Herbs are usually a last minute thought when cooking. Sometimes, I’ll stuff a whole roast chicken with rosemary and thyme, but usually, herbs wilt in my refrigerator. In the restaurant, where I cook, we use herbs everywhere. We pick them and toss them in salads. We chop them and make salsa verde and marinades for meats. We think of herbs like vegetables, a valuable family member.
Even though herbs may seem like a garnish, they can be treated like vegetables and given the center stage. Herbs contain lots of vitamins and beneficial properties. Both basil and parsley contain vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium. They are low calorie foods that pack in lots of flavor.
This week, I selected 2 recipes to share with you: the first, salsa verde, a basic green herb sauce, which is great with about anything: grilled chicken, steak, fish, pork chops, onions, summer squash, tomatoes, you name it; and the second, pesto, traditionally, a basil puree with cheese and nuts. These recipes are just templates, so experiment and come up with your own recipe, if you like. For example, use basil and parsley to make a pesto with almonds and asiago cheese. Pestos are of course great to serve with pasta, but also awesome with summer beans and squash and other summer veggies.
1 cup chopped herbs like parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon, thyme (do not use basil or mint because they turn brown when chopped)
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1 shallot, finely minced
Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Optional: 2 salt packed anchovy fillets
Optional: lemon juice or wine vinegar
Combine the chopped herbs, capers, shallots, and lemon zest with the oil and salt to taste. For a more savory salsa, add the anchovy (rinsed and chopped). For a sharper, more acidic version, add lemon juice or vinegar, but do so at the last minute or the acid will turn the color of the herbs from bright to dull green.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
From “Chez Panisse Vegetables” by Alice Waters
3 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons lightly toasted and chopped pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly ground parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Drop Basil into a pot of boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds. Immediately drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and set the bright green color. Drain basil and squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop the basil coarsely and place in food processor or blender, and add the garlic, nuts, and olive oil. Puree until smooth. (I like to add the oil after the other ingredients and stream it in slowly.)
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. (Leave the cheese out if you freeze it.)
Green Herbs: Substitute parsley, cilantro, arugula, spinach, watercress or scallon tops for the basil or a combination of many.
Nuts: Substitute walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, pepitas or peanuts for the pine nuts.
Oils: Substitute flavored oils for the olive oil, such as lemon or orange, or nut oils.
Cheese: Substitute any dry grating cheese for parmesan.
From “Cooking One on One” by John Ash