You buy a bunch of mint or cilantro for a recipe. The recipe uses a few sprigs out of the bunch. The rest wilts in your fridge. Next time, you skip the fresh herbs and the dish does not taste as good. Grrrrrrrrr.
There are a lot of ways to preserve fresh herbs so that they don’t go to waste and so that you can have the extra deliciousness that fresh herbs have to offer on hand when you are improvising. You can make them into pesto and freeze it in cubes (pistachio mint pesto , cilantro pepita pesto, cilantro pesto with sunflower seeds and jalapeno). Or just invent a pesto with whatever nuts, cheese, herbs, oils and spicy something something you have on hand.
Another way is to make a green chutney! I eat green chutney with spiced, roasted vegetables and or chick peas and something crunchy on top (see Aloo Chaat Inspired Oven Fries and Butternut Squash Chaat to get the idea). Green chutneys also make a nice sauce for chicken, seafood or eggs.
Please don’t get too fussed about having all of the exact ingredients.
- Don’t have dates? Just use some sugar.
- Lemon juice and lime juice and vinegar can all be used in place of each other.
- Use whatever hot green pepper you can find or use some cayenne or skip it if you aren’t into heat.
- The coconut is totally optional in the mint chutney.
- The peanuts in the cilantro chutney could probably be replaced with cashews, almonds or pistachios.
Whether you follow the recipe or adapt it, remember to taste it and adjust the sugar, salt and sour until it tastes good to you!
My current favorite green chutney recipe is from Made in India by Meera Sodha), which is a cookbook that I honestly can’t recommend highly enough. The recipes are simple, homey and fresh. They make you feel like you could just make Indian food for dinner any old night. It’s a treasure. I like to use this chutney as a dipping sauce for fried green plantains.
CILANTRO PEANUT CHUTNEY (adapted from Made in India by Meera Sodha)
- 4 oz cilantro (2 bunches)
- 2 oz roasted, unsalted peanuts (scant 1/2 cup)
- The juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup), seeds strained out
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 or 3 green chilis (I use 2 jalapenos, with the seeds in)
- Place the cilantro into a bowl of cold water and agitate to get any sand or dirt off. Let the dirt settle and pull the clean cilantro out of the water. Shake the cilantro to dry it a bit, roughly chop the stems and leaves and drop them in a food processer or blender.
- Add the peanuts, lemon juice, salt, brown sugar, turmeric and jalepenos. Process until the chutney is smooth and creamy with some flecks of darker green. Taste it and adjust the sugar, salt and sour until it tastes good to you!
This one is based on a recipe from the excellent, super healthy food blog My New Roots. It appears in along side a really lovely recipe for “samosa” that are wrapped in rice wrappers and baked. Some talented hippy cook at the healthfood lunch counter used to make something similar on Maui (where I grew up). It’s really a good idea, so I’m not surprised that more than one person has thought of it.
I’ve gradually changed the chutney a bit over the years. I like my chutney on the sweet side so I’ve doubled the dates and at some point I started adding shredded coconut.
MINT AND COCONUT CHUTNEY (inspired by My New Roots)
- 2 cups mint leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced or grated ginger
- 3 or 4 pitted medjool dates
- 1 hot green pepper with the seeds (I use a jalapeno because they are readily available)
- the juice of 1 or 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup shredded fresh or dry, unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2-4 Tablespoons water as needed
Directions- Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until their are no large clumps of date or garlic. Taste it and adjust the sugar, salt and sour until it tastes good to you!
MORE USES FOR FRESH HERBS…