Roxanne O’Brien, a former professor in American River College’s culinary arts program and a frequent contributor to Herb Quarterly, America’s oldest magazine devoted to herbs, is heartened to see more people cooking and gardening the past few months. “Everybody I know is doing the victory garden thing,” she says with a laugh. “Their pastime now is fighting sourdough and gardening.”
We asked O’Brien to share some novel ideas for what to do with herbs commonly grown in Sacramento gardens. Here are five easy recipes you can throw together today.
Make an herb salt. Combine two cups of chopped fresh herbs (oregano and basil work well together, as do rosemary and lemon thyme) with half a cup of kosher salt, allowing herbs to dry before storing. “It’s great for dry brining meats.”
Add fresh herbs to cocktails or nonalcoholic sparklers. “Mint is popular in cocktails, but tarragon and basil are also wonderful. To make an easy sparkler, get a good-quality ginger ale or club soda and add some fresh herbs to it.”
Toss together an herb salad. “This works best for soft herbs like basil, not woody ones like rosemary. Coarsely chop or tear the leaves of herbs and throw them in a salad with your favorite greens.”
Make herb-marinated cheese. “Take some feta or goat cheese and cover it in olive oil and fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme. It’s a great way to infuse flavor into the cheese.”
Change up your pesto. Instead of the typical basil and pine nut version, try one inspired by southeast Asian cuisine with mint, basil, cilantro and cashews or peanuts. “I also do a really delicious poblano-pumpkin seed pesto with cilantro.”