One of the best things about spring is the return of fresh flowers and food from our gardens and local farmstands. Perennial herbs are one of the first plants to return, and using them in cooking is an easy way to add new flavors to your favorite dishes and get back into the habit of using seasonal produce. Fresh herbs can be found at most of our local farmstands, or visit a plant nursery and start growing your own!
This month, try adding a sprig of mint or lavender to your lemonade or iced tea. Add oregano to bread or pizza dough recipes for an herby flavor. Fresh thyme is delicious on seafood, and rosemary is a great addition to grilled chicken or vegetables.
To keep your herbs from wilting, arrange fresh herbs like a bouquet and place in a jar with a little water in the refrigerator. Dried herbs should be stored in an airtight container away from heat or moisture. Extra herbs that you want to preserve can be sprinkled into an ice cube tray and topped with olive oil. Freeze until solid, and save the herb-infused oil cubes in a bag in the freezer for future recipes.
Try this month’s featured recipe.
Herb Compound Butter
Recipe by Maura Martin and Austin Racine of Mo’s Lunch
1 packed cup of herbs (can be a mixture, or are also perfect by themselves — parsley, chives, basil, marjoram, tarragon, etc.)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground pepper
Add herbs, garlic, lemon zest, butter, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor and process until just combined. (Alternately, chop herbs and garlic and mix into butter with a spoon or a fork by hand, along with the lemon zest, salt, and pepper.)
Next, drizzle in the lemon juice and combine.
Lay out a large piece of parchment paper, and dollop butter mixture into a log shape in the center of the paper. Using your hands, roll up the butter in the paper, smoothing out as best you can into a cylinder.
Once chilled, unwrap and slice. Delicious to use on baked or grilled meats, fish, or vegetables.
Ava Castro is the preschool educator for Island Grown Schools, the Vineyard’s farm-to-school program.