You can’t beat fresh herbs for the delicious pop of flavor they bring to a dish. But there is often the dilemma of what to do with a whole bunch after you have used them for a recipe. If you have some basil and dill on hand—or out in the garden—try these recipes to make the most of your produce. Basil is used in a variation of pesto for a twist on the caprese salad, and dill mixes with yogurt to make a creamy sauce that is the perfect accompaniment in smoked salmon appetizers or atop grilled salmon. Plus, culinary herbalist and cookbook author Pat Crocker, who created these recipes for Real Food, offers more ideas on how to use those fresh herbs.
Basil and Pistachio Pesto with Heritage Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
Makes 4 Servings
Tender basil, with its spicy fragrance and sweet flavor that ranges from sublime lemon and nutmeg to bold licorice, cinnamon and allspice, could be the poster child for fresh summer dishes. As a bonus, eating basil may help digestion. When selecting basil, look for bright, shiny leaves that are dry and whole. (See storage tips below.)
For the Pesto (Makes 1 cup)
3 large cloves garlic
½ cup shelled pistachio nuts
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¾ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
2 ripe heritage tomatoes, cored and each cut into 4 slices
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 8 slices
extra virgin olive oil
- For the pesto, chop garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Add nuts and process for 30 seconds. Add basil and cheese to the bowl and process 10 seconds. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil through the opening in the lid. Stop and scrape the bowl before adding all of the oil. Sprinkle salt over and continue adding oil just until reaching the desired consistency of the pesto. The more oil you add, the thinner the pesto will be.
- For the tomatoes, spread 2 tablespoons pesto over tomato slices and top each with a slice of cheese. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with oil and vinegar.
Cook’s Note: If you have a high-speed blender, you can use it to make pesto; however, you may need to stop and scrape the sides of the jug and clear the underside of the blades often.
MORE WITH BASIL
- Add chopped basil to egg or chicken salad or other sandwich fillings.
- Tear basil into bite-sized pieces and add to green summer salads.
- Float a whole basil leaf on cold gazpacho soup or tuck one into a lunch wrap.
- Lightly oil chicken pieces or fish fillets and cover with whole basil leaves before roasting.
- Add a ½ cup of fresh, chopped basil to homemade or canned tomato sauce for authentic Italian flavor.
- Add a ¼ cup of fresh, finely chopped basil to homemade or store-bought salad dressings.
Dill Cream Sauce with Smoked Salmon
Makes 4 Servings
Fresh dill has a clean, fragrant aroma of licorice and lemon that holds memories of Scandinavian gravlax and open-faced sandwiches. In fact, it’s used in yogurt as the perfect accompaniment for these smoked salmon appetizers—and you can pair it with poached or grilled fresh salmon fillets instead of smoked fish (see Cook’s Notes). Dill is antimicrobial and a good source of calcium, iron and magnesium. It has been said that the seeds may help with digestive issues such as heartburn and gas.
For the Dill Cream Sauce
½ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon drained capers
1 green onion, finely chopped
8 ounces smoked salmon, skin removed and meat flaked
4 thin slices dark rye or pumpernickel bread
16 fresh dill tips for garnish
- For the dill cream sauce, combine yogurt, dill, capers and onion in a bowl and stir to mix well.
- For the appetizers, spread each slice of bread with 2 tablespoons of dill cream sauce. Divide the salmon into 4 equal portions and pile each portion onto a slice of bread. Cut slices into 4 pieces and garnish each square with a tip of dill to serve.Cook’s Notes:
• Greek-style yogurt is thick and creamy, but you can use regular plain yogurt. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and spoon about 1 cup of plain yogurt into it. Set the bowl and strainer in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The longer you strain the yogurt, the thicker it will become. Don’t throw out that drained liquid. Use it in soups or add it to your morning smoothie.
• For grilled salmon, double the Dill Cream Sauce recipe to make 1 cup and either serve sauce over each of 4 salmon servings or pass separately at the table. For an added burst of flavor, prior to grilling, drizzle juice from half of a lemon over fillet and rub with a mixture of 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill.
MORE WITH DILL
- Dill and dairy products were made for each other. Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill to ½ cup cream cheese and use in place of mayonnaise as a sandwich spread.
- Make herbed butter using 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill whisked into 1 cup soft butter. Serve with cooked vegetables or top a grilled steak with a pat.
- Toss 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill with perfectly cooked carrots or fresh summer peas.
- Dill makes fish and seafood sing, so make the dill cream sauce whenever you enjoy the bounty from the sea.
- Chop fresh dill into borscht or stir into sour cream and use a dollop with any summer soup.
- Add 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill to add zip to cooked rice, lentils or beans (remember it’s a digestive, so it helps with lentils and beans).
STORING FRESH HERBS
Fresh herbs are sold in two ways. Often, popular herbs such as basil, parsley, cilantro or dill are bunched and sold as produce without packaging. Crocker suggests swishing them in cool water and storing on the counter in a glass or vase with their stems in water (as you would cut flowers) and use within a few days.
• For longer storage, pat them dry and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
• When you buy herbs in their own airtight container, simply keep them in the refrigerator, removing a few sprigs at a time for recipes.
Nutrition info (per serving)
• Dill Cream Sauce with Smoked Salmon: Calories 157 (35 From Fat); Fat 4g (Sat. 1g); Chol 15mg; Sodium 596mg; Carb 14g; Fiber 1g; Protein 16g
• Basil & Pistachio Pesto with Tomatoes & Mozzarella: Calories 692 (567 From Fat); Fat 65g (Sat. 16g); Chol 44mg; Sodium 780mg; Carb 12g; Fiber 3g; Protein 22g
Hungry for More?
Have rosemary? Check out this recipe:
Mediterranean Herb Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
Get a taste of sunshine with kebabs covered by a blend of herbs, plus more ideas to use your fresh rosemary