Tuesday, July 28, 2020 10:46 AM
The gardening season is in transition by late July, at the point where we spend as much time harvesting, eating and preserving as planting, weeding and maintaining. Or at least that’s the ideal scenario. Berries are ready for the freezer or jams and jellies, summer squashes and salads are available for any meal, beans, potaotes and tomatoes making an appearance, with corn standing in the wings. It’s a wonderful time to be a cook, to be able to step outside and in just a few minutes bring something fresh and nutritious into the kitchen for a simple dinner. I’ve gotten into the habit of picking basil, chives, garlic chives and parsley every morning as I return from walking the dog, knowing I’ll find some use for them during the day. But what I should really be doing is preserving this herbal abundance for the times ahead when it will no longer be there for the taking.
I’ve already put some pesto in the freezer, as I had an abundance of garlic scapes at a time when parsley and basil were also plentiful. Garlic scape pesto is actually my favorite, less overwhelming than straight basil and garlic, in my opinion, and while I know that almost any green can be turned into pesto with the addition of garlic, oil, basil and Parmesan, the truth is, I love pesto, but only occasionally — say, once a month or so.
So how else to save fresh herbs for future use? Compound butter — a fancyland term for butter with bits of stuff mixed in — is an easy solution. If you have logs of butter with favorite herbs, along with citrus, cheese or whatever, stashed in the freezer, they can be sliced into as many rounds as needed to top vegetables, fish, steak or chicken. They can be tossed into pasta, or mixed into scrambled eggs or omelets, not to mention livening up a grilled cheese sandwich or loaf of garlic bread. And there isn’t soup alive that wouldn’t be improved by a chunk of herbed butter mixed in before serving.
The technique used to make a compound herb butter couldn’t be simpler: soften a stick of butter until its easy to stir, then mix in chopped herbs of choice. The herbs should be rinsed thoroughly and allowed to air dry for a couple of hours before chopping or scissoring into a fine mince or chiffonade, if larger pieces of herb are wanted, as in the case of basil. Once the butter is mixed, place it on a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper and form it into a log shape with a spatula before rolling into a log and twisting the ends to seal it before freezing.
The possibilities for herb butter are myriad, but here are a few suggestions:
Horseradish Chive Butter: one stick softened butter, two tablespoons bottled horseradish, drained, three tablespoons minced fresh chives.
Thai Basil Lime Butter: one stick softened butter, half a scrubbed lime, zested, two tablespoons Thai basil, minced, pinch red pepper flakes.
Lemon Dill Butter: one stick softened butter, zest and juice of half a scrubbed lemon, two tablespoons fresh dill, chopped.
Herb Medley Butter: two sticks softened butter, two tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon minced chives, one teaspoon each chopped thyme, sage and rosemary.
Last, but not least, if you have lots of bold and bushy nasturtium plants in the garden, try this colorful butter with a slight flavor of radishes:
Nasturtium Butter: one stick softened butter, half a cup nasturtium petals, rinsed and patted dry, pinch of sea salt. Mash the flower petals in a mortar and pestle until a paste is formed, then stir in softened butter and wrap into a log.
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