The first herbs of spring are light and tender, a hallmark of the new season. These delicate herbs pair especially well with the other flavors of spring (think peas with mint and asparagus with tarragon) but there are endless ways to use them in the kitchen, beyond simply finishing dishes. Whether you’re growing them yourself in a garden or windowsill or buying them at your local market, here are some creative ways to bring herbs into the spotlight for your next dinner.
Mix minced fresh herbs — such as chives, parsley, cilantro, tarragon or chervil – with softened butter to make a compound butter. Just a pat adds delicious flavor and moisture as it melts on beef, chicken, pork and fish. Try our favorite recipe on your next grilled steak or steamed vegetables.
Pesto is likely the most popular sauce to make from fresh basil, but you can actually make pesto with almost any herb: cilantro, mint, parsley, or a mix. Chimichurri is another simple but flavor-packed sauce to have on hand during spring and summer — it’s perfect for topping anything grilled. For a more elegant touch, try a gremolata, an herb and citrus relish starring lemon zest and garlic. Serve it on top of soups, fish, poultry or meats.
Add a hint of herbal flavor to foods as they cook by using fresh herb sprigs as a basting brush. It works especially well for sturdy herbs like rosemary or thyme. Try this technique next time you barbecue chicken on the grill.
Infusing simple syrup with fresh herbs adds a new dimension to beverages. Just combine equal parts sugar and water and heat just until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat and stir in a handful of your favorite herbs. Let steep for 2 hours before straining. Try rosemary syrup in fresh lemonade or lavender syrup in a glass of Champagne. Find more ideas here.
Toss picked fresh herbs with greens in your next salad to add complex, refreshing flavor to a salad. Subtly flavored herbs like parsley, chervil and cilantro take center stage in this bright Green Herb Salad, but any of your favorite herbs will work.
Mix minced herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage or savory with sea salt and garlic for a quick, easy herb salt to sprinkle on finished dishes. These make a beautiful presentation, too — just set out the herb salt in a small bowl and let guests season their own foods.
Whole spices and dried herbs are essentials for pickling, but don’t forget about fresh herbs, too. Sprigs of thyme, oregano, dill and fennel fronds lend subtle vegetal character to pickled vegetables. Try these Dilly Beans or Giardiniera.
Drying fresh herbs you harvest in the spring and summer gives them new, distinct flavors to use in all your cool-weather dishes later in the year. Learn how to dry your own herbs here.
What’s your favorite way to use fresh spring herbs? Tell us in the comments!