Every now and then, a recipe comes along that changes my life.
But before I get to that, here’s a question for you: When you buy parsley, basil, tarragon or other fresh herbs, do you ﬁnd yourself at a loss to use them up before they turn inedible in the refrigerator?
If you say yes, you’re not alone. A lot of people who enjoy cooking confess that they’re often “herb-challenged,” —their parsley turns yellow (or worse) before they can ﬁgure out what to do with it. Which leads me to wonder – What is it about herbs that make them such second class refrigerator citizens? What’s so hard about getting them out on the counter, while they’re still fresh, and doing some herb-experimenting?! I am here to inspire you to start thinking of herbs beyond the one recipe you bought them for in the ﬁrst place.
If given a little more respect and a chance to work their magic, herbs will bring ﬂavor, fragrance, and color to countless meals. So, try this approach. Don’t be shy with
them. Include herbs with abandon in your daily fare. As a ﬁrst step, make tabbouleh
, a bulgur-based Mediterranean salad that can accommodate several cups of chopped parsley and a good bit of mint. Then start adding herbs to all kinds of salads – tuna, egg, green, grain, or potato
. Toss freshly diced herbs with eggs, hot pasta, use to ﬁnish stir frys, to ﬂavor dressings and sauces, and tuck whole leaves into lunch wraps. Add fresh herbs to plain Greek yogurt and use as a dip or a healthy substitute for mayonnaise, or add fresh herbs to extra-virgin olive oil and serve with cut up vegetables or bread. Play. Taste. Enjoy!
And use up any herbs you buy before they spoil. Now, back to that life-changing recipe…
I was recently reading Italian, My Way by Jonathan Waxman, chef-owner of Barbuto, an acclaimed Italian brasserie in New York.
Of his recipe for Salsa Verde, he writes: “If there is one sauce that is ubiquitous in my kitchen, this is it. We put in on everything except desserts. It is wonderful on ﬁsh and seafood, terriﬁc on meats, scintillating on poultry. It is also great with eggs, pizza, pasta, etc. It is a ‘mother’ sauce to which you can add anything you like: tomato sauce, peppers, roasted onions, and more. It is truly a cornerstone of my cooking
How could I resist? A chance to use my mortar and pestle! And all those herbs!
I went shopping, assembled all the ingredients, and the result was amazing. This is one killer Mother fresh herb sauce. I spread it on slices of hearty whole-grain bread and with a gang of robust eaters to tuck into it, the sauce disappeared in about 10 minutes. (Sorry, no photo. It doesn’t last that long!!)
And now I ﬁnd myself making it all the time, even before breakfast, to assure we have some on hand. I tinker with it and sometimes leave out an herb or two and increase the quantities of what I have on hand. My husband and sons call it “that green stuﬀ” and they’re always looking for it, to put it on scrambled eggs, sandwiches, and pasta. I’ve been known to eat a spoonful straight from the container. And the other night I even ate some in a dream. — Georgia
Jonathan Waxman’s Salsa Verde
¼ cup capers in salt
4 anchovy ﬁllets
3 cloves garlic
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped arugula
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon
¼ cup chopped fresh chives
¼ cup chopped fresh sage
¼ teaspoon red pepper ﬂakes
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Soak the capers in cold water for one hour, then drain. Soak the anchovies in cold water for 15 minutes, then pat dry and remove the bones using tweezers. Using a mortar and pestle, smash the capers, anchovies and garlic until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix. The consistency should be chunky but not oily.
Recipe from Italian, My Way by Jonathan Waxman
(Simon & Schuster, 2011)