Deciding whether or not to buy fresh herbs is a grocery conflict I face on the regular, causing me to pause and negotiate with myself in the store (turning the main produce aisle thru-way into a chaotic one-laner). Should I drop $10 on some cilantro and thyme? I never use it all but it adds such vibrant flavor…
They are somewhat expensive, costing $3 to $5 dollars for each container, so buying a selection of herbs can take up a significant portion of the grocery bill. With frugal intentions in mind, it can be difficult to justify spending $10 on a handful of puny green stems when $10 could also mean, like, a lot of baby carrots or a couple pounds of beef. They add such flavor (and sometimes make me feel like a wizard in potions class) but are the first things to be ejected from the cart if I exceed my (admittedly arbitrary, on-the-spot) budget.
My favorite uses for fresh herbs include:
- Chopping them up in a fresh salad, particularly mint and cilantro in an arugula salad with a tart vinaigrette (recipe forthcoming);
- Stewing them in a vegetable or bone broth;
- Roasting herbed chicken or veggies;
- As a sauce for pasta or on a greek yogurt pizza crust;
- Blending them in with the egg, lemon juice, salt and olive oil for mayonnaise (when I’m at my most ambitious).
When I do get herbs, I immediately open the package and wrap the stems in in paper towel before placing them back in their plastic packaging. The paper helps manage moisture content in the package and extends their storage life. This is particularly important for the lil’ leafy guys, like parsley and cilantro.
Inevitably, some of the herbs be left for too long without being added to a recipe. I really hate to waste produce and greens, so I have identified a way to work them into a recipe and store them, long term. It is also super-mega-delicious. I recommend making an herbed compound butter.
Leftover Herb Compound Butter
The recipe makes a versatile, flavorful butter that serves many purposes.
- 3 sticks butter
- 1 big old tablespoon of minced garlic
- 6 tablespoons roughly chopped herbs
- Jars for storage
- Remove the roughage from the herbs (like the piney stem of rosemary or the twiggy part of thyme). If you rinse your herbs, be sure to dry them thoroughly. Roughly chop the herbs into a sauce pan and mix.
- Add butter sticks.
- Heat the saucepan on low. Monitor and stir slowly so that the butter does not heat and separate. Try to avoid a full on melt, here, and keep the mixture opaque if possible. Once the butter chunks are gone, remove from heat.
- Allow to cool slightly, until the mixture thickens but is still liquid. Scoop butter into jars. The herbs will settle. Feel free to shake and invert the jars (once lidded) so as to try to suspend the herbs throughout.
- Keep a jar handy in the fridge. Freeze the remainder.
Use the butter on toast to accompany a salad or whatever. Or, use the butter on a pasta for more of a meal (see note below). I’ll bet you could make a mean savory scone with this butter, too. The butter freezes well and retains flavor much more than freezing a free-standing herb twig.
I’d like to learn more about storing herbs in a vase of water and/or growing my own. Let me know if you have experience with these things! I would love some helpful hints.
- Trader Joe’s sells herbs at a better price and larger volume than most grocers.
- People also freeze the herbs in ice cube tray with olive oil, which is pretty cool.
- Personally, I am not a #1 pasta fan. I get a major sugar-like rush and subsequent crash. But, I have grown to enjoy the new, high-protein high-fiber iterations.For the high-protein high-fiber pasta, Banza makes pasta from chick peas and pea protein, and POW! offers pasta from a variety of protein sources, like black bean flour and quinoa flour. I have used Banza pasta plenty of times – it doesn’t expand like normal pasta. It has an outrageous amount of protein and fiber.