Early spring may not mean a lot of local produce is available, but it does bring the joy of fresh herbs.
Those found this time of year likely have been grown in greenhouses; they can be found still in their pots so they can be placed on a windowsill and harvested as needed. These days you can find potted dill, parsley, tarragon, basil, mint, rosemary and lavender to add fresh flavor to your cooking.
You can mix them with salad dressings to brighten the flavor, add them to quiche, dips or egg salad; sprinkle them on vegetables and use them to bolster the flavors of soups.
Rosemary and tarragon are great companions for chicken, chives are good in crab cakes, and mint is a requirement for a great mojito.
A sprig of parsley over fish is usually ignored, but shouldn’t be; high in vitamin K it is best finely chopped then sprinkled over the fish.
Basil is a natural for tomato sauce, but pasta can be served without it if you top it with the herbs of your choice plus goat cheese or parmesan (see recipe below).
If you decide to convert a recipe from dried herbs to fresh, remember that when you use fresh you need to use more. Typically, you should use three times as much fresh as dry. It works the other way around too; if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand for a recipe that calls for them, use only one third if you opt for dry herbs.
You can take advantage of the arrival of fresh locally grown herbs with this recipe from myrecipes.com which will work as a simple vegetarian entrée or side dish.
Spring Herb and Goat Cheese Linguine
5 ounces mixed fresh herbs, such
as parsley, dill, mint, basil,
or tarragon, plus ½ ounce
small herb leaves and
1 pound linguine or fettuccine
8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese,
½ cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, chop 5 oz. herbs; set aside. Boil linguine according to package instructions. Scoop out and reserve about 1 cup pasta water, then drain linguine and return to pot. Add 5 oz. goat cheese and the cream. Stir to melt cheese and coat pasta.
Add chopped herbs, lemon zest, and salt and mix thoroughly. Add 1/2 cup pasta water. Add more pasta water, 1 tbsp. at a time, as needed to make pasta loose and slightly saucy.
Pour pasta into a wide, shallow serving bowl and top with remaining goat cheese and herb leaves and sprigs.