Cooking with fresh summer herbs adds flavor to your recipes, while often adding desirable health properties too. All summer long, I incorporate fresh herbs into my daily recipes.
SWEET BASIL, OREGANO and SILVER THYME
Incorporating fresh herbs into your recipes enables you to create delicious meals without adding extra salt, sugar, or fat. Dried herbs are great, but for incomparable flavor nothing beats fresh herbs, which adds real pizzazz to salads, pastas, sandwiches, beverages and soups. In most recipes you can substitute chopped, fresh herbs for dried. Because herbs are more concentrated than fresh, increase the amount; in general, use three times as much as the amount of dried herbs called for.
Snipping fresh chives with kitchen shears in to small pieces is a great way to jazz up salads, stir fries and even soups!
I particularly love cooking with fresh basil. It adds zing to so many summertime recipes. Use it instead of lettuce in sandwiches and wraps. Add it to pasta sauces, savory baked goods, chilled soups and seasonal salads. You can make a great quick summer salad by simply cutting cherry or grape tomatoes in half, adding fresh chopped basil, fresh chopped garlic, a bit of sea salt and pepper. Toss well and serve!
The best way to chop large leaved fresh herbs (like basil or sage) is to stack up 6 to 10 leaves on your cutting board, and then roll them up tightly like a cigar. Then you can easily cut across the leaves making beautiful little chiffonade style strips that are ready to add to your recipes in a jiffy.
Although basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint are typically available at markets in larger quantities, finding other herbs in good condition and at a reasonable price can be hit-or-miss.
FLAT LEAF PARSLEY
Fortunately, many herbs are hardy and easy to grow in the warmer months, and I heartily recommend you give it a try. During the summer months, think about growing your own fresh herbs and spices in your yard, in containers on your deck, or even in window boxes. I grow herbs in containers placed in a sunny spot on my back deck, all summer long.
It’s best to use fresh herbs shortly after you harvest or purchase them. If you won’t be using them right away, wrap them loosely in a paper towel and store them in a spacious container or plastic bag in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator. Don’t chop them until you’re ready to use them.
If you purchase a large bunch of herbs that still has the roots attached, you can store it in water, just like fresh flowers. First rinse the roots briefly, give them a fresh cut, then place the herbs in a vase or glass of water and keep them on your kitchen counter. That way you can easily grab a few leaves as you cook.
SAGE (with Parsley and Thyme)
So, try creating your own signature flavoring by combining summer herbs that you prefer. It’s the easiest way to jazz up your warm weather recipes, resulting in delicious, personalized creations that you, your friends and your family will savor. Give it a try and you’ll be glad you did.
Happy herb cooking!
My Top Ten Favorite Summer Herbs:
Basil (all varieties including; Genovese, Lemon, Thai, Cinnamon and Purple, to name a few)
Arugula, Artichoke, and Tomato Pasta
MAKES 4 to 6 SERVINGS
This supremely fresh-tasting pasta is perfect summer fare. The steaming hot pasta cooks the tomatoes just enough to ensure that they’re bursting with flavor. I love to make this for company because most of the prep can be done beforehand and the colorful combination of veggies makes for an attractive presentation.
1 pound whole-grain rotini, penne or other pasta
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
10 to 15 leaves fresh basil, very thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Italian or all-purpose seasoning
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
Several grinds freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch arugula (about 4 ounces), cleaned and stemmed
1 jar (6 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the rotini. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but firm.
Meanwhile, put the tomatoes, basil, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper in a bowl large enough to also accommodate the cooked rotini. Stir gently until well combined. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of the oil and stir gently until the tomatoes are evenly coated. Coarsely chop the arugula and put it on top of the tomato mixture. Chop the artichoke hearts and put them in a small bowl.
Drain the rotini well and, while it is still piping hot, pour it over the tomato mixture. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil and toss gently until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in the artichoke hearts. Serve immediately.
NOTE: The tomato mixture and artichokes may be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Just store them separately in covered bowls in the refrigerator.