This Meatless Monday, we have a slightly different format to focus on our favorite herbs, plus offer a recipe for Tabouleh from our Vermont Fresh: A Fruit and Vegetable Handbook.
Tracey Kawecki, a volunteer cooking, tasting and testing recipes out of the Vermont Fresh Handbook worked on this one. Her comments are below the herb descriptions and the recipe, in italics.
Basil, which is believed to have originated in India, is a staple herb in Southeast Asian cuisines. The herb is featured in many Italian dishes as well, though it is generally a slightly different variety. Basil compliments tomatoes and garlic and is often found on pizzas or in spaghetti sauces. Cooking can damage basil’s delicate flavor, so it is generally added to dishes near the end of cooking or eaten fresh. Store bunches of basil like a bouquet, trimming the stems and setting out at room temperature in a glass of water. Use within a few days.
Chives are a perennial and the only member of the onion family that may be native to both Europe and North America. As a perennial, chives make a dependable addition to the garden. They have a flavor similar to onions but lighter. They are commonly used in soups, spreads, sauces, and dips, but chives are perhaps most loved as a topping for baked potatoes. They can be used to add a splash of green to dishes. Use as soon as possible after harvesting or, if necessary, store in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in plastic for a few days.
Cilantro comes from the leaves of the plant that, when mature, forms the seeds known as “coriander.” The plant comes from Southern Europe and Northern Africa and was probably transported to the Americas by Spanish explorers. Cilantro is now a staple in Mexican cuisine, though it’s also popular in Southeast Asia and China. Try adding to salsa, guacamole, burritos, or dishes with coconut milk. The leaves have a very strong flavor, so it is wise to start by adding a small amount and increasing to taste. Store like basil, though in the refrigerator.
Dill, which probably comes to us from the Mediterranean, is a versatile herb that pairs well with dairy, fish, and perhaps most famously, pickles. Both the leaves (called “dill weed”) and the seeds are used. The leaves are best used fresh. You may be able to store them using the bouquet method, but dill is tender and may wilt.
Parsley is one of the most commonly used herbs and appears in European, Middle Eastern, and American cuisines. It hails from Italy and is used on potatoes, rice, fish, meats, and in soups and salads. Furthermore, parsley is a popular garnish. Parsley is a biennial, but its flavor will be bitter in the second year. Store in the refrigerator like a bouquet.
Thyme has a lovely fragrance as well as taste; the ancient Greeks used it as incense. Commonly added to sauces and soups, thyme also makes a great addition to dishes with beans, fish, or eggs. Use only the leaves, not the woody stem, unless making stock. To store, wrap in a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to a week.
Meatless Monday Recipe: Tabouleh
(adapted from Saad Fayed: about.com)
- ½ cup medium-grain bulgur
- 2 bunches fresh parsley
- 1 large handful fresh mint leaves
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1-2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Soak bulgur in cold water until soft, 1-2 hours. Drain in sieve, pressing down from top with a small plate to squeeze out excess moisture.
- Remove stems from parsley, then finely chop both parsley and mint. Combine herbs with onion, tomato, and bulgur in large bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. Whisk together, pour over other mixture, and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately or chill 1-2 hours in refrigerator.
Comments from Tracey:
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 1.5 hours
I enjoyed this refreshing dish. This was my first time using bulgur grain. I liked that this grain required only soaking time and does not need to be cooked, making it easy to incorporate into cold or hot dishes. I do find this recipe to be highly adaptable, since I often make variants of this recipe. I’ve used cooked brown or white rice, avocado, cilantro, scallions, dried fruits, fresh fruits, cabbage, nuts, cheese, leftovers, and pretty much whatever I find in the pantry or fridge. It’s an excellent way to use up leftovers.
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