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Cooking with Herbs

August 8, 2013 | by Elizabeth Kurtz

Fantastic food with fresh herbs.

Summer isn’t over yet and seasonal ingredients are still front and center at the market. I know Rosh Hashanah is around the corner (don’t worry, more on that in two weeks) but I’m still gardening and enjoying the sunshine.

Speaking of gardening, I must share my enthusiasm for fresh herbs. The flavors are so intense, so fragrant and so delicious in food. I love using them. They can be difficult to check for bugs but are well worth the effort. (Please be mindful of the appropriate way to check them for bugs or buy them pre-checked from your market). For the green thumbs out there, the following are herbs that can be grown in your backyard or on your windowsill:  basil, tarragon, oregano, chives, mint, rosemary, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley, sage, thyme, cilantro, marjoram and lavender.  Admittedly, you don’t need much of a green thumb to be successful. All you need is a large pot, plants, water and lots of sunshine.

Add rosemary to roasted potatoes or chicken, lavender and mint to iced tea, tarragon to pasta sauce, and basil with anything tomato. Here are a few more ideas for fantastic food with fresh herbs:

Grilled Steak with Fantastic Herb Marinade

Grilled Steak with Fantastic Herb MarinadeServes 8

  • 3 pounds Del Monico steak, flank steak
, or other grilling steak
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh thyme

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed

Marinate for a minimum of 3 hours or up to overnight.

Heat your grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.  Let the grill reach an internal temperature of about 450 degrees (use your thermostat on the grill to check the temperature).  Turn down the burners to medium.  Place the steaks on the grill. Close the grill.  Do not disturb for 5 – 6 minutes.  Turn steaks over and grill until desired doneness, about 5 – 6 minutes more for rare (or 145 degrees internal temperature), 7 – 10 minutes for medium (150 to 155 degrees), and a few more for well-done meat but seriously, why bother spending money on steak for well-done meat, just make a burger. Just my two cents.

Serve with Southwestern coleslaw or Classic Coleslaw.

Salad with Lots of Fresh Herbs

Salad with Lots of Fresh HerbsServes 4 – 6

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stemmed (about 3 cups)
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, stemmed (about 3 cups)
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon, stemmed (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup arugula leaves
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
  • Edible flowers, for garnish

In a blender or food processor, combine the vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper until well mixed. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil until the dressing is smooth and creamy. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the herbs, arugula, and fennel. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with edible flowers and serve.

Basil Pesto and Olive Smashed Potatoes

Basil Pesto and Olive Smashed PotatoesServes 4

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

  • 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and patted dry

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional (make without them to be pareve)
12 small red or Yukon Gold potatoes (2 to 3 in. diameter), well-scrubbed
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

Make pesto: Purée garlic and basil in a food processor. Add olives and oil and pulse to a smooth, thick paste. Turn into a bowl and stir in cheese.

Put potatoes in a large pot on the stove with generously salted water to cover. Bring almost to a boil and cook until easily pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle, press each between your hands until about 3/4 in. thick but still in one piece.

Spread each potato with 1 heaping tablespoon pesto and press to compact it. Heat a cast-iron skillet, then add potatoes. Pan-roast until crisp underneath, 5 minutes. Turn pesto side down and let roast and crisp up. Put on a platter, pesto side up, and sprinkle with parsley.

Mint and Basil Roasted Rack of Lamb

Mint and Basil Roasted Rack of LambServes 8

  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 (1 1/2-pounds each) racks of lamb, trimmed and frenched

Blend the mint, basil, nuts, lemon juice, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor until the herbs are finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually blend in 1/3 cup of oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Generously sprinkle the lamb racks with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a grill pan or heavy large skillet over high heat. Place 1 lamb rack in the skillet and cook just until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the lamb rack meat side up on a heavy large baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 2 lamb racks.

Roast the lamb in the oven until cooked to desired doneness, about 20 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the lamb racks to a work surface. Set aside for 10 minutes. Cut the lamb between the bones into single chops. Spread the pesto over 1 cut side of each chop. Arrange the chops, pesto side up, on plates or a platter, and serve.

Do-Ahead Tip: The pesto and lamb racks may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead. Cover the pesto and lamb separately and refrigerate. Allow extra time for the chilled lamb to roast.

Alternately, the racks of lamb can be sliced then broiled before serving. To broil the lamb: Use 18 to 24 meaty single lamb rib chops (about 2 1/2 ounces each, from 3 racks of lamb). Preheat the broiler. Arrange the lamb chops in a single layer over 2 heavy baking sheets. Lightly brush the lamb chops with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Watching closely, broil the lamb chops 3 inches from the heat source until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Spread the pesto over the chops. Arrange the chops pesto side up on plates or a platter, and serve.

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