Despite having self proclaimed "black thumbs," I have to say we're elated at the growth of our potted herb garden. In just the few short weeks since we completed our planting, our wide variety of herbs have really grown by leaps and bounds. One might say our herbs are ginormous. (Yes, that's a technical term.)

Here's what they looked like last month after planting them....

...and here's a shot of them today. 

Wowza! Planted in these decorative ceramic pots in our small urban backyard are the following:

  • Two basil plants (my personal favorite)
  • Sage
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Mint

Although we're relishing in our success up to this point, I must admit that we're not completely sure how we'll use our newfound supply of fresh herbs, especially given that they all will be used in vegetarian dishes. (Alex is a vegetarian, so we only prepare/eat vegetarian dishes at home.) In particular, the sage and oregano present the biggest challenge for us, but we're off to a good start. 

I recently made a delicious quinoa salad, recipe below, complemented by an ample supply of fresh chives and basil. If you're looking for a healthy and easy recipe to use some of the fresh herbs you may be growing in your garden this year, I promise you this one's a winner.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa   
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (can substitute white wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped chives (more or less to taste)
  • Optional: 2 tbsp. chopped basil (more or less to taste) or other herb of your liking

Note: Never heard of quinoa? Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, is a grain popular in South American cuisine and has a very mild, nutty flavor. It's very high in protein, is a good source of fiber, and is gluten free. We eat a lot of it at home in vegetarian dishes as a way to get ample protein. You can find it at most grocery stores these days, including places like Trader Joe's and Costco. If you can't find quinoa or you don't like it, you could swap it out for couscous in this recipe.

Instructions

  • Put quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve or fine strainer. Place under cold running water until water runs clear (this eliminates the bitter taste contained in quinoa's coating); drain well. (Or you can buy certain brands of quinoa that are pre-rinsed.) 
  • Place rinsed quinoa in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 cups of cold water; bring to a boil over high heat. 

  • Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the grains are translucent and the germ has come out of each grain, about 15 minutes. Cover and remove from heat; let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Spoon quinoa into a large bowl and set aside to cool. 
  • Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half. Set tomatoes aside.
  • Now it's time for the fun part! Raid your garden for fresh herbs. In this case, the recipe calls for 2 tbsp. fresh chives. So I headed out back with my kitchen shears, and snipped away at the chives until I was satisfied with the quantity. I also noticed how well my basil is doing, so I opted to throw a little of that in today as well.
  • In a small bowl or vessel, combine oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir well.
  • When quinoa is at room temperature, stir in tomatoes.
  • Add vinaigrette and fresh herbs and toss again. And voila! You have a quick, easy, light and tasty summer salad on your hands.
Yields about four 1 1/4 cups per serving. This recipe can easily be doubled for holidays, picnics, and entertaining.

Chives and basil aren't your thing? Swap them out for an herb you like or something you may have growing in your garden. 

This summer we're bound and determined to make the most of what our garden is offering up. Alex and I will be researching yummy recipes and delicious uses for all of our herbs.

Do you have a favorite herb from your garden that you've been enjoying so far this season? Do you have a vegetarian recipe for the "uncommon herbs" that you'd like to share? We're always up for trying out a light and fresh warm weather salad.

Comments 14

Comments

Kelly
5/22/2012 at 12:05 PM
How come they have to be used in vegetarian dishes?

If you're going for quantity, you could use the Mint, Dill, and Oregano all in one dish if you do something Greek, like cucumber salad with tzatziki sauce and pita.

Once time I made this basil mint watermelon salad with onions that was maybe the best thing I ever ate.

Sage you could use in a butter over seafood, but if you're doing vegetarian you could use it for stuffed pastas like pumpkin ravioli or cheese tortellini.

That quinoa looks great. I eat it sometimes but it always looked tastier than it is, think I should kick it up with fresh herbs like you.

Now i'm starving, time for lunch!
Wendy
5/22/2012
Good question. Alex is a vegetarian, so we only eat/prepare vegetarian meals at home.

I'm officially STARVING after reading all your yummy suggestions. I've been meaning to try a watermelon mint salad, but based on your feedback I think I need to make that one ASAP! Thank you! :-)
Kelly
5/23/2012 at 10:56 AM
Here's the recipe I used from Real Simple, I think I also drizzled balsamic vinegar on top. It.was.divine. and so simple

www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/minted-watermelon-salad-00000000037503/index.html
Wendy
5/23/2012
Yum! Thank you!
5/22/2012 at 12:29 PM
YUM< that looks SO good. I lurve quinoa and will def be trying out this dish! Have you tried quinoa pasta? It's all we use now (pasta-wise). I'm a lil jealous of your herbs. I love love love growing my own herbs, even though they always end up dead. They are the best to use when cooking!
Wendy
5/22/2012
No, I haven't tried quinoa pasta. Sounds like something we definitely need to check out though, thanks!

There's nothing better than snipping a few fresh herbs right from your garden, without the hassle and expense of having to buy them at the store. Trust me, if we can keep herbs alive I'm sure you can too. :-)
5/22/2012 at 12:53 PM
mint - mojitos!

Chives - anything you would use onions for. I love them in sourcream/yogurt with baked potatoes

Basil - great for pesto over pasta

I too am overwhelmed with sage and oregano in our garden.
Wendy
5/22/2012
I just planted more mint last weekend so that mojitos can be our official drink of summer. :-) I'm a huge fan!

Mmm. Sour cream/yogurt dip with chives sounds delicious. Thanks Sabina!
Jill PP
5/22/2012 at 1:43 PM
This recipe looks great - I'm always looking for recipes like this to make over the weekend and take for lunch at work.

Have you ever tried basil with eggs? I went to a cool brunch place in England once, and the scrambled eggs came with fresh basil leaves (whole) on top. Ever since I've loved the combination.

I also love putting random herbs in my salad. It automatically feels like I'm eating at a fancy restaurant when I do that. No idea why! lol

Here's my current favorite salad recipe. It's SO good and easy to make. It doesn't call for herbage, but I'm sure it would be great with some parsley.

www.kalynskitchen.com/2006/04/marinated-pepper-salad-with-garbanzos.html#more
Wendy
5/22/2012
I don't think I've ever tried basil and eggs on their own, but I have made a basil, feta and tomato omlet. It was really good, so I bet I'd like it this way too. Yum!

Thanks for passing on the recipe. Anything with olives in it as to be good, right?
Kelly C.
5/22/2012 at 5:33 PM
Yum - I just pinned it! I hate to admit that I've never tried Quinoa - but I do have some. I'm going to try this. I'm in Texas and have lots of herbs/veggies already growing. This is my first year to grow a stevia plant and I love my Lime Basil - smells SO good. I use it in my hot sauces.
Wendy
5/23/2012
A stevia plant? Cool! How will you use it? Maybe with fresh mint in iced tea?
JC
5/28/2012 at 7:42 PM
One of my favourite uses for fresh oregano is in my pasta sauce. Mine has ground beef & pork, but it would still be a very nice addition to a purely vegetable based tomato sauce. Oregano has such a wonderful flavour.

Sage is one herb that I almost never EVER use. It smells nice, but I'm not that much of a fan of it in general. My mom used to put some in her stuffing mix, but that's about the only thing I can think of. One other use is to burn the dried leaves as incense.

Remember the "get on that already" herb garden thingy I wanted to do? Well I picked up a whole bunch of basil plants from a yard sale (6 for 1$ in a little tray), and I planted them in my planter box along with some thyme (from seed). I know I also want mint (for Mojitos!) but I want the mint in a separate container since it's very invasive. I also want Rosemary.

Lavender is always nice to have, since it smells so wonderful.
Wendy
5/29/2012
Congrats on getting your herbs planted! Six basil plants for $1 is one heck of a deal!
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