How do I like to use fresh herbs? In as much of my food as possible! Fresh herbs’ punches of flavor can transform good food into the great category. And a fabulous perk for our CSA members is access to our Pick Your Own (PYO) herb garden, where we grow chives, lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon verbena, several types of mint, oregano, parsley, stevia, several types of sage, and thyme. We also include already-picked herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, and parsley in our CSA shares when these herbs are in season. And non-CSA members can buy herbs in our farm stand. So much herby goodness!
Here are 5 simple ways you can use fresh herbs in your cooking:
1. Freeze in ice cubes for refreshing summer drinks.
Simply fill your ice cube tray with water, then add small or halved leaves from your favorite herbs. I think this works particularly well with mint and lemon verbena. As the ice cubes melt, they infuse your water with flavor. You can also add small pieces of fruit (like these teeny Indiana grown strawberries pictured below).
2. Make Allison Roman’s Perfect Herby Salad
I discovered this brilliant salad when perusing Allison Roman’s cookbook Nothing Fancy, and I could not believe the way simple herbs–rather than meat, eggs, or dressing–improved my salad experience.
For a salad for 4-6 people, Roman recommends using 6-8 cups of mixed greens from the farmer’s market (boom–hello CSA share or our farm stand!) and A LOT of fresh herbs, both the tender leaves and stems. She says the ratio should be almost 50/50. My salads have been more in the 75% greens/25% herbs area and still delicious. Instead of dressing, she recommends squeezing half a lemon over the greens/herbs and tossing until each leaf is coated (but not soggy). Sprinkle with a flaky salt (I use Maldon sea salt flakes) and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired. Final step: drizzle with a little bit of good olive, then toss to coat the leaves again. AMAZING!!!
3. Make Herb Butter
Herb butter can be used to flavor anything from meats–I like to use it for roasted chicken–to toast to corn on the cob to grilled veggies. Start with a stick of softened butter and add finely chopped herbs of your choice. I use about 1/3 cup chopped herbs for 1 stick of butter. If using unsalted butter, add salt to taste.
When making my roasted chicken, the softened herb butter is perfect for immediate spreading. If you’re planning to use the butter later, roll into a log using parchment paper, or place in a butter mold or ramekin. Cover and chill until firm.
4. Make Pesto
The most common pesto is made with basil, but you can use other herbs–like cilantro and parsley–to make pesto too.
Try mixing 2 cups cilantro (stems included), 4-5 rough chopped garlic scapes (0r 2-3 garlic cloves), 1/4 cup olive, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a food processor. Mix until you have a smooth paste. Add more salt to taste.
If you’ve never made pesto before, you can read more about the basic technique here in my pesto recipe.
5. Use an Herb Bouquet in a Roast, Stew, or Soup
Herbs are an excellent way to add flavor to meat, and one of my favorite ways to do this with fresh herbs is to make an herb bouquet.
Using kitchen twine, tie together sprigs of whatever herbs your recipe calls for. In the photo below, I bundled herbs I commonly use in a pot roast or beef stew: thyme, oregano, and parsley.
When the stew or roast is finished cooking, use tongs to pull out the herb bouquet. So easy!
What are your favorite ways to use fresh herbs? Share in the comments!