Add depth with fresh herbs – Petoskey News
It’s a way to add flavor and depth to your meals with minimal effort.
Fresh herbs — such as basil, mint and dill — are convenient, affordable and are bountiful this time of year at area farms and farmers markets.
“Having a variety of herbs on hand can help with different foods that you eat on a regular basis and make it so these foods aren’t the same old, same old each time,” said Michael Everts, a chef and farmer for Blackbird Gardens in Petoskey.
The farm grows a variety of herbs and Everts encourages his clients to try fresh herbs grown on area farms, as opposed to those found on grocery store shelves.
He said once the whole leaves of herbs are cut down, the leaves are exposed to oxygen and can lose flavor. He added that customers often have no way of knowing how old herbs are, unless they are able to ask the farmer or pick them themselves.
And while Everts does believe dry herbs do have their place in cooking, he noted that fresh herbs have richer and more subtle flavors, so those making the switch from dried to fresh will have to make adjustments.
“If you’re working with fresh herbs, it just doesn’t work the same way as with dried,” he said. “With fresh, you can use more, but add them right at the end with minimal heat.”
During the summer months, Everts said the most popular herb sold at his farm is basil, followed by cilantro, parsley and dill.
“We sell a ton of basil and cilantro this time of year,” Everts said. “Basil loves the heat and grows quickly and goes well in a number of dishes that are popular during the warmer months. Cilantro is used in a lot of Hispanic and Asian cuisines, and is extremely versatile.”
One of Everts favorite ways to incorporate basil is to make a simple pesto that can be served with pasta, on sandwiches and even as the base for a dip or spread.
“Pesto and the Italian influence on our cuisine is just huge,” he said. “And the mixture of garlic, basil and cheese is a big favorite in our culture.”
Basic Basil Pesto
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 to 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the basil, garlic and toasted pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add oil, more or less depending on the texture you want, and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cheese.
Pesto can be frozen. If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle some oil over the top. It can also be frozen in ice cube trays and then transferred to an airtight container or bag for storage.