pear halves are slowly cooking on the grill, teasing the neighbors with the wonderful fragrance of the marinade. While fresh herbs are usually utilized for their savory flavors, the taste of cinnamon basil lends a sweet, exotic taste to a marinade of brandy, butter and cinnamon.
2 Bosc pears, or other firm pears
1/4 cup each: butter, brandy and brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon basil, chopped
Cut the pears in half lengthwise, spoon out the core.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then add the brandy and brown sugar. Simmer for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Remove from heat and add the cinnamon basil, stirring for a few seconds.
Over medium heat, grill the pears for about 4 minutes each side, basting with the cinnamon basil marinade. Pour remaining marinade over pears. Serves 4.
And a few quick suggestions:
- Add fresh chopped chive, cooked, crumbled bacon and diced cherry tomatoes to cottage cheese.
- Place a few sprigs of rosemary in some warmed olive oil and let steep for several hours. Remove the rosemary and pour the olive oil into a shallow dish, Add black pepper, if you wish. Dip crusty bread in the olive oil and feast!
- Make Italian seasoning by mixing oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, basil, garlic together
- Or make Herbes De Provence by combining thyme, rosemary, winter savory, tarragon, lavender and basil.
For other uses for herbs, see our
Herbal Teas, Herbal Vinegar, Pesto and Preserving Herbs pages.