Welcome to Tumbleweed Tidings! Even though we are in the midst of summer, today is rainy and dark…very unusual for the Eastern Washington area this time of year. So, I decided to run with it and make a pot of chili and a pan of cornbread. The smells are making me feel like fall isn’t too far away!
But today’s post isn’t about fall, it’s about summer herbs, so let’s dive in. For me, one of the great pleasures of summer are the fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. For the past few summers, our herb garden has resided in two built in planters that flank the steps leading from our patio to the pool. The convenience of having them close to the kitchen has been a real game changer. Today, I’m sharing a few ways I have been incorporating herbs into our daily meals.
For the first use of herbs, I focused on the dill weed to make quick dill pickles. Starting with a recipe by Rachael Ray found on Foodnetwork.com and modified it to suit our taste. The recipe I started with is here: Quick Pickles Recipe | Rachael Ray | Food Network. In just a few minutes, using mainly ingredients found in our pantry, I was able to create dill pickles that tasted amazing in a jiffy!
The one ingredient that I didn’t have were the petit cucumbers that were being sold at Costco. Seeing them in the produce refrigerated section was the inspiration to use the dill in this way. Other than the cucumbers, you will need white vinegar, pickling spice mix, salt, sugar, a bay leaf and dill. The original recipe called for fresh garlic, but I substituted a small amount of garlic powder. You warm the mixture in a saucepan on the stove and meanwhile slice the cucumbers and chop the dill. I sliced the cucumbers on a diagonal to maximize the surface area. Let set for a little while and they are ready to serve or store in the refrigerator.
For the next herb recipe, I made packages of herb butter. Herbed or flavored butters sound fancy, but they couldn’t be simpler! First, I cut a variety of herbs from the herb garden…basil, dill, parsley, and even threw in a little mint. Soften a stick of butter, and once softened, add chopped herbs, a sprinkle of both season salt and garlic powder, and mix well. Lay the butter/herb mixture on a piece of plastic wrap and roll it up like a tootsie roll, twisting the ends. You can use it right away on French bread, on vegetables, or refrigerate where it will harden for later use.
I keep mine in the refrigerator and slice off discs to use throughout the week on various meals. The herb butter is delicious on steak, fresh off of the barbecue. Just place a disc on top of the steak and wait for the herby butter to coat the steak. You can also use the herb butter on salmon, freshly cooked pasta, or bread before you put it under the broiler. As summer comes to an end, making several herb butter logs and freezing them will ensure you will have that fresh herb flavor available all year long!
Other than the above ideas, I have recently used herbs in almost every dish I make. Sprigs of rosemary, placed on top of pork loin or roast infuses the dish with its distinctive flavor, and makes the house smell great at the same time. Using the mint to infuse simple syrup is a wonderful addition to iced tea, making it even more refreshing. Basil and parsley really brighten spaghetti and shepherd’s pie. Fresh dill and parsley elevate baked fish, and fresh chopped herbs make potato and pasta salads extra special. Recently, I used chopped herbs in a panko/butter crumb topping for a pasta casserole dish, and it really made a difference. Using fresh herbs is habit forming, and your meals will be the better for using them, I promise.
If you aren’t growing your own fresh herbs, I would encourage you to look for an area where you can carve out a small garden space or simply use some pots near your kitchen to hold an assortment of herbs. Our herb garden contains only five herbs; parsley, basil, rosemary, dill, and mint, and that is all you really need. Using fresh herbs will really up the flavor profiles of almost anything you make. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t grab my kitchen shears and head to the herb garden, knowing something magically flavorful is about to happen!