Herb abundance, solved by the bunch
A bundle of ideas to tame your bountiful summer herbs into deliciousness. (Bob Fila/Chicago Tribune)
Because of its sweet and savory characteristics, thyme is my go-to herb. It's rounded and balanced, which means it can work in any dish: orange vegetables, meats, sauces, beans and even desserts. It pairs especially well with garlic, mushrooms, squash and onion. Its sweetness makes it a good infuser for alcohol and for homemade bitters. It makes the best vinaigrette for Greek salad.
Toss lots of thyme into a tomato sauce instead of basil or oregano.
Stir it into scrambled eggs and chili.
Add 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves during cooking for every pound of black beans or pinto beans.
Toss a handful of lemon thyme (on the stem) into any fruit salad; macerate, then remove the stems before serving.
Tip: It takes time to harvest those tiny leaves from their thin stems. Hold the top of the stem, about a half-inch down; gently pinch your thumb and forefinger together and zip down the stem. It's easier to get the leaves off after the thyme stems have air-dried for a day or two.
— Susan Belsinger, veteran herb expert and writer
The herb has a great mineralistic, almost briny quality; it's not sweet like chervil. Sage is also fat-soluble, so we like to use lots of it when we confit turkey. We cure the turkey thighs in salt, sugar and spices for a day, then submerge the thighs in a mixture of duck and chicken fat and tons of sage leaves. Cover and cook in a low-temperature oven for hours till really tender.
That mineral quality pairs well with the taste of active, lean poultry.
Same goes for shellfish, flavorwise. Try sage with oysters and clams and mussels; it complements their brininess. Not long ago at my house, I tossed a bunch of sage in a pot with mussels, a lot of onions, some duck fat and beer; use any kind of beer you have on hand. Steam them, then add butter to finish.
Tip: Sage flowers are blue-purple and sweet; not like the flavor of the leaves. Use them in salads.
— Tarver King, executive chef, Ashby Inn, Paris, Va.
It's so fresh and clean-tasting. You just have to be careful with it, so it doesn't overpower anything. Tear the leaves, or use a mortar and pestle to bruise them to release their oils. Even people who have problems with the taste of cilantro like a cilantro pesto when it's made with almonds instead of pine nuts.