I have a confession: I just threw out a container of bay leaves from our first apartment. Why I never tossed them during the FOUR times we moved in the last decade, I cannot tell you. Truth is, spices in an airtight container last a long time. Still, though, after two years, they lose potency. And while dried herbs and spices are convenient (and often cheaper), fresh herbs and up-to-date spices can fool most people into thinking your food is gourmet.
Spice up any dish with herb packages and fresh basil at the produce store, mint from your yard and fresh lemons and limes, freshly chopped garlic, real onions, roughly chopped scallions, minced jalapeno peppers…need I go on?
Once I tossed the bay leaves, I redeemed myself with lentil salad featuring garden-fresh (literally) chives and flowers. Below that recipe are two more dishes we love that feature lots of fresh ingredients.
CHIVE FLOWER LENTILS (From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
1 cup dried lentils
4 cloves garlic
2 fresh bay leaves
2T olive oil
1/4 cup fresh chives (with flowers, if available)
1T capers (These come in a jar and are sold near Middle Eastern food sections. Mine are Israeli.)
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the lentils and remove any stones. Put them in a pot with the garlic and bay leaves and cover with at least one inch water. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 25 minutes. Check that there remains enough water so that the lentils don’t burn. Taste to be sure they’re done. Do not drain.
Mix together oil and juice of one lemon. Add the other lemon in wedges. Add chopped chives and capers, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and serve at room temp. This salad keeps in the fridge for several days.
(Note, growing chives is easy, pretty and they come back every year! Plant them in an herb garden, even in bad soil, and they’ll keep coming back larger every year.)
HOMEMADE HUMMUS (This one really will save you money!)
2 garlic cloves
1 15-oz cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained (save the liquid), or 1 cup cooked dried beans
3 T cup of tahini paste, available by the jar in most groceries and produce stores
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Up to 1/4 cup water drained from chickpeas (to desired consistency)
3 T olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Handful of cilantro (optional)
1 deseeded jalepeño pepper (optional)
In a food processor, combine the garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, cilantro and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon, to taste. Makes about 1.5 cups.
HERB STUFFED CHICKEN
1 whole fryer chicken
4 cloves garlic
A combination of any fresh herbs: 3 sprigs rosemary (a must!), basil, chives, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, etc.
3 T olive oil
t kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Prepare the fryer by cutting off the neck, wings (optional) and extra skin. It’s gross, I know. Toss the skin and save the other parts for chicken soup. Rinse the chicken and place it in a covered dish where the chicken just fits (I use a round pyrex). Open the legs and stuff in the whole peeled shallot, crushed garlic, cut lemon and whole sprigs of herbs. Add the spices to the top and drizzle with olive oil. Bake covered at 350 for 2 hours, untouched. The chicken cooks in it’s juices and will fall of the bone when ready. Serve it carved in pieces with new fresh herbs and save the rest of the bones for soup.