It's herb season — basil, thyme, lemon verbena, borage, rosemary, cilantro, mint, sage, dill, fennel and so many more. Fresh herbs can transform the most basic cooking into something elevated and bursting with summer flavor.
Experiment with herbs and use them in ways that might not seem likely. You just might be in for a happy surprise.
Generally, Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary and thyme go with Mediterranean cooking like pasta, pizza and tomato sauces. But why not use basil in Asian stir fries or fresh mint in salads?
Look for fresh herbs at farmers markets and use them in soups, salads, marinades, dressings and desserts.
I wondered: If you wrapped beets up in foil, surrounded by fresh herbs, and roasted them would the herbs infuse the beets? Well, the experiment was successful.
I took peeled garden-fresh beets — red ones and striped Chioggia varieties — surrounded them with fresh dill, fennel fronds, and chives and roasted them for close to an hour.
While they were roasting, I made a simple herb butter to toss with them once they were tender and out of the oven. Make the herb butter ahead of time. You can even roast the beets ahead of time and give them a quick sauté with the herb butter right before serving.
This herb butter can be used in so many ways: add to roasted beets or any other vegetables, sauté spinach or Swiss chard in this aromatic butter, or add a pat to a sweet or baked white potato.
Place a small knob of the butter on top of grilled fish, chicken, or steak just before you remove from the grill. Or spread on biscuits, toast, and savory muffins.
Hot summer nights beg for simple, light dinners. This stir fry is ideal. Ground turkey or chicken is stir fried with ginger, garlic, scallions, sesame oil, soy and lots of cilantro, basil and parsley.
The mixture is served inside a large tender lettuce leaf with chilled cooked rice vermicelli noodles and served with a simple soy dipping sauce.
Serves 2 to 3.
Ground Turkey, Rice Noodles And Accompaniments
Make the sauce: In a small bowl mix all the ingredients. The sauce can be made several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate.
Make the noodles: Bring 3 cups salted water to boil in a medium pot. Cook 3 minutes, stirring. Drain and separate the noodles; set aside.
Stir fry the turkey: In a wok or large, heavy skillet heat the oil over high heat. Add half the ginger, both chopped and the strips, all the garlic and scallion, and half the cilantro, basil and parsley. Add the sesame oil and then the ground turkey and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until golden brown and there are no signs of pinkness. Add the remaining ginger, the soy sauce, fish sauce, if using, hoisin sauce, vinegar and 2 tablespoons water and bring to boil, stirring. Add remaining cilantro, parsley and basil.
To serve: Place a large lettuce leaf on a plate. Add some vermicelli noodles, stir fried turkey, a sprinkle of peanuts, if using, a few strips of cucumber, red pepper and scallions. Sprinkle with the cilantro sprigs and roll the lettuce up like a taco to eat.
Have an abundance of mint? Found huge bunches of tarragon or basil or lemon thyme at the farmers market or grocery store? Grab a bunch of herbs and make this simple syrup that can be frozen and used in so many different ways — both sweet and savory.
I like to add herb syrups to fruit salad, cocktails, a glass of seltzer and ice, iced tea, marinades, salad dressings, and more.
You can also use the syrup with some pureed fruit to make popsicles. You can also freeze the syrup in old fashioned ice cubes trays and pop out a cube to add to drinks.
Makes about 2 cups.
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.