Thursday, May 30, 2013

No Green Thumb

Here is a confession: I may be a great cook, but I am a terrible gardener. You'd think the two would go hand in hand, but they don't. I've done in a lot of plants over the years, both indoors and out. In addition to my lack of natural ability, I'm also cursed with a shady backyard and bad soil.

The only plants that thrive in my garden survive in spite of me. Mint is basically a weed, and it shows up every spring, keeping us supplied for minty water, mojitos and iced tea all summer long. An oregano plant that was gifted to me resurfaces every year after I stuck it in the ground. In fact, it appears to be more healthy than ever, and this year I've already cut a huge amount of oregano to dry.

In an optimistic mood last summer, I bought a rosemary plant, and I managed to remember to water it occasionally. In the fall, I brought it inside and it survived the winter. This experiment has emboldened me to experiment further with planting herbs in containers. Recently I hauled out all of the pots I could find in the garage (from previous failed attempts to grow something green), and purchased seedlings of some of my most used herbs.

For about $70, I walked out of the garden store with 13 plants: three basils, three chives, two cilantros, two parsleys, lemon verbena, lavender, and thyme. And the soil to stick them in. And a bit of organic food. The plants were in the pots and watered in under an hour, and I am happy to say so far they are thriving.

I've already found myself out there snipping a few leaves for almost every meal--a chiffonade of basil to finish a pasta dish, chives for a soup, and parsley for a pâté. If I can manage to make these plants last, I will make back my money in no time. 

Herbs are integral to all of my cooking, but there are a few dishes that make them shine. I've written about my favorite chimichurri sauce, and I'm waiting patiently for a bumper crop of basil to make and freeze pesto. Another herb based favorite in this house is compound butter, which is a mixture of softened butter, herbs, and seasoning. Compound butter is a finisher, meaning you add it to your dish just before serving, ideally when the item getting the butter is still warm.

Compound butter isn't complicated to make, but don't let its simplicity fool you. It can be a game changer when it comes to mealtime, and once you start using it, it's hard to stop. In my house, we've been known to put it on every single component of a meal. Steak, fish, any cooked vegetables, and grilled bread are just some of the many foods that benefit from herbed butter. And with my new garden at hand, I expect to be eating a lot more compound butter this summer.

Compound Butter

4 oz. butter, softened
2 T. chopped herbs
salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together. Do not refrigerate before using.

1 comment:

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