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Fresh herbs add zip to recipes

Until last summer, I never really gave much thought to the difference between fresh or dried herbs. But, let me make it clear – there is a big difference! And to take that one step further, herbs you dry yourself and store also are very different than those that come in cans or bottles from the store. Trust me.

I have found a few recipes that you may want to put away for future use when your herb garden begins to produce in the spring and summer months. And, if you have an abundance of any of the herbs you grow, invest in a dehydrator to store your own. With the cost of some herbs at the store, you’ll recoup your cost of the dehydrator in just one season.

Now on to some good herb-filled recipes.

Blueberry, Basil and Goat Cheese Pie

Dough for single-crust pie*

2 cups fresh blueberries

3 tbsp. sugar, divided

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. fresh minced basil

1 large egg

1 tsp. water

¼ cup crumbled goat cheese

Fresh basil leaves, torn

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured sheet of parchment, roll the dough into a 10-inch circle. Leave it on the paper and transfer to a baking sheet. Mix the blueberries and two tablespoons of sugar, cornstarch and basil. Spoon the mixture over the crust leaving a two-inch edge. Fold the crust edge over the filling, pleating as you go making sure to leave the center uncovered. Whisk the water and egg together and brush over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the crust. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle on the goat cheese crumbles and return to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly. This will take about another 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool topping with torn basil leaves before serving.

Dough for a single-crust pie: 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour; ¼ tsp. salt; cut in ½ cup cold butter until crumbly. Gradually add in about 4 tablespoons ice cold water turning with a fork until the dough comes together when pressed. Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for one hour before rolling out the dough.

Basil usually is one of the highest producers in most herb gardens. Because of that, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try something a little out of the ordinary.  Use either of these next two recipes where you might usually use salt and butter.

Basil Salt

¼ cup coarse sea salt

¼ cup loosely packed basil leaves

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Place the salt and basil in a food processor or chopper. Pulse until basil is very finely chopped. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking pan. Bake until the mixture becomes dry (usually about 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and cool completely on the pan. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature.

Honey Thyme Butter

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup honey

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

In a small bowl, beat the butter until fluffy and light. Add in the honey and thyme and continue beating just until blended. Store in refrigerator.

Brussels Sprouts with Rosemary Sauce

1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts (about 4 cups)

¼ cup butter, cubed

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp. chopped, fresh rosemary

2 garlic cloves, minced

¾ tsp. salt

¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Ground pepper to taste

Trim sprouts remove stems and cut an ‘x’ into the bottom of each one. Place int a large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 7 minutes or until almost tender. Drain. In another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and stir in the flour until smooth. Gradually add cream, whisking while adding. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring constantly. Cook for about two minutes or until the mixture thickens. Stir in rosemary and garlic. Add sprouts, salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese and transfer to serving dish.

Now is the time to scour cookbooks, cooking websites or books specifically geared to herbs and how to grow them.

Once you determine what herbs you and your family like the most, you can determine just how much you want to plant.

By growing from seeds now, you’ll save money on mature plants or buying herbs at the grocery store.

This next recipe is a must if you have fresh herbs and you like a vinegar and oil dressing on your salad. This particular recipe asks for specific herbs, but you can certainly substitute your favorites.

Herbed Vinegar

½ cup minced fresh basil

¼ cup minced fresh tarragon

2 cups white wine vinegar

Fresh herb sprigs, optional

Place the herbs in a small glass bowl. Heat the vinegar over medium heat just until simmering. Pour the vinegar over the herbs. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then, cover and let stand in a cool, dark place for about five days. Strain and discard the herbs. Pour vinegar into a sterilized jar or bottle. If desired, add fresh herb sprigs to the container. Stored in a cool, dark place, this vinegar will last for up to six months, if you don’t use it up sooner.