lovin’ the herb

I love to grow fresh herbs. I love the smell of fresh herbs. I love to cook with fresh herbs. There’s nothing that says summertime to me more than overflowing pots of lush herbs on my back steps; it makes me happy just to look at them. Sometimes I run my hand along the rosemary or sage stems just to let them give off their lovely aroma. And who doesn’t love the way fresh basil smells. I’ve been thinking I just may start rubbing the leaves behind my ears as my summer scent. Anyway with all these wonderful herbs around I try to use them at every opportunity and since the more you clip herbs the more abundant they become, it’s really a win-win situation.

Finding uses for fresh basil is really a no brainer— as soon as Jersey tomatoes start hitting the farmers market I make a simple caprese salad or a Sweet Summer Sauce with my homegrown cherry tomatoes. Abundant amounts of oregano go into my Smokey Baked Beans, I use fresh rosemary on roasted potatoes and to marinade pork, cilantro has a starring role in my Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad and what would Herbed Drop Biscuits be without fresh thyme. However as tasty as these few dishes are, they don’t really put a significant dent in my herb supply. I’m always looking for new ways to work fresh herbs into my cooking and my latest creations are a brush on grill sauce for chicken and a creamy buttermilk salad dressing.

The grill sauce is a super simple way to give some fresh summery flavor to chicken or vegetables without much advance prep. Sure it makes a mess of the grill, but the you’ll enjoy dinner so much it will totally be worth a few extra minutes with the grill brush. And the salad dressing is something like a healthy hybrid of caesar and ranch, it turns nothing fancy greens into a salad worth serving guests.

Here’s wishing you a Summer filled with lovely sights, sounds and smells.

Buttermilk & Fresh Herb Salad Dressing
Say so long to that bottle of store bought dressing and hello to yum! I usually sprinkle a bit more shredded parmesan on top of the salad and sometimes a few slivered almonds.

herb salad5

2 tbsp. fresh basil
2 tbsp. fresh dill
2 tbsp. fresh parsley
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon
3 tbsp. sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. light mayo
3 tbsp. plain low-fat yogurt
2 tbsp. light sour cream
1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. black pepper

  1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the herbs are finely minced and the ingredients are fully blended.
  2. Pour into a glass jar and chill overnight, allowing flavors to blend, before drizzling over salad greens and serving.

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herb Sauce
You can brush this on the chicken or vegetables as you grill them. It will make a mess of the grill, but it’s totally worth it!

herb grilled chicken

6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package of chicken, thighs or breasts

  1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Allow to run until herbs are minced and a thick sauce has formed.
  2. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the chicken with the sauce and begin to grill. Flip and continue to baste with the remaining sauce until chicken is completely cooked.
*adapted from serious eats
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life altering hummus

When my son was little he was a real picky eater. The first solid food he ever ate was avocado and he loved it; but then along came toddler free will and out the window went adventurous eating. Most of his likes and dislikes were based solely on the appearance rather than taste, it used to drive me crazy! Night’s when he actually ate what the rest of the family did felt like a huge victory to me. Uggh, mealtimes those first few years were not fun!

Refusing to be undone by this kids’ unfounded rejection of perfectly delicious food, I started experimenting with a little mom sleight of hand. I looked for any way to make the “kid food” he was willing to eat healthier. Carrots and celery puréed into the red sauce I used on pizza, homemade fish sticks and chicken tenders, black beans added to brownies (not a big hit) and hummus as a dipper for crackers and pretzels. Yup you read right, good ol’ garlicky hummus. My picky guy wouldn’t touch a perfectly non-threatening string bean, an innocuous burger or a simple bowl of soup; but he would eat hummus like it was going out of style. Hummus sandwiches, hummus on pretzels, hummus with his chicken tenders… and I can’t even tell you how often he sat down with a big bowl of hummus and a spoon. People thought I was crazy, but he loved it! And I loved that he was eating something full of protein, loaded with heart-healthy garlic (during his hummus years he never had a mosquito bite!) and more exotic than mac n’ cheese or pb&j. Needless to say I quickly developed a hummus recipe of my own and could whip up a batch in flash.

Thankfully he’s no longer a picky eater, but it didn’t happen overnight. He’ll now eat almost anything I put in front of him as long as it’s not spicy and is loaded with garlic. Yet hummus still plays a big role in our house. My daughter, who thankfully is far less suspicious of unfamiliar foods then he ever was, happens to be a hummus junkie as well. In fact just yesterday her lunch request was a bowl of hummus and some baby carrots. Ya gotta love it!

Who knew that a simple bowl of garlicky hummus in your formative years could turn into an enduring love of strong flavors and a willingness to try unfamiliar food. Seriously, who knew?!?

Homemade Hummus
You can adjust the amount of garlic in the recipe to your taste or slow roast it before hand to mellow out the flavor.

hummus4

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. tahini
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

  1. Put everything in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. Spoon into a serving dish, drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of smoked paprika. Serve with toasted pita chips and fresh vegetables, or a spoon.