In last Monday’s edition of The Fresh Letter, I mentioned that I’d been learning a lot about how I might help you in the kitchen via my weekly Instagram polls. But I realized I’d never used polling as a way to directly ask about your kitchen struggles. What a missed opportunity! So this past Wednesday, I had you weigh in and share your biggest cooking conundrums and I learned a lot. 68% of you have trouble sourcing yummy recipes (reminder that you can let me do that heavy lifting for you for just $1 a week!); 11% of folks don’t have access to a microwave; and almost half of the people I polled are concerned about messing up a recipe when they try it for the first time.
There was one poll question with a somewhat surprising landslide result: when I asked if you struggle with figuring out ways to use up the awkward bits and bobs (like that half bunch of parsley) that are left over after making a recipe, a whopping 82% of folks landed on the “yes *wailing frownie face emoji*” side of things. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. Food waste is such a huge issue, and figuring out how to slot random ingredients into your weekly cooking plan is certainly not a natural skill, but a learned one.
A lot goes into mastering this skill—getting comfortable with cooking without recipes is key, as is figuring out a way to keep track of the inventory in your fridge and pantry, and of course, kitchen confidence is hugely important. And because all of these topics are incredibly nuanced and would require quite a bit more screen space than a single Monday morning email can offer, The Fresh Letter probably isn’t the right format to address it. But I am working through how to share more about this with you! In the meantime, let’s solve for the smaller issue referenced in my poll: a half bunch of herbs!
When it comes to using up herbs, there’s one recipe (well really, it’s a method) I come back to again and again:
A simple salsa verde, which directly translates to “green sauce” in both Spanish and Italian, makes a frequent appearance in my kitchen. The Italian version of this sauce is made with a mixture of finely minced soft green herbs, vinegar, olive oil, a briny element like capers or anchovies (or both), salt, and sometimes a little honey for balance. It’s an amazing way to process the random greenery hanging out in your fridge into a delicious, flavorful sauce that pairs well with most savory dishes. I use it to spruce up tacos, eggs, the zucchini gratin in In Harmony: Summer, spread on one side of my grilled cheese, and even love it over or mixed into yogurt as a dip for crackers and crudités.
Here’s how to make a simple salsa verde:
Ingredients (feel free to multiply or divide this recipe based on how many herbs you have to use up!)
2 cups soft herbs of choice (any combination of parsley, basil, mint, cilantro, green onions, dill, chives, you could even get a little baby spinach in there if you wanted!)
2 Tbsp capers, drained
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional: 1-2 tsp honey or granulated sugar to taste
Use a food processor or a sharp knife and cutting board to very finely mince your herbs and capers.
Transfer them to a medium bowl and use a fork or small whisk to stir in the vinegar, olive oil, a large pinch of salt and a few cracks of black pepper.
Taste and adjust with additional salt or vinegar to taste. If things are tasting at all bitter, you can always add a teaspoon-or-two of honey or granulated sugar for balance.
If salsa verde isn’t your bag, here are a few other ideas for that awkward half bunch of parsley:
Mince and mix into a frittata of choice, even if the recipe doesn’t call for it, it’ll usually work.
Incorporate into a slaw or grain salad.
Make shrimp scampi.
Incorporate into this delicious Sabzi Polo recipe.
You can always toss herbs into a green smoothie or juice.
When all else fails, Google is your friend. Google “how to use up xxx herb” and let the SEO goddesses decide for you!
Okay, how are we feeling? Hopefully at least a little less perplexed about herbs. But really, I hope I’m also starting to scratch at the surface of the broader goal here: just like most kitchen activities, finding ways to manage cooking scraps is as much about confidence as it is about culinary skills.
“I have no doubt that you, dear reader, have the skill to handle that half bunch of herbs…”
And I have no doubt that you, dear reader, have the skill to handle that half bunch of herbs, awkward chunk of onion, or partial cucumber hanging out in your fridge. My goal is to bridge any gap there may be between your skill and confidence levels. And if you consider yourself an incredibly confident cook, then I’m really just here to cheer you on via the sideline that is this newsletter. And maybe share some yummy recipes along the way. TL;DR: you’ve got this!
Alright, that about covers it from me this week, but as always, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know if anything is feeling particularly perplexing in the kitchen these days, tag me on Instagram (@fresh.erica) if you do end up making this yummy sauce, and feel free to slide on into my DMs with any cooking wins of late.
With love and a tip of my chef’s hat,
P.S. A reminder that you can cook with me and Abigail in our meal prep class series. Joining class is such a lovely way to connect with other home cooks and we’re there cooking along with you, so it’s very easy to ask questions real time! We’re hosting three more classes this summer, but you can grab the package at a discounted rate and you’ll have access to a recording of the first class, which was a blast and super yummy. Or you can check out the upcoming schedule and sign up for the classes individually!