Herb Garden Harvest by Robin Nathan

I live in Roscoe Village, a great neighborhood in the city, a little west of Wrigley Field, in a house that was built in 1904. While many houses in my neighborhood are either new construction or gut rehabs, our house has only been updated over the past 116 years.  By city standards, we have a very large backyard – one of the biggest on the block, and the only one with the original trees. The oak tree is as old as the house, with an enormous trunk and towering branches. Our maple tree is a baby – a mere 60 years old. These trees provide lovely shade – but there is one downfall. Not enough sun for a true garden.

HerbPotsInstead, every spring, I line the stone fence surrounding the trees with pots of herbs.  They get enough sun to keep going through the summer months. There’s always basil, cilantro, and mint, sometimes rosemary, and this year there is also lavender and oregano. These herbs form the basis of many a weeknight dinner. Sometimes I’ll grab three and puree them with a little white wine vinegar and olive oil to drizzle over quickly grilled chicken, fish, or steak. Or I’ll throw in pine nuts or pistachios and make a quick pesto. Often I don’t even bother with the pureeing and just mince two or three herbs with a little arugula to toss into a quick summer sauté of grape tomatoes, sweet onions and bi-color corn. The fresh taste and color are welcome and delicious, and give new life to old weeknight standbys. You really can’t miss when you combine fresh herbs – just go a little easy on the mint so you don’t end up feeling like you’re eating toothpaste. Have fun and go a little herb crazy! In a few months, this freshness will be a only a memory.

5 Herb Purée
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  2. ½ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
  3. ½ cup packed fresh arugula leaves
  4. 2 T. packed fresh mint leaves
  5. 1 T. packed fresh oregano leaves
  6. 2 T. white wine vinegar
  7. 1/3 cup olive oil
  8. salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop all the herbs. Place in a blender or coffee grinder (my favorite, because it really pulverizes the herbs) with the vinegar and oil. Process until completely smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt.
Notes
  1. To turn it into a pesto, add a couple tablespoons of a nut and some Parmesan cheese.
  2. Serving Ideas: Drizzle on freshly grilled chicken, steak, fish, or pork. Stir into ratatouille or any other fresh veggie sauté. Drizzle over veggie crepes or breakfast eggs. Drizzle over goat cheese and serve with crackers.
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