GreenChic / Jennifer Spaide
I love using fresh herbs. They add a bright flavor that nothing else matches. But I don't always need as much as I grow or purchase and I often find myself with bundles of herbs that end up in the garbage or compost because they've gone bad. What a waste. If you like the punch of fresh flavor that herbs add to your cooking, but are hesitant to get a big bunch when you only need a little, then check out these ideas to help make use of herbal overload.
Basil Pesto: Basil Pesto is simple to make and a great way to use up basil. To make up a big batch, toss 1-2 garlic cloves in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add 2 cups basil leaves, ¼ cup pine nuts, ½ cup parmesan cheese, ½ cup olive oil. Process until your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whatever you don't use right away can be easily frozen. This same recipe can be made with parsley or mint as well.
Parsley Chimichurri: Bring a little Latin flare to your next meal with chimichurri, a great accompaniment to grilled veggies, fish and meats during the summer. There are many variations of this sauce, which is used as marinade and condiment for meats. Here's a basic one: in a food processor, finely chop 1 cup parsley and 1 garlic clove. Add in 1/3 cup olive oil, 3 tbsp lemon juice, ½ tsp red pepper flakes and ½ tsp cumin. Pulse to combine then season with salt and pepper to taste. Make your own variation at home by adding in other herbs such as basil, thyme or oregano, or substituting smoked paprika for the cumin.
Moroccan Mint Tea: Moroccan style mint tea is a symbol of hospitality so brew up a batch for your next gathering. Simply bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Pour the water into a heat-resistant pitcher and add in 2 green tea bags; let steep for 2-3 minutes. Then add in 1 large bunch of mint (tie together with a string for easy removal) and ¼ cup agave nectar or raw sugar. Allow to steep for another 3-5 minutes before serving.
Herb-Infused Oils: Infuse oils with fresh herbs and spices for flavorful blends to have on hand, or give away as gifts. Gently warm fresh herbs and spices in oil over low heat to infuse flavor. Let cool then strain and pour the oil into a clean airtight jar. Try combinations such as rosemary and garlic or sage and citrus peel.
Herb Cubes: Puree excess herbs with enough water, chicken or vegetable stock to make a loose paste, then pour into ice cube trays and freeze. The frozen herb cubes can be kept in plastic bags in the freezer and used throughout the fall and winter to add fresh herb flavor to soups, stews, sauces and even pasta dishes.
Drying: Drying herbs at home is easy and is a cheap alternative to buying dried herbs at the store. All you need to do is wash your herbs, dry them thoroughly and then spread them out on a cookie sheet. Place in an oven, set to the lowest possible temperature, and leave until dry. Remove, let cool, and crumble into bags or jars.
And if none of these ideas work for you, then simply bundle up your extra herbs, toss them into a little basket or decorative cup and share them with a neighbor or friend. Who wouldn't love that?
Jennifer Spaide received her master's degree in human nutrition from Columbia University. She is a mom, personal chef and freelance writer residing in New Canaan. As founder of GreenChic, Jennifer is dedicated to inspiring individuals to get fresh in the kitchen and eat their way to a healthy life. You can contact Jennifer at 203-247-2002 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.thegreenchiclife.com to learn more.