Springtime Herb Sauces

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Spring is the season for green and that includes herbs. In Spring the "leafy herbs" such as basil, cilantro, chives, and parsley are bursting forth. "Woody herbs" such as thyme or sage are best saved for longer cooking winter dishes. 

Herb sauces are a fantastic way to get loads of rich, raw nutrients into a meal. I sneak probiotics in by using miso or brine from fermented vegetables or sauerkraut; just a tablespoon or two will do. Place a bowl of any of these sauces on the table with dinner. They add freshness and flavor to baked potatoes, as a dip for veggies, as a sandwich spread, over pasta, or as a marinade or sauce to any protein. 

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Tips:

  • Try not to by herbs at chain markets where you get a few sprigs in a plastic shell for a high price. I buy herbs at the farmer's market or neighborhood Meditteranean markets. These cultures use herbs as a vegetable, not a garnish so herbs in these stores are ussually inexpensive and fresh. 
  • Most herbs can be rinsed and spun dry in a salad spinner and wrapped in paper towel to wick away extra moisture. Keep in the vegetable bin. Don't rinse basil until ready to use. It will bruise and brown.
  • Use the stems. Cilantro pesto or delicious and use can use stem and all. Tougher stems like large basil stem should not be used but the stem close to the leaf is tender. In other words don't be to picky when picking the leaves from the stem.
  • Blend herbs; herbs grown in the same season go together well in sauces so use up those half bunches by making a sauce.
  • These sauces freeze well. Make a batch, use some for dinner, freeze the rest in small containers. That way you can pull out just enough for dinner.

Recipes:

Salsa Verde ~ Delicious as a dip or sauce with with prawns, chicken, grilled meats and cooked vegetables.

  • 1/4 cup pickled capers, rinsed or salted capers, soaked for ½ hour and rinsed
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained (leave out if serving with prawns)
  • 3 garlic cloves, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 1 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup each coarsely chopped arugula, parsley, basil & cilantro
  • 1/4 cup each coarsely chopped tarragon or 1 tsp. Dried and coarsely chopped chives

In a mortar or on a cutting board, smash the garlic and add the capers and anchovies. Mash until the mixture forms a paste forms. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in half of the olive oil. Stir in the herbs and and the remaining olive oil to taste depending on the thickness you’d like.

Green Herb Pesto ~ Use as you would traditional pesto over pasta or as a sauce.

  • 2 cloves garlic, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 2 cups packed fresh leafy herbs such as basil, cilantro, arugula, parsley, or a mixture (no mint)
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nuts: pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or pistachios (toasted if you like)
  • 1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice or 1 pinch (1/8 tsp.) Vitamin C powder
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

With a food processor or blender running, drop the garlic in and allow to mince. Add the herbs, nuts, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper. Plus just enough to blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Chermoula, a Moroccan sauce that is delicious as a marinade for chicken or spooned over fresh grilled fish. Keep it slightly chuncky, not pureed.

  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • ½ bunch parsley, tops only
  • 3 garlic cloves, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds*
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika or ½ tsp hot paprika
  • 1/4 preserved lemon, pulp discarded, rinsed, and rind coarsely chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • About ½ cup good quality olive oil

In a small skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds over low heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and grind the seend with a pinch of salt until fairly well ground. In a food processor or blender, mince the garlic and then add the herbs, spices, preserved lemon, and  1 Tbls. lemon juice. While the machine is on, slowly pour in olive oil until desired consistency is reached. I like this sauce to be slightly course. Adjust seasoning.

Carrot-Top Pesto ~ The carrot family Umbelliferae consist of anise, dill, celery, parsley, cilantro and coriander, to name a few. Families pair well together when prepared in a dish. Use “sister” herbs to add more depth to this pesto. Use as you would pesto or drizzle over steamed carrots (hot or cold) or, roasted sweet vegetables.

  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, split lengthwise and green sprout removed
  • 2 cups carrot leaves, no stems
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh “sister” herbs above such as cilantro, dill, or parsley or use basil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil

Pulse garlic and nuts in a food processor or blender until a coarse paste forms. Add the carrot tops, herbs, Parmesan and process into a coarse purée. Add olive oil in a steady stream while machine is running until combined; season with salt and pepper.

Fermented Green Sauce ~ Here’s another green sauce with a probiotic boost, miso. To keep the probiotics alive, don’t heat it but rather toss the sauce with cooked foods. It’s a yummy dip, sandwich spread or drizzled over cooked vegetables.

  • 1 small bunch each cilantro, parsley and chives
  • A ½ to 1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (optional; it adds a distinctive spice)
  • Juice of one or 2 fresh lemons, limes, or both or 1 Tbls. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbls. white miso
  • 2 Tbls. tahini
  • ¼ cup or more good quality olive oil
  • 1 Tbls. honey (optional)

Pulse or blend everything in a blender or food processor. Season to taste. Add more olive oil (or a bit of water) for a thinner consistency.

 

 

Compound Butters

 These butters are a fantastic “sauce” to keep in your freezer. Pull one out, thaw just enough to slice, and refreeze what’s left. Serve on veggies, grilled steaks, fish or chicken to add loads of flavor.

These butters are a fantastic “sauce” to keep in your freezer. Pull one out, thaw just enough to slice, and refreeze what’s left. Serve on veggies, grilled steaks, fish or chicken to add loads of flavor.

To make compound butter:

Simply bring the butter to room temperature. Place in a bowl with remaining ingredients, see below, and beat with a wooden spoon. Season to taste. 

  • Roll the butter into a log in plastic wrap and freeze. Once frozen, wrap in foil and mark with a Sharpie. 
  • Slice into 1/4” slices when cold and place over grilled steak or chicken. 
  • Or, bring to room temp. in a bowl, stir to soften and plop onto veggies, fish or a baked potato.

To one (4oz) stick of unsalted butter and add:

Sesame Butter (green beans, chicken, steak)

  • 2 Tbls. toasted sesame seeds, black or white
  • 2 Tbls. minced chives or scallions
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Rosemary Olive Butter (chicken, steaks, roasted potatoes)

  • 2 Tbls. fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Tbls. oil-cured olives, chopped and drained

Dill and Lemon (salmon or any fish, asparagus)

  • 4 Tbls. coarsely chopped dill
  • 1 Tbls. lemon zest
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Chive Butter (steak, potatoes)

  • 4-6 Tbls. chopped fresh chives

Cilantro and Pine Nut (chicken, summer squash, fish)

  • 4 Tbls. cilantro
  • 3 Tbls. pine nuts
  • 1 Tbls. lemon zest
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Green Peppercorn Butter (steak!)

  • 1 Tbls. green peppercorns, drained, crushed lightly
  • 1-2 pinches of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic (or use a zester)

Vanilla Butter (delicious on baked sweet potatoes and roasted root veggies)

  • 1 vanilla been split, scrape seeds out and blend with butter
  • 1/2 tsp good quality vanilla can be substituted but it’s not as good
  • pinch cinnamon 

 

 

 

Carrot-Top Pesto

Carrot-Top Pesto

Carrot-Top Pesto

Makes about 1 cup of pesto

The carrot family Umbelliferae consist of anise, caraway, celery, parsley, cilantro and coriander, cumin, dill, and fennel to name a few. If you think about it, these all go well together when prepared in a dish. Use “sister” herbs to add more depth to this pesto.

  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 cups carrot leaves, no stems
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup (packed) fresh “sister” herbs above such as cilantro, dill, or parsley or use basil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil

Blanch the garlic in boiling water for one minute. Drain. Pulse garlic and nuts in a food processor or blender until a coarse paste forms. Add the carrot tops, herbs, Parmesan and process into a coarse purée. Add olive oil in a steady stream while machine is running until combined; season with salt and pepper.

  • Serve drizzled over roasted carrots
  • Serve as a dip
  • Drizzle over chevre and serve with baguette
  • Freeze in small containers
  • Toss with pasta
  • Serve over grilled fish or chicken

Dukkah, a crunchy condiment from Egypt.

Dukkah is delicious on so many things. Here I have it on roasted parsnips. There are more serving ideas below. Like any regional food, there are many versions. This just happens to be my favorite but don't be afraid to experiment! I also love smoked paprika or switching out the hazelnuts to pistachios.

  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (skinned) or almonds
  • 1/4 cup black or white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup coriander seeds                                                                                  
  • 2 Tbls. cumin seeds                                                                                          
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds                                                                                          
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric                                                                                                  
  • A hefty pinch of each dried oregano and red pepper flakes                        
  • Sea salt & fresh cracked pepper (Maldon salt is nice here)

Put all of the seeds into a small sauté pan on medium heat and shake the pan moving the seeds until they smell fragrant and are warm. Cool and pour them into a spice mill or food processor with the remaining ingredients and pulse until the nuts are medium-coarsely chopped. You don't want a paste. Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Stir. Store in a sealed container. Go to town!    

Serve on:

  • Scrambled eggs  
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Ricotta or fresh goat cheese drizzled with with olive oil, sprinkled with Dukkah
  • Sprinkle on hummus
  • Rub on fish or chicken before sautéing
  • Serve with pita and a bowl of olive oil to dip first helping the Dukkah to cling to the pita                                                                                                                       

*Adapted from D. Madison's Vegetable Literacy