Beyond the Blender: Try These 3 New Ways to Cook with Summer Herbs
Amp up your summer cooking with these bold new ways to use fresh herbs, from steeping to sealing.
If making pesto is your go-to move for tackling a bounty of herbs, it’s time to think beyond the blender. Why not press and seal them in between sheets of pasta dough? Or steam them down into a savory jam to spread over crostini? Or steep them with sweet cream and swirl into melted chocolate for a hypnotic semifreddo? Take your finger off the puree button—let’s teach your favorite herbs some new tricks.
Press & Seal
Like pressing a flower between the pages of a book, sealing whole, unbruised herb leaves in dough limits their exposure to oxidizing air, preserving their natural colors. The same versatile dough can be used to make Basil Ravioli, golden-crisp sheets of Carta di Musica—or both! Tender herbs like basil and dill are best for this sheer, delicate dough; tough, woody herbs like thyme and rosemary can cause it to tear.
Season & Sizzle
Tiny, salty, crispy cubes of fried potato accompany an herb-forward spiced pork mixture in Green Chorizo and Potato Tacos, which get their punchy flavor and verdant hue from a thick paste of charred green chiles, cilantro, and oregano. Mexican oregano is from the verbena family and has citrusy undertones; if you can’t find it, widely available Greek oregano is a perfectly delicious swap. See p. 99 for the recipe.
Steep & Swirl
Fistfuls of mint are steeped in the custard base of this Mint Stracciatella Semifreddo; a slow simmer releases the herb’s oils into the base without leeching any color. The key to extracting the most mint flavor is to bruise the mint beforehand; chopping herbs ruptures only the plant cells that the knife touches. Instead, bruise herbs with a rolling pin or a wooden spoon to rupture more of the cell walls and free the flavorful oils.
More Herb Know-How:
Unbind bunches of fresh, tender herbs; rinse and spin dry. Trim ¼ inch from the stems. Place herbs, stem side down, in a glass filled with 1 inch of water. Parsley, cilantro, mint, and dill can be refrigerated; leave basil on the counter to preserve its green hue.
Whether you have a big backyard, a couple of terra-cotta pots on your porch, or just a sunny kitchen counter, it’s easy to grow your own herbs. Tight on space? We love the slim profile of the Chef’n Self-Watering Herb Planter. ($30 at amazon.com)
Resist the urge to prep herb garnishes in advance—chopping herbs exposes their chlorophyll-filled cells to oxygen, hastening the inevitable browning. For the best results, chop herbs with a very sharp knife just before you’re ready to use them in a recipe.