Fresh dill is the flavor of the summer
I’ve been waiting for the feathery, bright green, wispy leaves of fresh, fragrant dill — and it has finally begun to show up at farmers markets and farm stands.
Fresh dill weed has a much better flavor than the dried form of the herb. However, it wilts and loses flavor quickly — so don’t wait to use it up. The best way to store it after you bring it home is in a fridge, either wrapped in a damp paper towel or in a glass of water, as you would with cut flowers. Stored this way, it should stay fresh until the next farmers market.
This ancient herb is a Mediterranean native, mentioned in the Bible and in the papyri of ancient Egypt. The Greeks considered it a sign of wealth, and the Romans acclaimed its many healing properties.
The hardy plant will grow in cooler climates with short summers, so it has become a popular seasoning in Scandinavian, Central European and Russian cuisines. In fact, the word originates from the old Norse dilla, meaning to soothe or lull, and the herb is known for its calming properties, especially on the digestive system. Tea brewed from dill seeds was used to relieve nausea and indigestion, and dill water to soothe colicky babies.
Today we know that carvone, one of the volatile oils found in dill seeds, is a muscle relaxant. Other oils and flavonoids in dill have anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. The herb is also rich in minerals, notably calcium but also iron, magnesium, manganese, vitamin C and dietary fiber.
From potatoes and corn to carrots, squash, green or wax beans and beets, dill brings out the sweet flavor of many summer vegetables. The delicate flavor doesn’t overwhelm vegetables as do more pungent herbs such as rosemary or thyme. Simply sprinkle the vegetable with a little salt, then add a handful of chopped fresh dill, and stir a pat of butter into the hot vegetable.
Fresh dill is also great in fish and egg dishes. Heat destroys its fragile flavor, so add at the very end to soups, stews and sauces.
Here are a couple recipes to inspire you to use this versatile, delicate herb.
Dilly Chicken, Pea and Potato Skillet for Two
Peas (about 1 pound, or 2 cups shelled peas)
A little oil for the pan
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast (about 1/2 pound)
Black pepper & turmeric
About 8 or 10 small new potatoes
1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large or 2 small carrots
Few mushrooms, optional
Handful garlic scapes
About 1/2 cup fresh minced dill
About 1/4 cup broth
About 1/3 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Optional: a couple of handfuls of fresh arugula leaves
Shell the peas and set aside.
Sprinkle chicken on both sides with turmeric and black pepper. Over medium-high heat, brown in oil a couple minutes per side. Set aside.
Cut potatoes in quarters and add to the skillet. Cover, and cook on low heat.
Peel and dice the onion; add to potatoes, stir, and sprinkle with a half-teaspoon of salt. Continue cooking on low, covered tightly.
Slice or dice the carrot and mushrooms, and stir into the skillet. If skillet is getting dry, add a little broth.
Slice or chop garlic scapes. Add garlic scapes and reserved shelled peas, stir, cover, and continue cooking on low. Add broth or water if it needs moisture.
Remove from heat. Stir in chopped fresh dill and sour cream or yogurt. Serve on a bed of arugula (optional) or stir some shredded arugula into the skillet during the last minute of cooking.
Dilly Salmon and Vegetables
For the fish:
A little oil for the pan
1 lb. salmon fillet
About a tablespoon or two of good-quality prepared mustard
A teaspoon or two of maple syrup
1 clove garlic or a couple garlic scapes
1/3 cup minced fresh dill
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup broth
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lightly oil the bottom of a 6” x 9″ or 7” x 10″ inch pan. Place salmon in pan skin side down.
In a bowl, combine mustard and maple syrup, and spread liberally over fish.
Mince a clove of garlic or chop a couple garlic scapes, and sprinkle on top, then sprinkle with the fresh chopped dill. Pour wine and broth into the dish around the fish.
Bake in preheated oven just until fish tests done with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes.
For the vegetables:
A little broth or water (1/2 to 1 cup)
2 Tablespoons minced dill
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Peel kohlrabi. Dice and place in saucepan. Add broth, or water with a half-teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer.
Next, dice or slice the carrot, and add to the cooking kohlrabi.
Then, dice the potato (peeling optional) and add.
Simmer until vegetables are desired tenderness and most of the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.
Chop the parsley and dill, and stir in.
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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.