We give at least four different fresh herbs every year with our CSA: parsley, dill, cilantro and basil. In the below video I take you through the process of chopping those herbs, but I wanted to add a little bit here about usage and storage so you can get the most out of each.
We give an Italian flat leaf parsley with our CSA, but of course these same rules more or less apply to curly parsleys.
Storing: Store your parsley in the fridge, sealed in a ziplock bag or wrapped in a damp paper towel. You can keep it in a jar of water (like flowers) on your countertop, but you will need to cover it with a plastic bag to prevent wilting.
Chop: cut off the stems as best you can and reserve for soups, stocks or to be chopped up finely and tossed into potato salad (our stems are delicious). Pack the parsley against the side of your knife as tightly as possible. Slowly chop until the green are as fine as desired. Large leaves can also be used for chiffonade as demonstrated for the basil in the video. Cut it as you need it, or just chop it all at the beginning of the week and sprinkle over everything. Literally. Read on.
Pairings: everything. Really, I mean that. Parsley’s flavor is simply freshness (with a hint of anise) and it goes with almost every other flavor––anywhere a fresh blast of savory could go. Garnish pastas, soups, salads, fish or even beef with it. You can also make a parsley oil with the herb––recipe to come––to drizzle over soups, salads, etc.. Extremely healthful and versatile, use parsley like mad.
Dill is a flavorful herb whose utility is perhaps broader than you might think (or at least broader than I realized when I first started cooking). Without it we would have no dill pickles… or ranch dressing.
Storing: If you wash it, make sure it’s dry before storing. 1) you can pack it into a jar with enough water to reach all stems (no fronds) and cover it with a plastic bag. Put in the fridge for longest life. 2) To save some space, place the dill in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel and place in fridge. Both ways will get you at least a week.
Chop: Dill makes a very professional garnish. Pick off fronds as shown in the video and garnish fish, salads, or potato salad––great for hors d’oeuvres. You can also cut off the stems, and chop the fronds as you would parsley. Press the dill against a sharp knife and chop until fine.
Pairings: Dill is great with cucumbers, obviously, but also salmon, potatoes, garlic, carrots, parsnips, and goat cheese (that may be a personal preference, but I stand by it).
An herb as divisive as our politics, cilantro is among the essential ingredients from many Latin and Asian cuisines. It’s chemical structure however makes some people genetically predisposed to hating the flavor. In other words, it tastes like soap or metal to some, so don’t assume everyone will love your cilantro ice cream and with sundried tomatoes tart. I will, though. I will.
Storing: Much like dill, cilantro leaves need to be dry for storage to avoid rot. So do that first––get them dry. Then same as dill, either place in a jar, cover and set in fridge or in a plastic bag with a dry towel. Good for one to two weeks.
Chop: Remove the stems and save them for juices or salsas. Gently chop the cilantro leaves as you would parsley or dill, using a sharp knife so as not to bruise the leaves. You want a chop, not a mush. That is where the flavor lives.
Pairings: Cilantro goes with anything you would put in salsa––beans, tomatoes, lemons, limes, onions, and garlic. It is also excellent with avocados which itself is excellent with all those salsa things. Another fun pairing? Roasted chicken with cilantro butter or heck, just try your hand at some bahn-mi.
Definitely among the more familiar herbs, basil is a powerful member of the mint family that grows like crazy so long as it’s warm. Cold? Not so much.
Storing: Basil loves to rot. It’s a pro. And it hates the cold. So––both for purple and green basil––if it’s long-stemmed, store in a jar with water not touching the leaves, changed every other day. (Sometimes the basil will even begin sprouting roots, at which point you could plant it and extend the season!). Otherwise, if small stems and leaves, make sure the leaves are dry and place in a plastic bag with paper towel in cool but not cold place.
Chop: Basil is a bruiser. It will bruise under the slightest pressure. So however you choose to chop it, be gentle and use a sharp knife. The chiffonade in the video is the most common cut, but you can also turn those strips and dice them for a nice garnish.
Pairings: Basil and tomato. Basil and Mozzerella. Basil is versatile. Use it to top salads, in pestos, and over almost any dish that has tomato in it. Basil is also known to go with fruits like strawberries, but I had a basil and blueberry popsicle recently that was on of the best flavor pairings I’ve had in years.