Summertime Meals with Herbs

French tarragon

So here’s your picnic menu:

  • Oven-fried chicken. Tarragon is a classic with chicken, so look for ways to incorporate it. If you usually brine your chicken ahead of time (which I heartily recommend), add 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh tarragon to the brine mixture. Then, finely chop fresh tarragon, or crumble dried, into the breading mixture you usually use.
  • Red potato salad. Sprinkle diced oregano or lemon thyme on top; fold in just before serving.
  • Sliced tomatoes. Arrange a row of thick-sliced tomatoes alternately with whole basil leaves, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a light splash of wine vinegar.
  • Sugar snap peas with herbal dip. Make a sturdy dip from equal parts softened cream cheese and plain yogurt; fold in diced green onion and 1 or 2 types of finely diced herbs.
  • Fresh fruit skewers. For the grownups, thread basil leaves occasionally between the individual fruits. Give the kids the empty skewers and let them make their own combinations.

    Siam Queen basil






And for the grill supper on the patio

  • Skewered shrimp. Brush the shrimp with commercial salad dressing to which you have added lots of diced lemon thyme; discard leftover dressing mixture.
  • Marinated asparagus. Two or three hours ahead, marinate asparagus in a blend of canola oil, wine vinegar, and diced tarragon. If you have time, peel the bottom half of the spears; helps to absorb flavors, plus it’s prettier.
  • Roasted tomatoes with basil crumb topping. Slice large tomatoes in half, cut off a tiny sliver from the bottoms so they don’t topple over, cut out a shallow depression in the top side, and stuff it with bread crumbs mixed with diced basil and grated parmesan.
  • Grilled potatoes with oregano butter. Oregano has a nice affinity with potatoes. Make the butter in advance so the flavors blend: softened butter, mixed thoroughly with very finely diced oregano leaves. Slice potatoes crosswise, grill on both sides till fork-tender, top with butter.
  • Tarragon strawberries with grilled pound cake. About an hour ahead, prepare the strawberries. Make a heavy syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water), simmer till sugar melts, add several tarragon sprigs, cover and let stand for about 20 minutes, remove tarragon, simmer till very thick. That’s your marinade. Slice strawberries into the marinade, cover, refrigerate. At the grill, slice store-bought pound cake into thick pieces, brush with melted butter, toast on the grill; top with strawberries. And vanilla ice cream? Heck yeah.

Want more info? If you’re in the Portland area, I’m doing an herb class at Portland Nursery on July 8 (see “Save the Date” elsewhere in this newsletter). I really enjoy talking to enthusiastic cooks and gardeners about herbs, so if you’d like me to come speak to your garden club, local library, or other group, send me a note and let’s see if we can make that happen.

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