Especially when they’re fresh. Due to the instant flavor boost they provide, you’d think keeping a variety on hand would be a no-brainer. But in a household of one, buying fresh basil, cilantro, and thyme is pricey, and even with careful planning for recipes over the coming week, I never manage to use it up before the leaves get nasty. And nobody likes nasty leaves.
In the name of saving some bucks and avoiding the evil “W” word (Waste, augh!), I’ve started growing some greens of my own. Thankfully, my mother has a bit of a green thumb and loves to share, so she yanked some wonderfully fragrant lemon thyme from her flower beds and gifted a pot o’ chives that the cat kept eating. So I’m officially outfitted with tasty freshness.
At first, I was at a loss of how to incorporate these new flavors into my cooking regiment, as the only herbs I’ve used much of apart from the dry or powdered variety are basil and cilantro. I checked on my new babies daily, dutifully watering them and ensuring they got enough sun perched on my balcony. I know you’re not supposed to and my grandmother is probably rolling her eyes in her grave, but I even let the chives bloom little purple flowers because I wanted to see what the blooms would look like. (They’re a pretty lavender.)
The first time it snowed, I brought them in; however, thanks to baby kitty and his stereotypical curiosity with things he’s not supposed to mess with, they were left to fight the record 12 inches we got several weeks later all on their own.
Somehow, the resilient little suckers survived, so I decided to get my act together and do a little research to figure out how to use them. The chives, I found, though not a perfect substitution, are great for when I’d love some scallions but don’t have any on hand. The lemon thyme is delish simmered with chicken, seafood, and veggies… and you can’t really go overboard.
Tonight, I was super relieved to have both available because the boy’s evening suddenly opened up, and I agreed to throw together an impromptu dinner. Not in the mood for the lengthier steps of preparing rice, pasta, or a complicated stir-fry, I opted for garlic shrimp, steamed broccoli, and leftover mashed potatoes.
Beyond boiling half an inch of water to steam the florets, thawing the shrimp in a bowl of lukewarm water and snipping some herbs, prep was nonexistent. Once the broccoli was on its way to bright green and slightly droopy, I heated about a teaspoon olive oil on medium heat, simmered some minced garlic to taste for about 15 seconds and threw in the shrimpies. After 30 seconds or so, I added a couple splashes of white cooking wine, a pinch of kosher salt and a few sprigs of fresh lemon thyme. A dash of lemon juice would probably be nice, but I left mine at Mr. Foodie’s house.
(By the way, his name is Josh, he’s a research neuroscientist, rooms with a pitbull named Homesly, is charmingly obsessed with finding under-the-radar music and makes incredible mix CDs. Also, he likes my cooking.)
After the shrimp turned a pretty pink, I chopped a generous handful of chives with my kitchen shears and added them to the saute. When the broccoli was sufficiently steamed, I tossed it with the shrimp for a minute or two. Nook the taters, uncork some crisp white wine (Josh brought over a bottle of Barefoot’s 2007 Pinot Grigio, which has apparently been ranked highly by the Dallas Morning News… very sparkly and fruity, but definitely drinkable, if you ask us), and voila! Dinner by the seat of your pants in 10 minutes.
I’m still fairly new at concocting meals that don’t require attribution to a source, but this simple combo of flavors was surprisingly robust. As easy and healthy as it was (minus the spuds), it will make more appearances in the future.
Time for a leftover cupcake from last night’s birthday feast (happy, happy mama)!
This weekend, we checked out this terrific little empanada joint that I’ll review for your reading pleasure in the near future.
Until next time…