If you, for one reason or another, find yourself sailing into June with nary a sprig of herbs growing just outside your door, don’t let your summer cooking suffer. The farmer’s market makes it simple to stock your kitchen with plenty of herbs, not to mention all manner of local, seasonal fruit, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. When you do your weekly shop, plan to pick up a few bunches, even if you don’t have a recipe that calls for them. If you ask a professional chef for her secrets, it’s likely that one of them is the use of herbs. Chefs understand what we often forget: fresh herbs make food taste alive—like in this grilled vegetable salad: roughly-chopped cilantro and parsley put the summer standbys of squash and beans center stage.
1) Marinades: When chopped and stirred with oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, fresh herbs make a wonderful alternative to traditional marinades. If you use enough herbs, the consistency will be closer to a paste than a liquid. Bonus: if you have any marinade left, you can serve it as a rustic sauce after your food has been cooked.
2) Compound Butters: Inevitably, your cooking routine won’t use up all of your herbs, and you’ll be left with half-bunches or random sprigs. Rather than wasting them, finely chop any leftover bits and mix with softened, salted butter. After mixing, shape and chill the butter for later use. This is a brilliant way to amp up flavor any time you’d normally use butter: in a pan sauce for pasta, tossed with steamed shellfish, spread on toast, finishing a steak.
3) Desserts: Crowning summer desserts with fresh herbs is a revelation. Herbs add another dimension to sweet treats, particularly in summer when fruit is often the star. Try basil with peaches, balsamic vinegar, and ice cream; thyme in a humble plum tart; mint to finish a blueberry galette.
HERBY, GRILLED VEGETABLE SALAD
3 medium zucchini, cubed
3 small yellow squash, cubed 1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed to 1-inch segments 1⁄2 bunch parsley
1⁄2 bunch cilantro
1⁄2 tsp. salt + extra
1⁄2 tsp. pepper + extra
1⁄4 c. olive oil + extra
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1. Toss cubed squash and zucchini in olive oil to taste. Light a charcoal grill and grill squash on a vegetable grate until soft and slightly-charred, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook green beans in a pot of salted, boiling water until just tender but still crisp, about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
3. Roughly chop herbs, discarding the bare stems. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
4. Combine grilled squash with green beans in a serving bowl. Pour dressing over vegetables, add herbs, and toss gently to combine. Finish with a light sprinkle of fresh herbs on top.
Photography by Jivan Davé