Now that it seems warm weather has finally taken root here in Chicago, we can enjoy all the new flavors that warmth brings. A new season of fruits and vegetables is certainly an exciting prospect, but so too is the promise of bold flavors from lots of fresh herbs. Cooking with fresh herbs is one of my favorite ways to elevate the flavor profile of a dish; there’s nothing like the heady aroma of chopped parsley, or the bracing acidity of sorrel, or the musky perfume of basil on your plate to really kick it, as they say, up a notch (bam).
Yes herbs are great, but chopped leaves are not always the best delivery method for their flavor (thanks for nothing, Mother Nature). Whether you’re prone to overchopping, leaving a bright green stain on your cutting board (at least your cutting board is delicious now…) or your knife isn’t the sharpest so your leaves end up bruised and swampy tasting, it can be hard to wring the best flavor out of your herbs.
But don’t worry, I’ve got a technique that can help rid you of these problems. And no its not “sharpen your knives and keep them sharp” though that would go a long way. No, I am writing to talk to you about one of my favorite and most versatile herb focused techniques: herb salt. Using the guide in this post you can turn any of your favorite herbs (or a blend thereof!) into a delicious salt that you can use for many applications. Aside from the typical use of just adding a dash of bright flavor to whatever you’re cooking you can also use herb salt to:
- Season meats (especially fish) before cooking them,
- Curing meats or fish (a good way to make gravlax),
- Finish dishes with panache (use as a finishing salt on sweet corn or potatoes, you won't regret it),
but my favorite use of herb salt is as a way to keep the freshness of summer around for a little longer. If you store your herb salt in an airtight container in the freezer after making it, the bright green color and fresh flavor will last for months thanks to the salt’s ability to halt enzymatic breakdown of the plant and aroma molecules. Some great options for herbs to use in your herb salt are:
- Lemon balm
- Lemon verbena
To make herb salt you will need:
- Herbs of your choice
- Salt (I use kosher salt, but pretty much any salt will work.)
- A blade coffee/spice grinder
Start by washing and thoroughly drying your herbs. you want your herbs as dry as possible before you begin so you don’t dissolve the salt.
Then chop your herbs very roughly. you really don’t want to chop them too much here, just enough to help them fit easily in the grinder.
Then load them into the grinder with salt in a 1:1 volumetric ratio (e.g. 1/2 cup packed herbs to 1/2 cup salt), and grind away until you have a bright green powder.
That’s it! Now you’re ready to wield the power of fresh herbs to its full potential. Almost all of our classes at The Chopping Block make excellent use of the power of fresh herbs, so for more inspiration, and technique make sure to check out one of our upcoming classes.
Our Owner/Chef Shelley Young makes flavor-infused salts that are shelf stable such as Herbs de Provence (using dried herbs from her own garden!), Lemon, Tomato, Garlic and Truffle. Stop in our stores for a taste!