Summer Is Fresh Herb Season
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Whether you have an herb garden or purchase at local markets, fresh herbs are essential for your summer culinary toolbox. A little herbal know-how will take your culinary skills to a new level, enabling you to transform plain dishes into extraordinary ones.
Herbs are physically, biochemically and nutritionally quite similar to leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale. They are rich in vitamins A and C and some phytochemicals, which have been shown to protect cells from disease.
If you have a recipe that calls for dried herbs, use three times the amount of fresh. When getting ready to chop, you can include some of the tender stems with delicate herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, and basil. But with sturdy stemmed herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and oregano, remove the leaves by running your thumb and index finger down the opposite direction the leaves have grown.
To chop, bunch the leaves on a cutting board and then use a sharp chef’s knife to not bruise the leaves, rocking back and forth.
Basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, mint and parsley should be added the last minute or two of cooking or sprinkled on food just before serving. Oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme may be added the last 20 minutes or so of cooking.
Herb-rich Chimichurri is originally from Argentinian and Uruguayan cuisines. I like to use it as a marinade for potatoes and vegetables for kabobs before grilling and serve it as a condiment at the table. It is delicious on grilled meat.
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ cup finely chopped parsley
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped red chili
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped oregano
- 1 level teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Allow to sit at least 5-10 minutes.
This recipe embellishes tomatoes and day-old or toasted bread cubes with an herb-infused vinaigrette. Great way to use day-old bread!
Tomato-Herb Bread Salad
- 3 cups sturdy Italian-style bread such as ciabatta or rustic sourdough, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
- About 1-pound ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 green onions or similar amount of chives, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves, or mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes, or until crisp but not browned. Let cool and toss with ½ tablespoon of basil or mint, ½ teaspoon oregano, and 1 teaspoon parsley.
- Use the bowl to mix ¼ cup oil, vinegar, the other half of herbs, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and green onions. Let stand for flavors to develop, about 10 minutes, then add bread and toss well.
Margie Mansure is an extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. As a registered dietitian/nutritionist chef, she offers nutrition and cooking classes to community members. email@example.com