Several years ago, I spent a number of happy summers working at the largest herb farm in the United States, Taylor’s Herb Garden in Vista, California. Very little in this world could compare to a saunter through the main garden on a warm day. Aromas of rosemary, oregano, sage, and more exotic herbs would rise up to meet you as you brushed against them. The hot tub was heated solely with heat generated by the compost pile. But best of all were the herb lunches, laid out picnic-style on the large rolling lawn that sloped down to the pond, for which I developed many juicy, herb-filled recipes.
Today, some of us may be gardeners and grow our own herbs in a window box or a garden, while probably many more of us buy them in bunches from the grocery store or farmer’s market. Perhaps you, like me, have ended up with a handful of herbs leftover from the tablespoon or so you needed for a favorite recipe. If you’re wondering what to do with them, here’s what I don’t recommend: standing them in a glass of water in the refrigerator to preserve them. They’ll most likely just wilt and they will quickly lose flavor.
However, here are some things I do recommend:
Make an herb butter. This is a simple, delicious use of leftover herbs. Place a stick of salted butter at room temperature in your food processor and pulse to smooth it out. (You can do this by hand as well, but leave the butter out at room temperature first.) Then add 2 or more tablespoons of coarsely chopped herbs and pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
Place in a crock and cover with plastic wrap, or roll the butter in plastic wrap then freeze it. You can slice silver dollar-sized pieces off the roll as needed, and it will keep for up to 4 months. (This works equally well with non-dairy vegetable oil spreads.)
Make an herb-flavored veganaise. This vegan spread can be used on sandwiches, baked potatoes, or as a dip!
1 12-ounce package of silken tofu
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamari
2-4 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill, basil, tarragon or any herb
1 clove garlic (optional), smashed
sea salt, to taste
Place the tofu, lemon juice, garlic, and tamari in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth.
Then add your fresh herbs, and pulse until blended. Add salt to taste. Use within a few days.
Lynn Alley is a cookbook author, food and wine journalist, and a yoga teacher in Southern California.