Posted on April 30, 2011 - by Jenny Holm
Whether in your garden, at the farmer’s market, or at the grocery store, herbs are everywhere come May, their glistening leaves and fresh scents as tantalizing as cool water on a hot day. I eagerly stock up on fragrant bunches of cilantro, parsley, mint, and dill, dreaming of all the springtime dishes I’ll make. I throw a handful here, a sprinkle there, but can’t seem to make it through a full bunch of anything before the leaves have wilted in my fridge, their once-lush greenery faded and sad.
This year, I’ve come up with a plan to make sure this doesn’t happen again. You can, too: instead of thinking of herbs as just a garnish, let them take center stage in dishes that capitalize on their punchy flavors and springtime abundance.
Russian “green borscht” contains no beets and instead takes its color from copious amounts of sorrel, parsley, and dill. It’s a light yet filling spring meal in itself.
Finely chop generous handfuls of parsley and mint and mix them with bulgur wheat or couscous, ripe tomatoes, green onions, olive oil, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice to make a cool and refreshing tabbouleh salad.
Basil, parsley and Dijon mustard make a snappy accompaniment to grilled tofu and mushrooms. The flavor pairing works equally well with shrimp.
Herbs are a natural fit in all sorts of spreads and sauces. A traditional basil pesto can be spread on homemade pizzas, folded into Sunday morning omelettes, or stirred into pasta with fresh peas and fava beans. But pesto needn’t be limited to basil: try parsley-almond or lemon-dill for a change.
Gremolata is a Italian minced herb condiment that enlivens everything from red meat to grilled fish and sautéed vegetables. For this cilantro and mint gremolata, just toss the herbs together in a bowl with garlic, lemon zest, olive oil, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper. Scatter over pan roasted zucchini and drizzle with lemon juice to serve.
There’s even room for herbs on your dessert plate! If you’ve got an ice cream maker, experiment with herbal flavors like honey lavender or ginger chamomile. If not, try crushed ice granitas in unexpected flavors like grapefruit-mint and blood orange-tarragon. Once the strawberry season starts, toss strawberry slices with sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar, then scatter with chopped basil for a classy meal-closer.
Let the proliferation of herbs outside and inside your kitchen serve as a challenge to expand your culinary and gastronomic horizons. Bon appetit!
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