The Kitchn’s Cooking School
Lesson 9: Herbs and Spices
I used to have an herb garden on my balcony. I actually didn’t grow them myself but bought those herbs in pots from a farmers market and a grocery shop. There were peppermint, saranae (Thai mint or some would call lemon balm), Italian parsley, and rosemary. I fell in love with them the way you fall in love with a cat or a dog. Taking care of them made me incredibly happy. I doted on them. I whispered nice things to them.
But I had to bring them to my mother’s place when I went away to Europe for a month. They thrived in my mother’s garden. And that was the last I saw of them. I travel too often and sometimes for too a long period of time to have a pet or a plant.
I do miss going out on my balcony to pick a few leaves or sprigs of one of the herbs to brighten a dish or plunge them in a hot mug of water for tea. I hate seeing herbs go to waste in my fridge. When I buy herbs in the supermarket or from vegetable carts on my street, I often struggle to finish them before they go bad. You usually don’t get to choose how much herbs you want to buy. They come in a bunch tied together by a rubber band or in a box.
Waste hasn’t exactly been the issue this past week in my kitchen. I have always loved herb butter. So herb butter I made. I followed the super-easy recipe on the Kitchn website that calls for half a cup of butter. Chives, marjoram, and oregano were my herbs of choice. The only thing I did differently was to add four cloves of garlic, which I highly recommend. And since then, I haven’t been able to stop spreading it on toast at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If I went for my annual check-up now, my results would surely show an unacceptable level of cholesterol.
One inspired morning, I used the same combination of herbs (chives, marjoram, and oregano) to make Nigel Slater’s poached egg with herbs recipe from his book Real Fast Food. Divine. Herbs and lemon really bring a touch of elegance to eggs. Another proof is in Julia Turshen’s olive oil–fried eggs with yogurt and lemon recipe in her Small Victories cookbook.
Then I got inspired by the matchstick beet salad recipe from Kathryn Pauline’s lovely blog Cardamom and Tea and the yogurt sauce from Bon Appétit with fresh mint leaves, garlic, and honey. So I made a salad of boiled beetroots dressed with this yogurt sauce. It was quite nice, but next time, I’m going to try making the yogurt dressing from Pauline’s blog. The yogurt sauce is also nice on pasta. I got the idea from Nigel Slater’s book. In Slater’s recipe, you heat yogurt and fresh herbs in a bowl over simmering water before stirring the mixture into the pasta. As for me, I just cooked the pasta, drained it, put it back in a warm pan, stirred in the leftover yogurt sauce, and topped it with black pepper and parmesan cheese. Very satisfying.