When you have a passion for cooking and gardening, a robust herb garden is a natural fit.
This year’s garden includes chives, garlic chives, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, dill, oregano, two types of basil and rosemary, three varieties of thyme and four varieties of sage. A few are perennial and the sage that is now on year five is flowering for the first time, sporting the prettiest lavender blossoms. The chives are blooming as well, adding to the beauty of my herb garden.
As a retiree, it’s good to have a plan each day. It’s also good to be able to pivot when plans change.
Yesterday I’d planned to run errands only to be foiled when the team who was to seal my driveway on Saturday instead showed up two days early. With my car held hostage in the garage, I decided to devote a day to harvesting my basil before the imminent first frost which spells disaster for this tender herb.
Surrounded by the sweet fragrance of fresh cut herbal goodness, I set about the tedious task of stemming and picking only the good leaves.
Luckily the sheer volume from my harvest inspired my creative side. First up I made a basil/walnut/parmesano regianno pesto then a beautiful basil oil and basil paste.
Basil paste, basil oil & 2 pestos
Love this brilliant green goodness
Feeling accomplished I quickly realized I’d used only half of the harvest. I love compound butters (check out my recipe for my Thanksgiving Fresh Picked Herb Compound Butter) so I made a luscious Basil Butter – add 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil to a stick of room temperature butter – blend together (I use a fork). Place on a piece of plastic wrap, roll into a log shape and refrigerate, that’s it! Easy right?
Still facing down a sizable pile of basil, I decided to make another style pesto with basil/almond/lemon pesto which yielded 2 more jars of basil goodness.
Realizing that it was nearing dinner time, it made sense to use the remaining basil in some way. I created a delicious herb-centric pasta dish that was so good I had to share it.
Fresh Herb Fusilli
1/2 lb fusilli
extra virgin olive oil
3 T chopped red onion
red pepper flakes
coarse ground black pepper to taste
1 t anchovy paste (optional but highly recommended – this is the salt component)
2 garlic cloves – rough chopped
6 T of chopped mixed herbs (basil, thyme and italian parsley)
1 T pine nuts
1/2 lemon – juiced
Cook the pasta as directed and drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan with a good drizzle of olive oil and add the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes, adding the anchovy paste, red pepper flakes and pepper and stir to combine. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the pasta to the saute pan and mix with the onion and garlic. Add pine nuts and the fresh herbs and stir together for another 1-2 minutes. Take pan off the heat, drizzle the juice from the lemon over the top. Serve in a bowl and top with feta.
I’ve been growing herbs for almost 30 years. For a self-taught “gourmet”, it’s thrilling for me to go into my backyard and pick lush flat leaf parsley, flavorful chives, fragrant rosemary and thyme. With our recent freezing temps and heavy snowfall, I was certain that I wouldn’t be harvesting herbs for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Then we had a thaw and under the weather damaged herbs, I was able to find an ample supply – hooray!
Fresh-Picked Herb Compound Butter
Start with 2 sticks of very soft butter (I use salted butter), add 1 generous tablespoon each of chopped flat-leaf parsley, thyme & rosemary, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic chives and 1-2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper. Stir together with a dinner fork. Cover and store in a cool (not cold place) until ready for use.
As we speak, it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving and I just prepared mine. Making ahead allows the herbs to really flavor the butter. While there are many uses for compound butters, I’ll use this one after gently loosening the skin of the turkey breast then taking gobs of it, massaging and slathering it between the skin and the turkey. As it roasts in the oven, the herb butter self-bastes the turkey. Enjoy!
I realize that I haven’t posted in nearly a week but I’ve been working in my garden like a woman possessed. Here’s an update of the profusion of color that is exploding in my world. It’s hard work but what a pay off, beauty abounds.