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Summer is here and with it comes a fresh plethora of herbs! If you are like me, sometimes you get really excited about that and can’t help but scoop up big bunches of fresh herbs when you see them at the Farmers Markets or the grocery store. Then you end up throwing half of them away after they have sat rotting in your fridge for days on end…well that is just no good. Herbs are a wonderful way to get more greens into your diet and many of them also have other health properties – not to mention they improve the smell of ones breath!

So what does one do with an over abundance of herbs? On a recent trip to the Farmers Market I procured rather large bunches of Arugala, Basil, Mint and Dill. I brought them home, filled up some vases with water, stuck the herbs in the vases and put them promptly into the fridge to use whenever the mood took me. Then, said herbs, sat all pretty in my fridge for about 2 weeks. I had barely touched them. They were still looking pretty good, but I noticed some were starting to take a turn for the worse. I knew if I chopped them in salads or put the mint in iced tea, it wasn’t going to cut it and I was going to end up losing much of the rest. So I took drastic measures. I pulled everything out of the fridge and looked at it on the counter until I figured out what to make with them. Here is what I came up with!

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ARUGALA

I love arugala pesto. I am Italian, but since we are from the South, pesto was not something that we traditionally ate. So I don’t feel bad about straying from the original here. I actually first learned about Pesto from my Dad, who is Scottish! So I have no Italian loyalty to pesto.

There is just something so beautiful and appetizing about all that green. The taste is so fresh and earthy and I am so glad that it has become a part of my diet. Arugala pesto, beyond that verdant taste also has a pungent peppery-ness . I find it is a welcomed change from the traditional basil pesto, because I do like a bit of bite in any kind of sauce.

To create this Arugala Pesto, I pretty much just make a standard pesto, but instead of basil, I use arugala leaves. I am entering this in Tony Tahhan’s Taste of the Mediterranean event, featuring none other than, Pesto!


Arugala Pesto
(I also made basil pesto with my basil)

2 cups fresh arugala leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese – the good stuff here, you guys!
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts – toasted
3 garlic cloves

Place arugala leaves in food processor and whirl until well chopped. Add the nuts and garlic, blend again. Add Parmesan cheese; blend while slowly adding the olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides of container. Process pesto until it forms a thick smooth paste. Serve over pasta, or mix with a little balsamic for an awesome salad dressing! Pesto keeps in refrigerator one week, or freeze for a few months. Here is a trick from my dad – put the pesto in ice cube trays, and pop out one or two pesto cubes when you need it! Buon Appetito!

MINT

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For the mint I made a nice batch of mint syrup and then with the leaves I used to make the syrup, I made a mint paste.

For the Mint Syrup:

1 cup water
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh mint leaves

Place the first 4 ingredients into a small sauce pan. Heat over medium high heat until boiling. Turn off heat, add mint leaves and steep for 15 minutes. Strain the syrup into a container and place in the fridge.

For Mint Paste:

mint leaves from mint syrup
1 TBS Greek Style Yogurt

Place these in the food processor and whirl until blended. I put mine into a plastic ziplock bag and right into the freezer for future use.

I plan to use the mint syrup to make mojitos and to put in iced tea and perhaps some brownies down the road. With the mint paste, I froze it right away to make a delicious mint ice cream – one plain and one with mango.

Or make Moroccan Mint Tea! Shelly from Flying Foodies, writing about a recent trip to Marrakech, reminded me of this delicious summer (yes, SUMMER) drink!
Check out a recipe here at MoroccanRecipes.com

DILL

With the dill I made a nice batch of Baba Ganoush – with an eggplant I also had laying around from the Farmers Market. Then I used more dill with more mint in a wonderful and refreshing Lentil Tabbouleh.

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For the Baba Ganoush:
(this picture is from another baba ganoush recipe I made a while back, but since baba is not the most beautiful specimen to photograph, I am using the good one I already have!)
1 eggplant
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 TBS fresh dill
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
1 tsp each of cumin and sumac
2 cloves garlic
oil oil (about 2 TBS)

Throw everything in the food processor and blend until smooth.

For the Tabbouleh:

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1 cup bulgur
1/2 cup brown lentils
3/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 a large cucumber, seeded and diced
1/4 of a colossal red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup of mint
2 TBS dill
2 large green/spring onions, chopped
salt & pepper
olive oil
fresh lemon juice

I was inspired to make this dish because of a discussion going on on the forum about bulgur. I got a great tip from Summer, at Mimi Cooks about using lemon juice or a combination of lemon juice and hot water when soaking bulgur for tabbouleh on the Leftover Queen/ Foodie Blogroll Forum. I thought that sounded great. I always have bulgur around and while I was in the pantry, I spotted the lentils and decided what the heck, I’ll throw them in too! I also then went and cleaned out my veggie bin and thew in whatever I thought would work. I generally make my tabbouleh traditionally, but today I made it in the spirit of using things before they went bad!

So I followed Summer’s directions and I soaked the bulgur with about 3/4 cup hot water and about 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the one cup of bulgur. It is a 1:1 ratio, liquid to bulgur. In the meantime I put on some lentils to boil and then went to chopping all my veggies and herbs. I also made some lentil burgers, which I will be posting about in an upcoming post about Veggie Burgers.

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Speaking of which does anyone else use an Ulu? My cousin brought one back for me from a trip to Alaska, and I love chopping herbs with it. It is the Native Alaskan equivalent of a Mezzaluna. Too cool!

Anyway, at this point my bulgur was soaked and my lentils cooked (about a half hour). So I threw everything into a mixing bowl and then drizzled the whole thing with a good quality extra virgin olive oil and the juice of about 1 lemon. It was delicious!