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Keep the Green All Year 'Round with Herb and Chile Paste

Basil and ChileNowadays it’s easy to get fresh herbs most any time of the year. Most supermarkets keep a nice variety on hand, it seems; as do specialty grocers. Parsley (flat and curly), cilantro, leeks (yes, I think of these as an herb); sometimes the less often used ones, like dill and fennel. Still, there are times when they don’t look so hot, not worth taking out of the store. Or it’s off-season and the price has shot through the roof. So, unless you have a solid “plan B” you do without in your dinner.

Then there’s the situation where you’ve started cooking and THEN you realize you don’t have the herbs you want actually IN the crisper. You have dried herbs, but not the garden-fresh tasties you crave. You can rush out to the store and get some herbs, interrupting the whole process and maybe killing off your interest in cooking in the process. Or you can wake up Grumpy and send her out for some; in my case, though, that doesn’t work because she’s off to college. (I never, ever call my spouse “Grumpy.” Not when I’m within hitting range, that is. And she’s very accurate with tossed objects; way too much practice. But I digress.)

Here’s a simple way out of that box, and also a good way to store up some intense garden savor:

Carefully weigh out all amounts or this paste might spoil fairly quickly! Place all ingredients except the salt in a food processor and pulse to make a paste. Transfer the mixture to a small glass bowl and add the salt. Mix very well. Pack into a 1-pint glass jar and cover. That’s all there is to it! This wonderful paste will store for a while one a counter; like a few months! Up to one year in the fridge, which means you only need to make it once a year. If you double or triple the recipe, that is. There’s nothing on the list that’s so expensive you can’t afford to scale up.

How do you use this material? Well, you can add to soups, stocks and stews; about one tablespoon per quart seems to work best, but you can start low and “sneak up” on the level of flavor you like. You can put it in stir-fry dishes too! Once you get to using it you’ll find this paste is quite versatile. Even a small bit in the butter you use on vegetables or baked potatoes is quite nice. Just don’t add any salt to the dish until after the herb paste is in and you’ve had a chance to taste, THEN add any additional salt you may wish. A little goes a long way, in both the herb flavor and salt directions!

My thanks to Aglaia Kremezi for pointing out this wonderful flavor-enhancer…

Enjoy the (Salty Herb Paste) Heat!

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