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In the Kitchen: Try these tips for using summer herbs
Herbs

Oh how I love using fresh herbs in my cooking — especially in the summer when I can go snip some fresh from my garden every day. 

Herbs are so easy to grow. Even if you haven’t planted any yet this summer, there is still plenty of time to have success growing herbs. Just pick a super sunny spot — whether on your deck or patio, or a sunny spot in your yard. 

Use some good soil and keep them watered, and you will be rewarded with a lot of herbs all summer long. Actually, since we live where we do, you will likely have most herbs long into the fall. Here are some “herby” recipes to highlight your summer herb crops.

 I absolutely love pesto. Most traditional recipes call for pine nuts — but I don’t know about you, but at $30 a pound, I am on a bit of a pine nut boycott. Instead, opt for walnuts or almonds, or even sunflower seeds. 

I like to toast them a bit which just increases their nutty flavor. Did you know you can freeze pesto? I love to freeze it in ice cube trays and then once frozen, pop the pesto cubes out and into a freezer zipper baggie. Use the pesto cubes in pasta dishes and soups to enhance their flavor.

 

Walnut and basil pesto

1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

2 cloves garlic

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

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Herby baked 

brie cheese

1 small wheel of brie

6 sprigs fresh rosemary

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

 

Freeze brie for 30 minutes before baking. In a small baking dish, add rosemary and thyme sprigs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Once brie has been in the freezer for 30 minutes, remove and place on top of the fresh herbs. Drizzle the olive oil on top of brie. Bake brie for 20 minutes. Serve with cracker, toasted baguette slices and fresh fruit.

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Grilled oregano chicken

10 anchovies, packed in olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ cups green olives, chopped (reserve ½ cup olive juice)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Juice from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves, minced

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or 8 bone-in chicken thighs, or a combination

 

Mash anchovies in a bowl. Whisk in garlic, green olives, olive juice, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, onion and fresh oregano. 

Place chicken in large baggie or in a bowl and pour marinade over all, making sure marinade covers the chicken. Refrigerate and marinate at least 8 hours and preferably overnight. Grill chicken over hot coals until cooked through, about 45 minutes.

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Caprese salad

2 tomatoes, sliced thick

1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced

1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely torn

3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

 

In a small saucepan, heat balsamic vinegar over medium-high heat and then simmer until reduced a bit, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. 

Place sliced tomatoes on a serving platter. Top each tomato with a slice of mozzarella, some fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and some of the reduced balsamic vinegar.

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If you love bread, and who doesn’t, you will love this herby olive oil for dipping. My favorite herby olive oil is made with a combination of fresh basil and rosemary leaves, but you can certainly experiment to find your favorite. 

I love to add a little fresh rosemary and crushed red pepper flakes, but if that sounds too pungent, feel free to leave them out. A little freshly grated parmesan truly takes the dipping oil to the next level. This is also yummy when tossed with some pasta.


Herby olive oil

1 cup olive oil

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

½ cup fresh basil leaves

1 clove garlic, finely minced (or put through a garlic press)

Pinch of salt

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Pinch of pepper

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

 

In a small sauce pan, heat olive oil, rosemary and basil leaves over medium heat, just until simmering. Remove from heat and allow to infuse for an hour or so. Strain and discard herbs. 

Sprinkle on salt, red pepper flakes, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. Serve with toasted baguette slices or toss with pasta. Also delicious when drizzled over sliced tomatoes, or steamed zucchini.

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Herby egg salad

8 hard-boiled eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 green onions, sliced

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped

2 tablespoons chives, minced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup mayonnaise

 

Chop eggs and combine all ingredients. Taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until cold.