A Guide To Herbs For Your Garden And Table
Now that it’s spring, Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst says herbs are a must-have for would-be gardeners and cooks. With host Robin Young, Kathy runs through some of her favorite herbs and shares a few recipes that showcase them:
Kathy’s Note: This simple egg frittata is flavored with all kinds of fresh herbs. You can add whatever you are growing or find at a farmers market. This frittata can be served hot, or at room temperature for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
2 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of EACH of the following herbs: parsley, dill, chives, and basil
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 thinly sliced scallions
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Whisk the eggs with the milk, salt, pepper, and herbs until frothy.
In an 8-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the scallions and cook 30 seconds. Add the egg mixture and cook for 2 minutes. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake until the frittata has risen and puffed slightly, is golden brown along the edges, and doesn’t appear wet or undercooked, about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and place a plate over the hot skillet. Flip the frittata out of the skillet and serve hot or at room temperature.
Herb, Radish And Fennel Salad
Kathy’s Note: This is a thoroughly refreshing summer salad. The variety of flavors and textures is so pleasing; the salad can be served on its own or with grilled meats, fish, or chicken. It’s crucial that the herbs be very fresh and thoroughly washed and dried.
Serves 2 to 4.
1/4 cup of EACH of the following herbs coarsely chopped or torn into small pieces with your hands: cilantro, basil, mint, fennel fronds, dill, washed and thoroughly dried
3/4 cup very thinly sliced fennel bulb
1 cup very thinly sliced radishes
Place the herbs, fennel and radishes in a salad bowl and gently toss. Add a few tablespoons of the herb vinaigrette and toss again.
Kathy’s Note: You can use any combination of herbs you like in this simple salad dressing, but make sure they are as fresh as possible. This vinaigrette can also be used as a marinade for chicken or shrimp. The vinaigrette will keep for several days and can easily be doubled.
1 tablespoon of EACH of the following herb coarsely chopped: tarragon, parsley, basil, dill and chives, washed and thoroughly dried
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar
About 1/4 cup olive oil
In a jar or a small bowl mix the herbs together. Mix in the mustard and the salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and vinegar and stir. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add more olive oil if needed. Makes about 1/2 cup.
Kathy Gunst’s Favorite Culinary Herbs
Basil: annual, aromatic, peppery, and sweet. There are many varieties of basil to experiment with (purple, sweet thai, cinnamon,and more) but keep in mind that basil needs lots of direct sunlight. Uses: pesto, tomato sauces, pizza, pasta dishes, salad dressings and more. Add whole or ripped leaves to summer salads.
Chives: perennial, subtle onion flavor. This is one of the first herbs to pop up through snow come spring. Chives have a delicate onion flavor and can sprinkled on finished dishes, salad dressings, sauces, sautés. Use in pestos and in marinades for summer grilling. Bonus: in early summer you will find gorgeous, edible lavender colored chive flowers on top of plants that can be sprinkled onto salads and more.
Cilantro: annual, but seeds (called coriander) form at end of season and will spread. Due to a genetic trait some people think cilantro tastes like soap. People either love or hate fresh cilantro. (I can’t get enough of it!) It’s really easy to grow, and can be used to season guacamole, tacos, salsa, Latin, Caribbean food, grilled foods, marinades, or sprinkle the leaves into salads.
Dill: annual but seeds spread. Dill has fennel-like, fresh vibrant flavor. Dill grows like a weed, thus it’s often called dill weed. Very popular in Scandinavian food, great with fish and grilled foods, adds fresh flavor to salad dressing, sprinkled on cucumbers. Towards the end of the growing season dill seeds flower on top of the plant and the greens, seeds and flower are great for pickling and flavoring pickled foods.
Fennel is different than fennel bulb: it looks like a willowy dill plant and grows wild throughout the West. The fronds tastes vaguely of dill and licorice. It’s delicious with grilled fish and seafood, or chopped and added to mayonnaise or aioli with lemon juice and zest.
Lemongrass: these tall stalks have a vibrant lemon flavor. It can be chopped and used to infuse lemon flavor in oils, vinegars, sauces, curries, and marinades. Because the stalks are tough and fibrous lemongrass needs to be chopped and strained after using.
Lemon Balm: lemony and minty, lemon balm is delicious in fruit salads, to flavor ice cubes, vinaigrettes, marinades, or can be added to salads, and anywhere you want a fresh, bright lemon flavor.
Mint: There are literally 100’s of varieties— spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, and more. Mint spreads like a weed so be careful where you plant it. It will take over your garden if not contained. Think about planting it in its own patch or pot. I like it plant it near a path or edge of the lawn so it spreads and when I mow the lawn the gorgeous scent of mint spreads through the air. Use in salads, ice tea, fruit salad, yogurt sauces, marinades, pestos and more.
Oregano: also called wild marjoram, oregano has a pungent, slightly lemon like flavor. It’s a classic herb in pizza and tomato sauce and many Italian favorites. It’s best harvested before flowers appear.
Parsley has a light grassy-green, fresh flavor. For centuries it has been used as a breath freshener. Many just consider parsley a garnish but it is so much more. Use flat leaf or curly parsley as the base of your salad, in Middle Eastern salads, in sauces, salad dressings, marinades, and in the herb salad above. Of course it adds a great fresh flavor sprinkled on top of food as well.
Rosemary: perennial, has a sagey, peppery, woodsy autumnal, earthy flavor. Strip the feathery green leaves from the woody stems. You can use rosemary leaves and stems on the grill as a bed for meat or fish so the food becomes infused with its flavor. I love to throw a bunch of rosemary on the grill when grilling leg of lamb or lamb chops or whole fish. It grows like a weed on the West coast; you’ll often see it on the side of highways. Look for the gorgeous, edible purple flowers in season and use them in salads and dressings and sauce.
Sage: perennial with a musky flavor and gray-green leaves. Classically paired with pork, it’s also delicious in pestos, sauces and marinades. Try heating 1/2 inch olive oil in a small skillet and frying whole sage leaves for about 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels and season with sea salt.
Tarragon: has a lemony flavor with basil undertones. It’s a classic herb in many French dishes, like Béarnaise sauce. It adds a delicate flavor to vinaigrettes, fish dishes, salads, and marinades for fish.
Thyme, perennial with a minty lemony flavor. Thyme is one of my favorite herbs. Strip the leaves off the stems by pulling down. Thyme can be dried easily and added to most everything. Thyme is a ground hugger and looks great along the edges of pots and herb gardens.
- Kathy Gunst, resident chef for Here & Now and author of “Notes from a Maine Kitchen” and the video series “Simple Soups from Scratch.” She tweets @mainecook and is on Instagram @kathygunst.
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