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

All Dressed Up

I am always looking for ways to take the everyday and make it special. Sometimes I do this purely out of necessity (I’m a busy girl after all!) and sometimes it’s just because making a dish entirely from scratch isn’t dramatically better than tweaked up store-bought. I’ll make fancy from scratch frosting to go with boxed cake mix and homemade butter for store baked bread. Even something as simple as a pre-made fruit platter looks fancy when served in a pretty bowl with a few snips of fresh mint on top. I’m all for minimal effort, maximum impact.

As you know by now I love salad. I eat it nearly everyday, especially since I’ve begun harvesting it from my own garden, and I serve it anytime we have a sizable gathering. And what could be easier than a homemade dressing to fancy-up any otherwise ordinary tossed salad. Sure it’s easy to buy a bottle of dressing at the store (actually I usually serve something store-bought alongside my homemade for those “afraid of the unknown” guests) but homemade salad dressing is crazy easy to throw together and much tastier than pre-made.

In the past I’ve made a simple mustard vinaigrette and a garlicky pesto dressing, but having recently made hummus I really wanted to find another use of that container of tahini I had sitting in my refrigerator. Voilà… Lemon, Tahini & Garlic Dressing was born.

Lemon, Tahini & Garlic Salad Dressing
This was delicious drizzled on salad but I imagine it would work as well on a hummus and falafel pita or even steamed greens. And feel free to decrease the garlic and up the honey if a sweeter, milder dressing is what you prefer.

4 tbsp. tahini
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tsp. honey
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

  1. Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, water, vinegar and honey. Add to this the garlic, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the sesame oil and whisk everything together until it is thoroughly blended.
  2. Adjust the salt and sweetness to your taste, adding a splash more water if you prefer a thinner dressing, and chill for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Allow it to come to room temperature before serving.

*adapted from eating well