Summer’s abundance of fresh, aromatic garden herbs offers a bounty of mouthwatering options. Whether picked from the big container on the edge of the patio or scooped up at seasonal farmers markets, snippable herbs plus always-on-hand butter add a delectable finish to appetizers, sides, breads and meats.
And during the late winter, when much of the joy associated with sparkling snow and crisp air has worn thin, a taste of summer in the form of herbal butters is beyond welcome.
Start with a single stick of softened butter, a quarter pound. Then add 1 to 3 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs. We typically use more of mild herbs like basil and parsley, and less of strong herbs like sage and rosemary.
While most taste buds prefer fresh herbs, dried can work, too. Because drying concentrates flavors, making them stronger, we use 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of fresh when reaching for spice rack ingredients. Adjust to your individual taste. (Remember, you can always add more but it’s hard to subtract.)
On the question of salted or unsalted butter, either works well; it’s a matter of personal preference. When using herb butters on meats – steak or grilled chicken – salted butter is usually the way to go.
Single Note Butters
Each of these super simple herb butters relies on the the robust flavors imparted by a single herb. Don’t, for a moment, think simple translates into boring.
- Basil butter – Use to enliven grilled or steamed vegetables, baked chicken or scramble with eggs. Purple basil, when available adds a fun color accent.
- Dill butter – A brightener for broiled fish, new potatoes and July’s best potato salads. Chop and use the feather foliage and chartreuse flowers. Dill seeds tend to be a bit crunchy.
- Garlic butter – This classic needs no introduction. Hello, crusty warm Italian bread! Also, wonderful on potatoes.
- Sage butter – Use with seafood, turkey, pork and fresh from the garden green beans.
- Mint butter – This is a natural with grilled or broiled lamb.
These herbal butter are blends of two fresh flavors, swirled together to add depth and deliciousness.
- Parsley and chive butter – Perfect served on baked potatoes, slathered on corn on the cob and added to summer squash. (If chive flowers are blooming in the garden, tear those apart and sprinkle on a green salad for colorful mouth fireworks.)
- Basil and garlic – Elevates hot pasta to a satisfying side. Click things up a notch by adding 10 chopped black olives.
- Garlic chives and tarragon – Delicious on grilled, baked or steamed chicken and on tomato dishes.
- Lemon thyme and dill – Adds pop to broiled or baked fish.
- Thyme and rosemary – Perfect on poultry, delightful on roasted turkey or duck in late fall or winter.
Full Symphony Butter
- 1/3 c basil
- 1/3 c parsley
- 1/3 c chives
- 1 small clove garlic, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon of lemon just (add gradually to prevent curdling)
- 1/4 teaspoon of lemon zest
- salt and pepper to taste
There are plenty of ways to serves these delicious dollops. All start with softened butter; simply leave a stick of butter from the fridge stick on the kitchen counter for a couple hours while you go do something else. Then use a fork to smash the butter in a small bowl, add the herbs and stir well to blend.
- Herb Logs: Place the softened butter on a square of plastic wrap or wax paper, and use the covering to roll and form a log. Chill the log until firm and slice into coins. Top grilled meats with herb coins or serve on thick slices of good bread.
- Herb Bowls: Add dollops of herb butter to individual place setting bowls or a small, pretty bowl to pass at the table. Scrumptious with fresh breads, hot biscuits and wheat rolls.
- Herb Blends: Before serving, add a generous spoonful of herb butter to starchy sides or steamed vegetables. Perfect for buttered noodles, pasta topped with grated Parmesan or most any vegetable.
Store your buttery creations in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to two months. Freeze in ice cube trays for easy use, some here and a bit there.
Have you discovered an herb combination that makes your mouth dance? Please share!