What do I do with leftover herbs?

  • By Jess Dang
  • March 16, 2012

Oh, we’ve all found ourselves in this situation. You chose three recipes this week that called for three different kinds of herbs, so now your fridge has some leftover basil, cilantro, and parsley, all spoiling very soon. So, what does one do when this happens (all too often)? My answer is to chop / blend and make a salsa verde, and then drizzle it on absolutely anything you want. All salsa verde means is a green sauce, so don’t worry about measurements. I promise you, it will turn out green (and probably damn tasty). Just take whatever you have left, a few cloves of garlic if you have them handy, some capers or anchovies if you have a can open, some salt, pepper, some acid (like vinegars or lemon juice) and olive oil and hand-chop those flavors together or mix it all up in a food processor or blender.

This week, I found myself with a leftover bunch of parsley from a risotto, some wilting chives from a frittata made last weekend, and a few good basil leaves left from god knows when. After I picked out the good stuff remaining, I probably had 2 loose cups of herbs, so I hand-chopped it (too lazy to get out the food processor) with 3 cloves of garlic, sprinkling in some salt and pepper at the end and then drizzled in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. While I realize a lot of my clients really like to be given recipes when we work together, I really try to steer them to less directive recipes like this, where they have to build and trust their sense of taste. Rarely is the combination of herbs + acid + salt + pepper + olive oil a bad thing, so it’s hard to mess up, even if they think they might. I tell them to have a taste and use their judgement about what else it needs, and I’m encouraging you to do the same. I promise you it will almost always be delicious, and if it isn’t, well, those herbs were going to go bad anyway, right?

What do I do with leftover herbs? | Salsa Verde | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

After I made the salsa verde, I needed something to drizzle it on for dinner tonight. Luckily I live next door to a Mexican grocer that sells whole fish. I walked over and bought a whole tilapia. No that price tag is not a mistake.

What do I do with leftover herbs? | Salsa Verde | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

I preheated my oven to 400 degrees, and then ran the fish in some water, cut some slits into it, dressed it in the salsa verde, and stuck a few lemon wedges in the slits. A sprinkle of salt and pepper, and the fish was ready for roasting. 20 minutes later, I had dinner:

What do I do with leftover herbs? | Salsa Verde | Cook Smarts by Jess Dang

And since the husband is away on a business trip, I had it all to myself. Also blanched and sauteed up some broccolini and drizzled the salsa verde on that. Now you’ll never have an excuse to let those herbs go to waste ever again. Finger lickin’ herby goodness awaits.

*Psst, for recipes that don’t require fresh herbs, try theseĀ frozen herb / garlic cubes by Dorot. I just learned about themĀ from a client this last week. They’re available at my local Trader Joe’s and hopefully yours too. Genius!


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