Ah, summertime. The spring planting frenzy is past and herb gardeners are beginning to enjoy the fruits of their labors. They dust off the lawn chairs and fire up the barbecue for a sweet time relaxing with family and friends. As you journey through the coming summer days, don’t forget to add a few snips of fresh herbs to your food and fun. Here are a few ideas I’ve collected over the years.
- When setting out cheese and crackers, consider adding zest to the cream cheese with fresh herb. Finely chop a tablespoon of herb leaves and mix in with 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and allow to chill for at least an hour before serving. You can do the same thing with Greek yogurt or more firm cheeses such as cheddar.
- Grilled corn or other vegetables will benefit from the flavor of seasoned butter. Add 1-2 teaspoons of herbs to softened butter and mix thoroughly. Chill before serving. Good combinations include basil and thyme, garlic and rosemary, dill and onion.
- If you trim your rosemary bush, don’t discard the branches. Use them on the barbecue grill to add smoked flavor to the meats. Clip them into appropriate lengths and place directly on the coals. As they burn, they’ll release their aroma and taste.
- Iced tea can be made more refreshing by an addition of mint. Clip a 2-3 inch sprig and add it directly to your glass. You can also used fresh mint when brewing iced tea. A good handful of clean, fresh leaves for every four black tea bags is about right.
- For a different twist on lemonade make lemon balm lemonade. Add a good handful of lemon balm leaves to two cups of hot water and allow to steep as you would when making herbal tea. While it is cooling, remove the lemonade concentrate from the freezer. When the lemon balm liquid is lukewarm, strain out the leaves. Mix the lemonade concentrate according to package directions but use the lemon balm tea as part of the liquid. Chill and serve.
- Pesto isn’t just for basil. Try using other fresh herbs such as cilantro for a new twist on an Italian favorite.