Come summer, it’s the query herb experts get asked the most: “I have so much (insert name of home-grown herb here). What can I do with it?” So before you surrender — or resort to zucchini-esque measures — we thought we’d offer advice and suggestions from people who are used to dispatching herbs in great quantities. Tips:Thyme
Because of its sweet and savory characteristics, thyme is my go-to herb. It’s rounded and balanced, which means it can work in any dish: orange vegetables, meats, sauces, beans and even desserts. It pairs especially well with garlic, mushrooms, squash and onion. Its sweetness makes it a good infuser for alcohol and for homemade bitters.
It makes the best vinaigrette for Greek salad (see accompanying recipe).
TIP It takes time to harvest those tiny leaves from their thin stems. Hold the top of the stem, about a half-inch down; gently pinch your thumb and forefinger together and zip down the stem. It’s easier to get the leaves off after the thyme stems have air-dried for a day or two.
By Susan Belsinger, an herb expert for more than 40 years who published her first article on herbs in Gourmet in 1980.Mint
Of all the varieties, I like chocolate mint the best. It has a dark note to it and seems less minty. The most delicately scented and flavored leaves are the three or four tender ones at the top of the plant. I like the taste of mint and basil together; at the restaurant, we use the combination in a shaved asparagus salad with a licorice vinaigrette.
TIP Don’t chop it up too much. Use a sharp knife so it doesn’t get all black.
By Tucker Yoder, executive chef of the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville, Va.
They are part of a classic fines herbes blend that can include parsley, chervil, thyme and tarragon. I like them paired with tarragon best. Chive blossoms can come on strong, so discard the purple petals and stir the remaining head of the blossom into risottos or cold soups such as vichyssoise.
Use a sharp knife or kitchen scissors to chop chives, as opposed to slicing them. You will be cutting across lengthy fibers, and the cleaner cut will keep them from becoming slimy.
TIP When you pick the chives, you have to assess their moisture content in order to store them properly in the refrigerator. If they seem dry, wrap them in a damp paper towel. If they are wet, put them in dry paper toweling.
By Aliza Green, a Philadelphia chef and author of several cookbooks as well as “Field Guide to Herbs and Spices” (Quirk, 2006).
It’s true that marjoram is subtler than regular oregano. I find it to be elegant, floral and lemony. It loses something when it’s dried.
TIP Lemon and olive oil are complementary flavors.
By Michael Costa, executive chef at Zaytinya in D.C..Chervil
It’s a fragrant and light version of parsley. I appreciate its subtlety; it needs to be treated with a soft hand. Keep it in the warmest place in your refrigerator, wrapped in lightly dampened paper towels.
TIP Chervil is all about the finish. Don’t put it in a cooked dish early.
By Jeff Black, chef-restaurateur of the Black Restaurant Group.Cilantro
It’s so fresh and clean-tasting. You just have to be careful with it, so it doesn’t overpower anything. Tear the leaves, or use a mortar and pestle to bruise them to release their oils. Even people who have problems with the taste of cilantro like a cilantro pesto when it’s made with almonds instead of pine nuts.
TIP Use the stems as well as the leaves whenever you have a recipe that calls for cilantro. They have great flavor.
—By chef Rob Weland.Sage
The herb has a great mineralistic, almost briny quality; it’s not sweet like chervil. Sage is also fat-soluble, so we like to use lots of it when we confit turkey. We cure the turkey thighs in salt, sugar and spices for a day, then submerge the thighs in a mixture of duck and chicken fat and tons of sage leaves. Cover and cook in a low-temperature oven for hours till really tender.
TIP Sage flowers are purply-blue and sweet; not like the flavor of the leaves. Use them in salads.
By Tarver King, executive chef at the Ashby Inn in Paris, Va.Rosemary
Theories abound regarding food and wine pairing, but none has ever held more weight to me than the idea of pairing like to like, molecules to molecules, an approach propounded by sommelier and author Francois Chartier. Finding those pairings that sing means searching out combinations that share similar aromatic compounds.
With rosemary, I head straight to fino sherry, a dry fortified wine. They both share floral terpenic compounds that give them strong aroma and resonance.
So, when you have excess rosemary, simply add it to good olive oil. Heat them up together for a few minutes, and, after cooling, transfer the oil to a glass bottle. I always add a sprig of rosemary to the bottle as well. It’s decorative. Drizzle the rosemary-infused oil over goat cheese or cured ham and pour yourself a chilly glass of fino sherry. You’ll see.
TIP Its leaves become more resinous, piney and tough in the summer, so use fewer of them, and chop them finely.
By Derek Brown, mixologist and co-owner of three bars in D.C., including the new Mockingbird Hill.