“My cup runneth over with herbs. Anyone need basil, cilantro, thyme or mint?” posted Somers-resident Kathleen Gilston on Facebook recently, to caption her photo of patio pots filled with tall, healthy herbs.
Kathleen’s post inspired me to investigate what locals like to do with their summer’s bounty of herbs.
My new summer trend is to make simple syrups with basil, adding it to homemade lemonade or to basil gimlet cocktails. I’ve tasted lemonade made with rosemary simple syrup but, to me, it doesn’t taste as fresh and light as the basil. Even if you aren’t inclined to prepare a simple syrup, try adding a few basil leaves to your lemonade, iced tea or summer cocktail – it really livens up the drink.
Another quick and delicious solution of mine is to add chopped herbs and olive oil to a softened goat cheese, creating an easy yet flavorful spread for crostini, perfect for impromptu entertaining.
I’m also in love with chimichurri, the Argentinean sauce which resembles pesto to me, though without the cheese and nuts. Fresh chopped herbs are mixed with garlic, olive oil, vinegar and crushed red pepper to create a zesty sauce.
Chimichurri is a breeze to make, and is a terrific accompaniment or marinade for grilled meats, seafood, chicken and vegetables. Bedford Patch editor Lisa Buchman told me it is her “go-to-summer garnish and marinade.”
Chimichurri seems to be the 2011 food trend of Northern Westchester. Caterer Meg Burdick of Yorktown told me that she, too, is preparing this sauce often to use up her plethora of herbs. She also suggests infusing oils and vinegars with herbs as a great way to enjoy their flavor for a longer period of time.
Chappaqua resident Andreina North uses her herbs to encrust porkloin or chicken. She also likes to make herb butters to top steak, baked potatoes, or accompany a bucket of steamer clams.
Nikki Elkins of Katonah—head chef for "The Martha Stewart Show"—uses up her herbs in small bouquets for the table, in chimichurri and marinades, infused in vinegar, or by hanging bunches of oregano, rosemary and tarragon upside down to dry for later use.
Elkins also recommends a method to freeze the herbs: first, blanch them quickly in boiling water for just a few seconds, followed by an ice bath (bowl of water with ice) to stop the cooking. Then, chop the herbs and freeze them in an ice tray with a bit of water. She explained to me that the blanching will keep the herbs from turning black in the freezer.
Agnes Hassel of Chappaqua relayed to me a tasty recipe for an abundance of herbs. “All my leftover herbs like parsley, basil, scallions, etc. - don't chop - are placed on top of small potatoes marinated in olive oil, wine vinegar, sea salt, chopped garlic, black pepper and baked for 30 to 40 minutes at 350º F. The herbs crisp up when the potatoes are done.”
Let us know in the comments what you like to do with your summer herbs.
Basil Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
8-10 large basil leaves
Mix the sugar and water together in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and add the basil to the saucepan. Allow syrup to cool down to room temperature. You can strain and disgard the basil after 1-2 hours. Refrigerate until needed.
Basil Lemonade or Limeade
1 cup Basil Simple Syrup
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice (about 5-6 lemons or 8 limes)
3-4 cups of regular or sparkling water
Mix all the ingredients together in a pitcher. Add ice, and fresh basil leaves and lemon or lime slices to garnish.
Gin or Vodka
Fill a tall glass with ice. Add 2 oz of gin or vodka. Fill up the rest of the glass with the limeade. Mix well and garnish with a basil leaf and lime slice.
2 garlic cloves (use only one if you don't like it too garlicky)
1 cup basil leaves (or cilantro)
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup chives, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
pinch or two of sea salt (to taste)
pinch of crushed red pepper
In a food processor, chop the garlic until it is minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until finely chopped and getting creamy. Taste to adjust seasoning if necessary. The herbs can be substituted for different herbs, such as cilantro, oregano or mint, as well.