Help me produce yumminess with fresh herbs?
July 15, 2010 6:35 PM   Subscribe

How can I use the small but frequent herb harvests from my Aerogarden?

My Aerogarden herbs (basil, dill, thyme, mint, oregano, and chives) have finally reached the harvest stage, but I am realizing, to my dismay, that I'm not really sure what to do with them. I've been making mojitos with the mint and mixing the basil with tomatoes and salt for yummy salads, but I've never cooked with dill or thyme, and my oregano experience is pretty much limited to those dry Italian Seasoning blends you get.

I have found a couple of "what to do with my basil harvest" questions, but they all seem geared towards what to do with an excess of basil... I just have the one plant, so I'm dealing in smaller quantities at a time. I'm getting the largest harvests off the mint and basil, moderate of dill and thyme, small amounts of oregano, and the chives are scrawny and pathetic.

So, hive mind- how do you use these herbs? What foods go well with which ones? I'm basically harvesting enough of each plant to season one dish about once a week or so (more for the basil and mint.) I have a vague notion that you use dill with fish, mint with lamb, and basil with tomatoes (and cheeeese om nom nom), but I've never really cooked with fresh herbs so I'm not sure how exactly to use this information.

I am equally glad of complete recipes and "tear off three leaves and throw them in the pot" type advice.
posted by oblique red to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
My boyfriend has a (couple) thriving basil plant(s) that he harvests daily for breakfast: basil, goat cheese, and fig jam on whole wheat toast.

Thyme, sage, and parsley are good to cram into birds before roasting.

Chives are good with a little bit of cream cheese to dip radishes into.

Oregano, garlic, and parsley mixed into softened butter, rubbed onto some good Italian bread, and broiled makes really delicious garlic bread.
posted by phunniemee at 6:44 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

For the oregano...go Greek! I particularly like throwing oregano on top of roasting potato slices soaked in lemon juice and olive oil. Here's a recipe that looks somewhat similar to mine.
posted by sallybrown at 6:44 PM on July 15, 2010

Any of these (except maybe the mint) go well in scrambled eggs for breakfast/brunch. I'd chop 'em up a little first, but herbed eggs are really very good.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:47 PM on July 15, 2010

Almost any herb (especially thyme, chives and dill) will go great with eggs, potatoes, or summer squashes. I made this smitten kitchen recipe for asparagus pancetta hash with thyme and chives tonight.

Basil also makes some great cocktails when muddled with fruit, if you're getting tired of mojitos.
posted by supramarginal at 6:49 PM on July 15, 2010

Oh my gosh, yes, Johnny Assay has reminded me of this delicious baked eggs recipe. SO GOOD.
posted by phunniemee at 6:50 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dill: Fish, chicken. Fresh dill has a wonderful scent and you really can't over dill a dish if you use the fresh stuff.

Thyme: Think of the song. "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme." A classic combination that works on chicken, beef, pork or lamb. Easy on the sage and rosemary. Both will overpower a dish like too much dried oregano in a tomato sauce. Thyme by itself perks up roast potatoes. Put it on sliced taters with salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet and roast them in a hot oven until tender and caramelized. Sprinkle with a bit of the fresh version before serving.

Take a pinch or each and rub it between your fingers. Take a big sniff. Then think, what would I like these flavors in?

Good luck. I envy you. My basil came out a bit bland this year.
posted by Splunge at 6:51 PM on July 15, 2010

posted by Splunge at 6:53 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: 1) Find the best, most amazing baguettes in your city. You want to find a bakery with a steam-injection oven (or something similar). They should have a delectably chewy/crispy crust and toothy, but not hard, interior.

2) Find the best, most amazing mozzarella ovalini in your city. Organic, freshly made, usually sold in little watery tubs.

3) Find some fresh sweet tomatoes. If you can get sungold tomatoes (they're cherry tomato sized, but yellow), buy them immediately. In any case, you should probably visit a farmers' market or befriend someone with a yard full of overbearing tomato plants. If you're desperate, just buy any old tomato.

4) I also recommend using some pitted kalamata olives, but the flavor may overwhelm your herbs. Use your own judgment.

5) Preheat your toaster over to ~350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut a reasonably-sized piece off the end of the baguette with a serrated knife -- maybe 4-8" -- and slice this lengthwise, making a top half and a bottom half, as though you were going to make a sandwich. Lay the pieces, cut side up, on your toaster oven tray. Drizzle or smear a little olive oil onto the cut parts.

6) Slice the tomato (and, optionally, olive) into about 1/4" slices, and spread the slices over the cut, oiled bread, then put the whole thing into the oven for a few minutes to soften and warm the vegetables. The bread may get lightly toasted around the corners. That's OK.

7) While the first cooking is happening, slice your ovalini into enough 1/4"-thick slices to completely cover the bread slices, and also wash and prepare your fresh herbs, especially the oregano and/or basil. Thyme is good here, too. Dill and chives can be quite nice.

When it's ready, take the bread out of the oven. Sprinkle some herb leaves on the bread/tomatoes/olives, then top with the ovalini. Taste a piece of the ovalini to decide whether to add a little salt on top. Put more herbs on top. Wow this is going to be good.

8) Put the cheesy bread back into the toaster oven, at 375-425 degrees Fahrenheit, to melt and optionally brown the cheese. Watch for the herbs getting too toasted or turning black (don't worry if this happens, just stop cooking then). Take the whole thing out of the oven when it looks done enough to you.

Now, my friend, you get to eat it.
posted by amtho at 6:55 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Enjoy your basil with caprese salad (decent tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, salt, pepper).

Use dill to infuse vodka (several sprigs of dill with vodka in a plastic container, leave on a sunny windowsill for a day or two, refrigerate to store), then make the healthiest cocktail ever with dill vodka, carrot juice, a squeeze of lemon and ginger ale. Shake with ice before adding the ginger ale, strain in chilled martini glasses with a lemon twist and a sprig of dill.

Dill is also always good on cucumbers, and great on smoked salmon bagels (bagel, cream cheese, smoked salmon, dill) or tea sandwiches.

Make clams oreganata with the oregano. Serve with crusty bread.

Pick up a Greek cookbook (I like The Olive and the Caper) and make lamb meatballs or souvlaki with the thyme and mint.

Stick a bunch of veggies (asparagus, zucchini, peppers, carrots, eggplant) in a Ziplock baggie with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a couple of smashed cloves of garlic and any extra herbs you have (make sure to add at least some thyme), let marinate for a few hours or overnight in the frig, throw on the grill next to whatever else you are cooking.
posted by halogen at 7:00 PM on July 15, 2010

Ooh, I forgot. Fresh oregano! Tuck fresh oregano leaves under the skin of a chicken with chopped garlic and butter. Fill the cavity with whole oregano stems and lemon slices.

Roast as you usually would.

Greek chicken!
posted by Splunge at 7:02 PM on July 15, 2010

Hmmm... I think you need a bigger garden.
posted by Splunge at 7:04 PM on July 15, 2010


-Goes great with salmon, especially smoked salmon.
-Mix it in some cream cheese and spread it on bagels.
-Pickles! Make some refrigerator pickles!


-Works well with fish and chicken.
-Makes meatloaf that much better.
-Is a major player in sausage. You could buy some ground pork or turkey (or both) and make some sausage patties.


-Plays well with Greek flavors.
-Also likes Italian foods.
-Is great with the basil on a pizza with some fresh mozzarella and roma tomatoes. Mmmmm.
posted by cooker girl at 7:06 PM on July 15, 2010

We put whatever herbs want using in EVERYTHING. Snipped into salads, simmered in sauce, made into pesto, chopped and added to eggs. Those herbs will all play perfectly nicely together except for dill, which is a bit of a loner in that crowd. (It goes great in everything as well, just doesn't mix with the others in quite as great quantities.)

I make patches of mixed-herb pesto with minimal garlic and no cheese and freeze 'em in small containers, so that I'll have pesto all winter. (Cheese can get kind of gummy and the garlic intensifies, add more fresh when making your dish.)
posted by desuetude at 7:07 PM on July 15, 2010

Fresh thyme in creamy potato dishes is lovely. Even a wee snip of chives will improve an omelette, and when I have fresh dill I think tzatziki.

If I have more fresh herbs than I can handle I snip them into a little container and freeze; they won't be as flavourful but still quite usable. It's nice to have a little pot of mixed herbs in the freezer to pitch in soups, eggs, pastas.
posted by kmennie at 7:16 PM on July 15, 2010

Using dill with plain old yellow crookneck squash will please your taste buds.

Sauté a small amount of onions in butter.
Add yellow squash and salt and pepper.
When done add sour cream.
Then add chopped dill.

posted by JayRwv at 7:21 PM on July 15, 2010

I like dill with lima beans+white rice.
posted by sugarfish at 7:27 PM on July 15, 2010

Basil and mint: throw into stir-fries with tofu and assorted vegetables (like this)! Dill goes well with carrots (as in this recipe) and green beans (like here), and you can also make it into a fine salad dressing. Fresh basil, thyme, and oregano are good in tomato-based pasta sauce — you can chop them into storebought sauce to brighten up the flavor a lot.
posted by dreamyshade at 7:33 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't think anyone has said this, but you could always dry the small harvests to save for when you need them
posted by rebent at 7:49 PM on July 15, 2010

The dill might be nice in a tuna sandwich.
posted by lakeroon at 7:55 PM on July 15, 2010

Best answer: Think nationalities, and not so much specific foods.

Basil: anything Mediterranean. So, tomatoes, fish, cheese, pairs well with anything you use olive oil for. Basil is best when it's not cooked, I think, so salads, anything chilled.

Dill: Scandinavia loves dill. Anything sort of seafood, eggs, soups (chicken soup with dill is a classic) root veggies and potatoes, everything good with a pickle is good with a little dill.

Thyme: think French. roast chicken or game meats, pair it with wine sauces, anything that's a little rustic or you'd cook with butter will play well with thyme. Thyme's also great because you don't have to chop it - just pull the leaves off the stems, or drop intact stems into a soup or sauce and fish them out once they've imparted their flavor.

Mint: middle eastern and Indian flavors play well with mint. We think of mint as something for sweets but it's actually a kind of bitter, planty herb. Any vegetable can play well with mint, as well as yogurt and fresh cheeses, heavy spices, curries and kebab type things. If you'd put hummus on the side, you can use mint in it.

Oregano: Spain and Greece love oregano. Fresh oregano is actually a *very* strong herb, so use it sparingly. Anything with olives, lamb, chicken with tomatoes, grapes, and so-on is great with oregano. Roasted saffron cauliflower with olive oil and oregano and a little bit of bread crumb is maybe my favorite cruciferous vegetable.

Chives: chives are *everywhere*. You can use them in lots of Asian cuisine to add a subtle onion component, in salads or soups at the end when you want a bit of bite, and as a garnish on almost any meat ever. Chives are especially great with root vegetables, but also can go anywhere an onion can go.
posted by Mizu at 8:31 PM on July 15, 2010 [6 favorites]

If you feel like you have too much to use at once, you can try drying them, or infusing oil or vinegar with them. If you have friends that eat salads, infused vinegar can make a nice homemade gift.
posted by gimonca at 9:46 PM on July 15, 2010

Okay, so you don't think you have a lot. Dill vinegar wouldn't take a lot, and might help you spread out your consumption a bit.
posted by gimonca at 9:49 PM on July 15, 2010

Thyme is probably one of the most versatile herbs of that bunch (no pun intended). It loves meat, potatoes, summer squash, just about anything, really.
Dill loves salmon. Ever make your own Gravlax?
Mint and lamb are a classic combination. Grill some lamb chops and make a sort of gremolata with it. Or make kebab - it can be as simple as ground lamb, minced onion and garlic, and some chopped mint bound with egg and formed around a skewer. If you want to get crazy, you can add ground coriander, lemon zest, or even cayenne. Grill and serve with yogurt or tzatziki.
posted by Gilbert at 10:21 PM on July 15, 2010

This recipe has dill in it, and it is the most delicious pasta salad I have ever had in my entire life.
posted by rosethorn at 11:05 PM on July 15, 2010

For what it's worth, if I have fresh mint, I like to put it in coffee. YMMV.
posted by wayland at 11:31 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fresh oregano is a revelation in a red-wine vinaigrette. Any of the others would be nice chopped up in a homemade salad dressing, too.
posted by libraryhead at 5:59 AM on July 16, 2010

Oh, and you could garnish good lemonade with a few mint leaves, over ice, with vodka or not.
posted by libraryhead at 6:01 AM on July 16, 2010

A plate of sliced cucumbers with white vinegar, salt, paper, and dill -- put it in the fridge for a few minutes and eat it cold.

Just last night I grilled fish rubbed with thyme, basil, and chives from my garden, mashed up with salt, olive oil, garlic, and lemon zest. Yum.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:49 AM on July 16, 2010

This slow-cooked green beans recipe from the NYTimes is a fantastic use of thyme. Calls for 4 sprigs of thyme and then you can freestyle additional herbs at the end. Ignore the sausage part of the recipe if you wish - it's a great accompaniment to fish too (like broiled halibut mmmmmmmm).

Chives are great in mashed potatoes. They also make a nice lemony-chive dressing.

And next year (or right now) please consider starting a rosemary pot - your chicken and potatoes will thank you.
posted by Gortuk at 7:11 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

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