There’s nothing nicer than having access to a few pots of fresh herbs growing in your kitchen and a big basil or oregano plant in the garden – I love being able to add fresh herbs to my cooking at a moment’s whimsy. And if you have a few plants outside that grow really well (or if you get big bunches of herbs from your CSA box or at the market) you can let your herbs take center stage. A lot of people ( …cough *Marla*) make pesto out of every herb or green that enters their kitchen. Basil is certainly popular for shining in classic pesto sauce, and many herbs and greens taste wonderful prepared this way as well. But there are so many other sauces and salads that utilize specific flavours to their best advantage.
For instance, I often used to have a surplus of parsley and cilantro in my fridge. I like drying herbs like summer savoury, sage, dill and thyme – but I just don’t like the flavour of parsley and cilantro in their dried form. So I’ve been starting to collect recipes that use large amounts of these herbs while they’re fresh, and now I love receiving those large bunches in my CSA box specifically so I can make these dishes.
I like buying cilantro throughout the year because I love the sharp flavour for Mexican and Asian cooking, but I rarely used it all before it goes slimy. I was happy to be introduced to a thin cilantro chutney by an Indian co-worker a few years ago that uses huge amounts of cilantro for a great spicy condiment that is really easy to freeze. I also used to turn my nose up at parsley whenever I’d get a big bunch of it in my CSA box because I didn’t feel it really added much to my cooking – and in my opinion, it made lousy pesto! Now, tabbouleh has become my go-to salad when I have a lot of parsley. I’d always loved eating it at Lebanese restaurants, but never really understood how easy it was to make, and how well it keeps in the fridge. You can also use a mixture of parsley and mint (which is another herb that we all tend to have a lot of when we have it!)
- 1 or 2 bunches finely chopped parsley (flat leaf parsley is more traditional, but the curly stuff works just fine)
- 1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint (optional)
- 2-3 tablespoons fine bulgur*
- 1 chopped firm tomato
- 1 small cucumber or 1/2 a large one (if you’re making a big batch you may want to skip the cuke as it tends to make the salad more watery the longer it sits)
- 1/2 onion or 2 scallions chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra Virgin olive oil
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Finely chop the herbs on a cutting board, or in a food processor.
In a large bowl, mix Bulgur, chopped tomatoes and cukes, chopped onions/scallions with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to them the parsley and mint and olive oil and mix, adjusting seasoning by adding more oil and lemon if desired.
*I tend to vary the amount of bulgur quite a bit when I’m making this – if I’m bringing it to a potluck I add a lot more bulgur so that it’s more of a main dish salad, but when I’m serving it as a side dish and want to highlight the astringent sharp flavours, I sometimes leave the bulgur out altogether.
Spicy Cilantro (Hari) Chutney
- 1 big bunch of chopped Cilantro
- 3 green chopped chilies (or less, depending on your tolerance to heat)
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1/2 inch ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Blend all ingredients, except the cilantro, into a paste.
- Add the cilantro, a little at a time, and blend. If needed, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. The water will help in blending.
- Blend well and add more salt, green chilies, or lemon juice to taste.
You can make hari chutney in large quantities in advance and freeze it in ice cube trays. When ready to serve, defrost as many cubes of hari chutney as needed. If you freeze the hari chutney immediately after preparing, the chutney will not lose its bright green color and freshness.
Now, does anybody have any recipes that use up a lot of oregano? I have a plant at home that’s growing out of control and I’d love to use it up!