Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Herb

herbs

If you are growing herbs in your garden, you’re already an expert at grabbing a handful of aromatic herbs, roughly chopping them and adding them to your favorite salads, sauces, soups and marinades. Your serving plates are garnished with greenery and your dips are made with fresh herbs instead of dried. As for pesto, you’ve made them all: basil, parsley, arugula, etc. But it’s late summer and after all that culinary creativity, do you still have an over-abundance of herbs? Before you even think about letting them go to waste, think about the following uses.

  • Branches of woody herbs such as rosemary can be used as garnishes in mixed drinks. Rosemary makes a great swizzle stick and delicate herbs like mint, coriander and lemon balm can also add a different taste to your summer cocktails.
  • Reserving a few of those sturdy rosemary branches to use as skewers for grilled kabobs. Fragrant thyme, sage or rosemary can also add flavor to barbecued food just by tossing a few dampened bunches of them directly on hot coals or in a grill box for a gas grill. The oils mingle with the smoke adding a smoky-herbal essence to whatever you’re grilling.
  • Next time you crave a cup of herbal tea, don’t search the cupboard for a stale teabag. Instead, check your garden for the most aromatic herbs you can find and steep them until you have a fragrant infusion.
  • Although herbs are usually used in savory recipes, they also lend themselves beautifully to sweet preparations. Herbs are excellent in sorbet, especially basil, lavender, rose and edible flowers such as scented geranium. Besides sauces and sorbets, simple baked goods can also benefit from the addition of herbs, for example, blueberry-sage corn muffins.
  • Make your own flavored vinegars. Start with good quality vinegars: red or white wine, or cider—but not balsamic. Then create several varieties of vinegars by using different herbs. Make sure the herbs are always covered by liquid and let it rest for a couple of weeks.

Make Compound Butters

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Lemon Herb Butter

Unsalted butter combined with lemon zest, rosemary, thyme and sage makes a nice spread for rolls or to top a grilled steak or to use as a flavorful ingredient for cooking.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Mash butter in a bowl until smooth and creamy. Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and black pepper into the butter until thoroughly combined. Chill until ready to use in a recipe.

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Herb and Walnut Butter

This is a great sauce to go with grilled fish.

Ingredients

  • 2 walnut halves, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 juniper berries, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 16 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup watercress, leaves and tender sprigs only
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a small skillet, toast the walnuts over moderate heat for about 3 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Stir in the butter, juniper berries, orange zest and lime juice. Scrape the nut butter onto a sheet of wax paper and spread into a 3-by-6-inch rectangle; wrap in the paper. Refrigerate until firm.

Put the garlic in a small saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Drain. Transfer the garlic and reserved water to a blender. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Scrape the garlic puree into a bowl.

Add the watercress, arugula, parsley, basil and dill to the blender and pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup each of olive oil and grapeseed oil and puree until smooth. Add the Parmigiano, lemon zest, lemon juice, the garlic puree and pulse to combine. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Mix well.

Spoon a little of the sauce onto a plate and top with grilled fish or steak. Unwrap the butter and place 1 tablespoon on top of the fish or steak and serve.

Make Herb Sauces

1. Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Salsa Verde

Salsa Verde

In Italy, salsa verde often accompanies poached chicken or fish and boiled meat. The tangy green sauce is also delicious on sautéed and grilled foods.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 3 cloves garlic, 1 whole, 2 minced
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Put the parsley, capers, the whole garlic clove, the lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard, salt and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse just to chop, six to eight times.

With the machine running, add the 1/2 cup oil in a thin stream to make a slightly coarse puree. Leave this mixture in the food processor; if necessary, pulse to re-emulsify just before serving.

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Herb-Nut Salsa

This is a great addition to grilled steak.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 2 teaspoons minced tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon minced chervil
  • 2 oil-packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rinsed capers
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F and toast the hazelnuts in a pie pan for 12 minutes or until the skins are blistered. Transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel; let cool slightly, then rub off the skins.

Finely chop the nuts and transfer them to a bowl. Add the parsley, chives, tarragon, chervil, anchovies, capers and shallot.

Stir in the vinegar, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well. Serve alongside grilled steak.

2. Artichoke

Smoked-Herb Mayonnaise

Serve with cooked whole artichokes or other vegetables as a dipping sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped capers
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • Hot sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, dill, capers, lemon zest and juice, salt and paprika. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and season the mayonnaise with pepper. Chill until serving time.

Make Something Sweet

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Pineapple and Basil Sorbet

Who knew basil paired so well with pineapple?

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple – peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves

Directions

Blend the pineapple, sugar, pineapple juice and basil in a blender until smooth; chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Place mixture in an ice cream maker and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions; pour into an airtight container and freeze 8 hours or overnight.

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Summer Berry and Rosemary Parfait

Ingredients

Rosemary Infusion Syrup

  • Juice from 1 large lemon, strained
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon molasses

Parfait Layers

  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
  • 10 fresh strawberries, sliced

Directions

Rosemary Infusion Syrup

In a small saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar, molasses, vanilla and rosemary. Bring to a boil; then allow to cool.

Parfait Layers

Place berry and fruit varieties in small bowls and evenly distribute rosemary infusion syrup over each. Mix well, until the fruits are coated in the rosemary syrup.

In a glass sundae/parfait dish, layer the infused berries and fruit with yogurt.

Top with your favorite granola.

Note: Recipe amounts given should yield 2 large parfaits. Adjust amounts to desired number of parfaits.

Make Drinks

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Rosemary Lemon Margarita

Ingredients

  • 8 Lemons (juice only)
  • 24 ounces club soda
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 ounces Tequila

Directions

Combine lemon juice, club soda, sugar and tequila in pitcher. Mix well. Refrigerate until cold. Place 1 rosemary sprig in each of the 4 serving glasses. Add margarita and serve cold.

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Basil Iced Tea

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 black tea bags
  • 1 cup tightly packed chopped, fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • Simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until sugar dissolves completely)
  • Ice

Directions

Bring water to a boil and then steep tea bags and basil for one hour or until the liquid comes to room temperature. When cool, remove tea bags and strain out basil leaves.

Stir in lime juice and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Pour over ice and add simple syrup to taste.

VARIATIONS

Substitute  mint or lemon verbena in place of basil for a different taste.

Make A Rub

Food & Wine, Web shoot

Spicy Herb Salt

This mildly spicy salt is delicious rubbed over big cuts of meat or thick steaks, but it is also good sprinkled on buttered bread or corn on the cob.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rosemary leaves (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup thyme leaves and tender stems (1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

In a food processor or blender, pulse the herbs and garlic until chopped. Add the salt and pulse until finely chopped. Add the crushed red pepper and pulse to blend.

Spread the mixture in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and let stand, stirring occasionally, until dried, about 2 days. Transfer the mixture to a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

The herb salt can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 year.


Marjoram is a sweet tasting herb that is used interchangeably with oregano. It has tender leaves and stems, grows well just about anywhere and is a great kitchen windowsill garden choice. It is a very tender plant and in most areas, it is considered to be an annual plant. It needs full sun to develop properly. Cut back the stems and leaves as they grow and marjoram will provide you with multiple cuttings in one season. The flavor of marjoram is most pronounced when it is not cooked for a long period of time. Add it fresh to a dish during the last 5 to 10 minutes of the cooking process.

Native to the Mediterranean and Eurasia areas, marjoram has been cultivated in Egypt for over 3000 years and has been grown in England since the 13th century. The name, marjoram, is thought by most authorities to have originated from the Greek words for mountains and brightness/joy/beauty. Oregano and marjoram were commonly called “joy of the mountains” due to their beauty and abundance on the Mediterranean mountain sides, where they grew wild.

Wild Marjoram

It is important to note that in much of the history and folklore of the genus, it is difficult to distinguish between sweet marjoram and oregano, since many authors have used the name marjoram to describe both plants, and historically, both (sweet marjoram) and (wild marjoram/oregano) have been called marjoram. The physical similarity of the plants and the difficulty with proper identification have been a historical problem that persists still today.

Sweet marjoram has long been an herb of love. According to Roman legend, the goddess of love, Venus, gave the plant its scent “to remind mortals of her beauty”.  A similar legend surrounds Aphrodite, Venus’s counterpart in Greek mythology, who is said to have created sweet marjoram and grew it on Mount Olympus. Marjoram has been used in love potions and spells and as a wedding herb in nosegays and bridal bouquets. In ancient Greece and Rome, a crown of marjoram was worn by the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. There is more than one folk tradition linking marjoram to love and dreams. According to one legend, if a woman placed marjoram in her bed before going to sleep, Aphrodite would appear in a dream to “reveal her future spouse’s identity”.

Sweet marjoram was a popular culinary herb in Europe during the Middle Ages, when it was used in cakes, puddings and porridge. Records of its culinary use date back to the 1300s in Spain and Italy, when it was added to stews and shellfish. Marjoram was a common salad herb and was also used to flavor eggs, rice, meats and fish during the Renaissance. Both marjoram and oregano have been used to make teas and, prior to the introduction of hops, wild marjoram/oregano was an ingredient in beer and ale.

Sweet marjoram has a wide variety of culinary uses. It can flavor liqueurs and herbal vinegars and it is used in a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. Leaves, flowers and tender stems can be added to stews, poultry stuffing, syrups, salad dressings, cheese mixtures for sauces and spreads, seafood, omelets, pizza and sausages. Sweet marjoram compliments mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, squash, peas and asparagus. It combines well with other herbs, especially garlic and parsley.

With its sweetness, marjoram is a natural addition to desserts. If you lived in the 16th century, you may have been treated to sugar flavored and scented with marjoram flowers. Many chefs use sweet marjoram for crème brulee, ice cream, custards, pies/tarts and other fruit desserts. The herb also complements apples, melons and tropical fruits like papaya and mango. Commercially, sweet marjoram is an ingredient in many processed foods, where the seeds are used in meat products, candy, beverages and condiments.

Italian Marjoram Flavored Tomato Sauce

In Italy, the most popular sauce herb is marjoram.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red chili, dried
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 -26 to 28 oz containers Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 handful marjoram, roughly chopped

Directions:

Mix together all the above ingredients, except for the marjoram, in a saucepan and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Add marjoram and simmer for 5 minutes.

Note: This sauce is good on pasta with meat added to it, on vegetables and in recipes where a tomato sauce is needed. It also makes a good pizza sauce.

Red Pepper and Fennel Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 fennel bulbs, about 1¼ pounds
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Slice them into 1/4-inch slices.

Trim and clean the fennel and cut it lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Blanch in boiling salted water for one minute. Drain, cool to room temperature and pat dry.

Arrange the peppers and fennel in a serving bowl.

Pour the vinegar into a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion. Stir in the garlic, marjoram and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Marinate for an hour at room temperature before serving. Serves 4 as a salad or 6 as an appetizer.

Pasta and Squash with Marjoram

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Penne Pasta
  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 2 lbs.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

Using a large, heavy knife, cut off the ends of the squash and peel.

Cut squash in half, remove and discard seeds. Cut squash into 3/4-inch cubes.

Place squash in a mixing bowl and drizzle with oil. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat squash evenly.

Spread in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add marjoram to butter and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. (Do not allow butter to brown.) Stir in stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in cream; simmer, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Toss together cooked pasta, squash and sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Winter squash, including butternut, is hard and has a tough skin. To make it easier to cut, pierce the squash in several spots with a knife, then microwave on High (100%) power for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it stand 2 to 3 minutes before cutting.

Swiss Chard Torte

Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course served with a side salad.

For the crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and finely ground
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the filling:

  • 2 big bunches Swiss chard (or spinach), thick stalks removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup yellow raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons Marsala or white wine
  • 5 or 6 marjoram sprigs, leaves chopped
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together the flour, the salt and the ground fennel. Add the Marsala, stirring it in briefly. Add the olive oil and stir until a sticky ball forms. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead quickly until it’s relatively smooth, only about a minute or so. The dough will feel a little oily. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest, unrefrigerated, for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the dough is resting, fill a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Blanch the Swiss chard for about 2 minutes. Drain it into a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking. Squeeze as much water out of the chard as you can. 

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until it softens, about a minute or so. Add the chard, seasoning it with salt, black pepper and the fennel seeds; sauté about 2 minutes longer. Add the raisins with their soaking liquid and the almonds. Take the pan off the heat and add the marjoram. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then add the eggs and the Grana Padano cheese, mixing them in well.

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan, leaving a little overhang all around. Pour in the filling, and smooth out the top. Trim the dough overhang neatly all around. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil. Bake until the crust is browned and the filling is firm, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Red-Wine Pot Roast with Porcini

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-salt beef broth
  • 1/2 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks with some leaves, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 26-28-ounce container Italian peeled chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red wine

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bring broth to simmer in saucepan. Remove from heat and add the mushrooms, cover, and let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a cutting board. Chop coarsely. Reserve mushrooms and broth separately.

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer beef to large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the pot. Place pot back over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and reserved porcini mushrooms; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add wine; boil 5 minutes. Add reserved mushroom broth, leaving any sediment behind. Boil 5 minutes.

Return beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cover; transfer to the oven. Cook 1 1/2 hours. Turn beef, add chopped marjoram. Cover and continue cooking until tender, about 1 1/2 hours longer. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and keep refrigerated.)

Transfer beef to a cutting board; tent with foil. Cut beef into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a platter.

Remove any fat from the surface of the sauce in the pot and season with salt and pepper. Spoon a little sauce over the meat on the platter and garnish with additional marjoram. Serve the additional sauce on the side.


Parsley: one of the most commonly used herbs, everywhere, including Italy. There’s an expression in Italy, most often said to children:

“Sei come il prezzemolo, sei dappertutto,” which means “You’re like parsley, you’re everywhere.”

bouquet garni

Parsley, a familiar garnish on a variety of plates, is perfect for taming strong flavors which makes it an ideal complement for spicy dishes. It is an important component of a bouquet garni, which is a selection of fresh herbs – including parsley, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and sage – tied together into a bundle and cooked in soups, sauces or stews.

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (Petroselinum neapolitanum) has been cultivated and developed over so many centuries that its precise origins are difficult to pinpoint. This is compounded by the fact that the parsleys we know, today, probably bear little resemblance to their ancestors. The botanical name Petroselinum comes from the Greek word for stone (petro) which was given to parsley, because it was found growing on rocky hillsides in Greece.

Although the Ancient Greeks did not use parsley in cooking, they associated parsley with death and used it to make burial wreaths. According to legend, parsley first germinated in the blood of Archemorus, an ancient character in Greek mythology, where it was spilled when he was eaten by serpents. Conversely, parsley is used in the Hebrew celebration of Passover, as a symbol of spring and rebirth.

It is mentioned as one of the plants in the gardens of Charlemagne and Catherine de Medici. Legend says that de Medici is responsible for popularizing parsley, when she brought it back to France from Italy. In medieval times parsley was surrounded by much superstition, one belief being that the long germination period for the seeds was due to them having to travel to hell and back seven times before sprouting.

Parsley has long been popular in European and Mediterranean cuisine. A favorite of King Henry VIII, he relished a parsley sauce on top of his roasted rabbit.

Parsley Tea

Parsley Root has been used medicinally since ancient times for digestive disorders, bronchitis and urinary tract problems. As far back as Hippocrates, parsley was used in medicinal recipes for cure-alls, general tonics, poison antidotes and formulas to relieve kidney and bladder stones. In Russia, a preparation containing mostly parsley juice is given during labor to stimulate uterine contractions. The juice has been used to treat toothaches, as a hair rinse or as a facial steam for dry skin.

Modern science has confirmed many of these claims. Parsley is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamins A and C, and compounds that clear toxins from the body. It also reduces inflammations, contains histamine inhibitors and antioxidants that prevent cell damage. Commercially, oil from the seeds is used to scent perfumes and colognes. Because of its high chlorophyll content, parsley is a great breath freshener. Scientists have even isolated a compound, apiol, which is now used in medications to treat kidney ailments and kidney stones.

Most grocery stores and markets stock both Italian (flat leafed) parsley and curly leafed parsley. Many people consider curly varieties to be more standard with Italian versions playing a gourmet role. This distinction is mainly due to the differences in taste and sometimes in price.

Curly parsley, which is frequently the less expensive of the two, has only a very subtle flavor. It is typically used as a garnish. Italian parsley, on the other hand, has a robust peppery flavor. It has a much higher concentration of essential oils, which gives it a distinctive taste. Cooks also use flat leaf parsley as a garnish because of its vibrant green color, but also use it to flavor a number of dishes.

The flat leaf variety (P. neapolitanum), referred to as “Italian parsley,” is the only variety used in Italy and in most Mediterranean countries.

Whenever garlic is used, parsley is usually there. Besides the taste benefit to a dish, parsley and garlic are a particularly potent combination for better health. They both contain substances that may help prevent cancer, improve cardiovascular health and strengthen our immune systems against viral infections like the common cold.

It’s always preferable to use fresh parsley, though this herb preserves well when chopped and frozen.

Buying and Storing Parsley

Usually sold in bunches, Italian parsley should be bright green with no wilting. At the market, it is easy to confuse Italian parsley with cilantro. Italian parsley has leaves that are larger with a fresh, grassy smell.

Wash and dry Italian parsley. Wrap it first in a paper towel, then place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.

When using fresh parsley, first trim the leaves, then wash and chop them – keeping them all bunched together with one hand, while you chop with the other. In most cases, it’s best to add parsley to a sauce after the pot has been removed from the flame or as the final touch to the serving dish.

Dried Italian parsley typically lasts a lot longer than fresh, but has a diminished flavor. Most of the dried parsley purchased in commercial markets comes from curly leaves, unless otherwise noted. Cooks can dry out the leaves of Italian varieties themselves, often on racks or in a warm oven. I prefer the freezing method, since it preserves more of the fresh taste of parsley.

Growing Tips:

Many nurseries sell potted Italian parsley and it can also be grown quite successfully from seed. Like most herbs, it is somewhat delicate, particularly when it is first getting started. Success typically requires a regular temperature and plenty of water. Once stalks have reached a height of about 5 inches (approximately 13 cm), they can be transplanted outdoors, preferably to a flat surface with consistent sunlight.

Italian Parsley and Beet Salad

Makes 6 (first course) servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • 2 1/4 pounds assorted young beets with greens (such as Chioggia, white, golden and red; 1 1/2 pounds if already trimmed)
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1 1/4 cups Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves (from 1 bunch)
  • Fresh ricotta cheese

Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer

Directions:

Whisk together juices, oil and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Trim beets, leaving 1 inch of stems attached, then peel.

Using stems as a handle, slice beets paper-thin (less than 1/8 inch thick) with slicer (wear protective gloves to avoid staining hands), then cut slices into very thin matchsticks.

Thinly slice onion with slicer.

Toss beets, onion and parsley with dressing. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 30 minutes to soften beets and allow flavors to develop.

Before serving, toss again and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired. Serve with ricotta cheese.

Italian Potato Salad 

This is an easy recipe which is perfect for a summer picnic or get together.

Ingredients:

  • 5 large red skinned potatoes unpeeled and sliced in ½ inch slices
  • 1/3 cup of chopped fresh parsley (do not use dried herbs)
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large pan over medium-high heat add potatoes and cover with cold water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until just tender (do not let them get too soft). Remove from heat and drain. Place the potatoes into a large mixing bowl.

Add the parsley, garlic, olive oil and vinegar and stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Use within 3 to 4 days.

Swordfish Steaks with Lemon-Parsley Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • (4) 8-ounce swordfish steaks (each about 3/4 inch thick)
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

Combine parsley, lemon zest and garlic in small bowl. Mix in oil, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Season with pepper to taste.

Place fish in single layer in shallow dish. Spoon half of the parsley sauce over fish. Set aside remaining sauce. Turn fish over to coat in the sauce. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours, turning fish occasionally.

Preheat broiler. Place fish, with sauce still clinging to it, on a broiler pan. Broil until fish is just cooked in the center, about 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter. Spoon remaining parsley sauce over. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Spaghetti with Bay Scallops and Parsley

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup diced pancetta
  • 1 cup bay scallops or sea scallops quartered
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water.

Put a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and pancetta and cook until the pancetta is rendered and crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season scallops with a little salt and add the scallops to the pan. Cook until slightly golden, about 1 minute, turning constantly. Add the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes and give the pan a shake.

Transfer the cooked pasta directly into the saute pan with the scallops, Add the 1/2 cup pasta water to the pan to create a sauce consistency and reduce the heat. Stir in the parsley, remaining olive oil and butter. Taste and add salt, if necessary. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and serve immediately

Roasted Brisket with Parsley

Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 (4 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup roughly chopped onion
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef broth

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put parsley, thyme, vinegar, pepper flakes, garlic, onion, salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse to make a thick paste; set aside.

Season brisket all over with salt and pepper and arrange on a rack in a roasting pan; roast for 2 hours.

Remove brisket from the oven; reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Carefully add broth to the pan, spread the parsley paste over the brisket, cover the pan with foil and continue roasting and basting every 45 minutes or so, until very tender, about 3 hours more.

Transfer brisket to a platter; set aside to let rest for 10 minutes. Skim off and discard any fat from liquid in the pan. Thinly slice brisket against the grain and spoon pan sauce over the top.


Just about every dish tastes better with fresh herbs — and there’s no better way to get fresh herbs than to grow them yourself. One of the more flexible ways to grow herbs is in containers; get inspiration for growing yours in clever vessels (including a strawberry jar). Most herbs are naturals to start from seed. Once your herbs are established, they’ll need regular care, including dividing, pruning and harvesting.

Making the most of your herb garden:

Cut herbs regularly to encourage growth.

1. Throughout summer, snip plants often to encourage branching and new growth. Harvest successive cuttings whenever you need fresh herbs. Generally, cut no more than one-third of the stem’s length. Exceptions include chives and lavender. When they bloom, harvest the flowering stems at ground level. Use some of the herbs in cooking and use some of the herbs to make bouquets and teas or in a refreshing  herbal bath.

2. Gather herbs early in the day, after the dew has dried but before the sun bakes the plants’ essential oils. If you’re harvesting an herb’s leaves, cut the stems at their peak, when the flowers start to form. If you like, gather the blooms of herbs when they develop fully. If you’re after an herb’s seeds, wait until they mature and begin to turn brown before harvesting the seeds heads.

3. To prepare leafy stems for use in cooking, strip the leaves off the stems by sliding your thumb and forefinger from top to bottom. Snip off thicker leaves, such as those of parsley, bay, or rosemary, which don’t strip off readily. If you plan to remove the herbs before serving the food, skip stripping and use the whole stems. Tie them together for easier removal from whatever you are cooking.

Dry herbs to store leaves and seeds.

1. The traditional way to preserve herbs involves gathering small bunches of 10 to 15 stems and hanging them in a warm, airy place to dry. Wrap stems tightly with a rubber band or tie them with twine. Hang the bunches on a drying rack, on the rung of a hanger or from a nail.

2. Drying can take up to three weeks, depending on the plant and its moisture content. Strip crisp-dry leaves off stems before storing them. Dry seed heads by placing a paper bag over them and tying it shut around the stems. Place only one type of herb in each bag and label it.

3. The seeds will drop into the bag as they dry. Let seeds dry for several weeks before storing them according to the directions below.

Store herbs away from light and heat.

1. Proper storage. Store dried herbs in airtight glass or ceramic containers away from light and heat (never on or near the stove) to protect their flavor and fragrance. Keep the leaves whole until used (crushing leaves releases their flavor).

2. Use dried herbs within a year of harvesting.

Five Herb Pesto

This pesto would be great to serve as an appetizer on bruschetta.

Makes about 2/3 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • A handful of sliced almonds, toasted (cooled)
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 50 medium basil leaves
  • a handful of arugula leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup minced chives
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

Toast the coriander seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant and grind finely in a coffee grinder (kept for grinding spices). Pour into a food processor or blender and add the salt and garlic and process into a paste. Add the almonds and lemon zest and process. Start working the basil in, a few leaves at a time, then the arugula and the oregano. Blend until smooth. Stir the chives and cheese together with a fork and add to the processor. Pulse a few times. Gradually work in the olive oil by pouring in slowly from the top of the processor. Process. Taste  for salt and pepperand adjust to your liking.

Green Herb-Potato Soup

Dill’s fresh, mild flavors of licorice and parsley are a delicious accent for eggs, cheese, soup, vegetables and fish. Adding cauliflower to a potato soup not only reduces the calories, but adds flavor and nutrients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower florets
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup each fresh finely chopped dill and parsley leaves (no stems)
  • 3 tablespoons finely snipped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

In a 4-quart saucepan or similar-size soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cauliflower and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, until the onion softens but does not begin to brown. Add 1 1/2 cups broth; adjust heat so the mixture simmers and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir the cornstarch into the remaining 2 1/2 cups broth and add to the soup pot. Bring back to a boil, and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Puree soup in the pot with an immersion blender.

Whisk in the half-and-half and 1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes until smoothly and evenly incorporated. For a thicker soup, whisk in more potatoes as needed. Add herbs and add salt and pepper to taste. Return the soup to the stove and heat, stirring until piping hot.

Serve garnished with chopped chives and sprigs of dill, if desired.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts of soup, 4 or 5 main dish servings.

Spinach and Orzo Salad

Bright, refreshing mint makes so many dishes come to life.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz baby spinach leaves
  • 1 lb cooked orzo
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 4 oz chopped feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions:

In a small pan, warm oil over medium-low heat. Sauté garlic until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer garlic and whatever oil remains in the pan to a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons juice, 2 teaspoons zest, salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Add spinach and toss lightly. Add orzo, olives, cheese, onion and mint. Toss to combine and serve with Pita Bread.

Potato Salad with Olives & Garden Herbs

When you want to add the flavor of onion without it being overpowering, chives are very useful in cooking. 

This potato salad is best made several hours ahead so that the flavors have time to meld. Delicious served alongside grilled chicken.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs small to medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped chives
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Directions:

Put the potatoes in a 6-quart Dutch oven or similar pot and cover with cold water by at least one inch. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons salt, bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until the potatoes are just tender, 6 to 8 minutes from when the water comes to a boil (stir gently and don’t overcook, or the potatoes will fall apart).

Meanwhile, in a bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the vinegar and mustard. Whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and spread them on a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper. While they’re still hot, drizzle them evenly with 3 tablespoons. of the dressing. Let cool completely

Transfer the cooled potatoes to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the olives, chives, parsley and mint. Pour about 1/2 cup of the remaining vinaigrette over the salad. With a large spoon or rubber spatula, gently toss. Take care to break as few of the potato slices as possible. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour so the flavors can blend.

Just before serving, season to taste again with salt and pepper and add more dressing if the salad seems dry—you may not need all of the dressing.

Make Ahead Tip

You can make this salad up to 12 hours ahead; just cover and refrigerate and return to room temperature before serving.

Risotto with Pesto and Shrimp

4 servings

Basil lends a sweet-spicy flavor with hints of clove and anise to Italian-style sauces, pesto and pasta. It’s tomatoes’ best partner,

Ingredients:

  • 1 packed cup basil leaves, and a few leaves for garnish
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 3/4 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a blender, combine basil, 1/3 cup oil, nuts and garlic; purée until smooth. Transfer to a bowl; stir in cheese. Set aside pesto.

In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups water and generous pinch salt to a boil. Add green beans; cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.Drain and set aside.

Using the same pan add the vegetable broth and bring just to a simmer, then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until rice is translucent, about 4 minutes. Add 1 cup broth mixture, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until liquid is mostly evaporated.

Add 1/2 cup broth. Cook, stirring constantly, until broth is mostly absorbed. Continue adding broth in 1/2 cupfuls, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is tender yet firm to the bite (you may have broth left over).

Remove risotto from heat. Stir in green beans, then cover saucepan and let risotto rest 
5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut shrimp crosswise into 1-inch pieces. 
In a medium nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; season with a pinch salt. Cook, turning pieces once, until opaque and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir pesto and shrimp pieces into risotto, Sprinkle with pepper and garnish with a few basil leaves.

Oregano Chicken and Vegetables

When you’re looking for an intense herb flavor, fresh oregano is a great choice to pair with meats, vegetables and pasta dishes.

Makes: 4 servings

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds meaty chicken pieces, skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted ripe olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano plus extra for garnish
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
  • 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium green sweet bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 medium red sweet bell pepper, cut into strips

Directions:

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly coat a nonstick skillet with a little olive oil. Cook chicken over medium heat about 15 minutes or until light brown, turning once. Reduce heat.

Place the garlic, half of the lemon slices, half of the tomato, the olives, onion, parsley,and oregano over chicken pieces in skillet. Sprinkle with ground red pepper.

Add the wine and the 3/4 cup broth. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining tomato and the bell peppers. Cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until sweet peppers are crisp-tender and chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter. If desired, garnish with remaining lemon slices and oregano.

Grilled Steak with Fresh Garden Herbs

 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup minced shallots (about 2)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 3/4 cup assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, tarragon, mint, basil or whatever is growing in your garden)
  • 4 – 8-ounce rib-eye or skirt or NY strip steaks

Directions:

Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil, then herbs.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Sprinkle steaks generously with salt and pepper; brush lightly with olive oil. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for medium-rare rib-eye  and NY strip or 3 minutes per side for medium-rare skirt steak. Transfer steaks to platter; let rest 5 minutes. Slice steak and spoon herb mixture over steaks and serve.



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