This is the peak season for winter herbs: chervil, tarragon, sorrel, dill, chives, mint (is mint winter or summer? mine is doing well right now). I’m reaping the benefits from my herb garden overhaul back in October, when I ripped out the overgrown nuisance of a pomegranate tree and aging herbs that had seen better days. I spent a good amount of time planning the new herb layout, using my knowledge from gardening success and failures past (my friend over at Seed & Bean will certainly appreciate this effort toward careful planning!).
The old herb bed had no particular order, with aggressive plants like marjoram taking over extreme lengths of the bed. The new arrangement is a diamond pattern, with one, two or three herbs filling each diamond based on their eventual size. Or in the case of chives, I fill the diamond with little rows of seedlings. The bay laurel, at middle left, will get pruned to the shape of a truncated pyramid. The lemon grass will make a nice companion for the Bay, with its wild hair.
Now that these new herbs have substantial foliage, I relish any opportunity to snip through the garden. No exaggeration: when I read a recipe that involves chives, I do a little fist pump and go ‘Yes! Chives!’ Paired with other seasonal ingredients, these delicate herbs are best prepared fresh and light, with a champagne vinegar or lemon vinaigrette. This recipe below provided a healthy, crunchy side to our Thanksgiving menu, but it could easily be served alongside a weeknight dinner, or as a light lunch with pita, hummus & feta on the side.
Kale & Apple Salad with Winter Herb Vinaigrette
(vinaigrette adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison)
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 black peppercorns
1 small handful fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup chopped winter herbs: I used equal parts chervil, dill & mint
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tsp capers, rinsed (optional, for a bolder taste palette)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 small bunch lacinto kale, ribs removed, chopped
1 crunchy apple – Honey Crisp or Fuji, chopped into sticks 1/4″ square
1/3 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
1. In a mortar, mash garlic with fennel seeds, salt, peppercorns & parsley to make a smooth paste. Add the lemon zest, capers, oil & remaining herbs; let stand while you cut the apples and toast the walnuts.
2. Toast the walnuts in the oven for 7-10 minutes, or until browned.
3. Add the champagne vinegar to the herb mixture and stir to combine.
4. Toss the kale, apples & hot walnuts together in a salad bowl. Pour the dressing over; the walnuts will lightly cook the garlic. Taste for salt and serve.