The Joy of Herbs

by: Denise Cooke

I don’t know about you, but as soon as the weather turns warm I want to be out in my garden planting my veggies.  The only problem is that I’m so impatient, wishing they would grow in a week or two.  I know good things come to those who wait, and come August I am very thankful and completely indulge myself in the fruits of my labor and those of the local farmers.

However in an age of instant gratification, what is one to do? Turn to the herb garden!  They are quick and easy to grow and you can start them in doors while the weather is frantically shaking off winter and night time frost.   I find that this to be a happy medium.  It gets me in the gardening mindset and helps to tide me over until the garden and the farmers markets get into full swing.

Herb Garden

Usually I’ll plant some herbs indoors when I have just about had enough of winter and am desperate to see something green.  This way, I can just quickly nip off a branch of rosemary, a bunch of fresh basil or a few oregano leaves whenever the mood strikes or the recipe calls.  Eventually, when the weather permits, I move them outside and incorporate them into my outdoor garden.

Now having never grown out of the “eyes bigger than my stomach” phase, I am often overly ambitious in my planting of herbs and find myself with plenty of extra to go around.  This is always the case with basil.  I plant a lot early and the next thing I know I have buckets of the stuff.  It helps that it grows quickly, and even when I cut it back, it just seems to grow back bigger and better.

Basil PlantsThis is the case with my current crop of basil.  I realized over the weekend that I had enough to make a quick batch of pesto.  I whipped it up and just covered it with extra olive oil to prevent discoloration.  I can leave it in the fridge for a couple of weeks (that is, if it lasts that long).  In years past, my friends and I have bought cases of fresh basil and made buckets of the stuff.  We would freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop them out and store them in freezer bags.  This way I have fresh, summer basil until Christmas for pastas, pizzas and even eggs.

So if you are like me and waiting impatiently for green goodies, you can start with planting a few pots of herbs… and remember that good, delicious things come to those who wait!

Basil Pesto

4 C.                  Basil Pesto leaves*
1 C.                  Pine nuts (or walnuts)
4                      Garlic cloves
2 C.                  Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 C.                  Extra Virgin Olive Oil (+ more to cover)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients except oil in a blender or bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to begin to mix ingredients.  With motor on slowly, in a steady stream pour the olive oil into the mixture and blend until it becomes a thick consistency.  If you wish for a thinner sauce then add more olive oil.

To store: place in a glass container and drizzle more olive oil on top to keep it green.  It can stay in a fridge for 2 weeks.

To freeze: spoon into ice cube trays.  Once they are frozen, you can pop them out and place them in a container or zip lock bag to store.  They will stay for 6 months.   To defrost just place in a pan on low and slowly reheat.

*I’ve also made pesto with spinach.  Sometimes I’ll add in a few sun dried tomatoes for a different twist.  Experiment with different green herbs and cheeses.

Denise Cooke Bio PicDenise Cooke has been cooking professionally for over 20 years.  She started as a caterer, has had every job in a restaurant and even worked as a private chef in Hollywood.  She now lives on the South Shore cooking for her family and friends.  She currently owns and operates a small cookie company, The Wicked Whisk.

About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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