Beyond the Blender: Try These 3 New Ways to Cook with Summer Herbs
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.