Now that winter is over, put those dried spices back in the cabinet and try sprucing up your culinary creations with some of the fresh, spring herbs that are abundant at the market. Fresh herbs add bright flavor and color to a variety of dishes. Here are a few herbs to try this season: dill, parsley, chives, oregano, mint, basil and thyme. Many people may be hesitant to buy fresh herbs because they buy them for one recipe and then are not sure about how to use them up. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to use up fresh herbs. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
- Toss them into fresh salads like a Spanish salad with fennel, oranges and parsley or a quinoa salad with strawberries and basil.
- Stir them into an omelette or frittata; How about a Greek frittata with dill, oregano, spinach and feta cheese?
- Make a homemade pesto to serve with pasta or grilled meat- basil mint pesto with pistachios is a great combination.
- Stir them into cream cheese- spruce up store bought cream cheese by stirring in some fresh dill, chives and lemon zest.
- Try them in desserts like strawberries with balsamic vinegar and basil, or a fresh blueberry thyme compote with crepes.
- Add them to fun cocktails like a classic mojito with mint and lime or a cucumber basil gimlet.
How about baking a batch of fresh popovers packed with spring herbs and Parmesan cheese? If you’ve never had them, popovers are light, hollow rolls made with an egg-based batter. They are often served at breakfast with butter and sweet jam. They are also commonly served with savory dishes and make an impressive side dish at a spring lunch or elegant dinner party.
The perfect popover should be golden brown and crusty on the outside and airy on the inside. They are classically made in a popover pan, which looks like a muffin pan but with taller, cone-shaped cups with spaces between them. This allows air to circulate better and to create steam, ensuring a nice, tall popover. Don’t worry if you don’t have a popover pan- you can use a standard muffin tin, which is what I used in my recipe. They won’t get quite as much height but they still will reach respectable levels.
There is no baking powder or leavening agent in a classic popover recipe. The popovers get their height from the gluten in the batter and the blast of high heat in a very hot oven. The gluten, or protein in the flour, creates a web that traps steam in the batter and makes the popovers rise. Resist the urge to open the oven door and peek while they’re baking otherwise they won’t rise as high. A basic popover recipe only uses a few ingredients- eggs, milk, flour, salt and butter. It’s all about using the proper technique to get them to turn out right. Here are a few tips for making the perfect popovers:
- The oven must be really hot- make sure to preheat it well.
- Whisk the eggs well to aerate them.
- The eggs should be at room temperature and the milk should be warm. Take the eggs out the night before or if you take them directly from the fridge, put them in a bowl with warm water for 10 minutes to get them to room temperature. The milk can be heated gently in the microwave for 20 seconds.
- Let the popover batter rest for 20 minutes to let the gluten form before baking.
- Heat the pan for a few minutes in the oven before pouring the batter in. This makes for better popovers.
- Bake them on the middle or lower shelf in the oven. If they’re too close to the top of the oven and they’ll burn.
- Resist the temptation to open the oven door. The blast of high heat is what gives the popovers their rise and if you open the oven door to peek at them, they won’t rise as well.
- Cut a small slit in the popovers when they’re done. This allows some of the steam to escape and they won’t collapse as quickly.
My Spring Herb and Parmesan Popovers are the perfect savory treat.
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups warm milk (I used 2%)
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese, divided use (can use cheddar)
- 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh herbs (like dill, basil, oregano and thyme) plus extra for garnish
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until light yellow and frothy.
- Add the milk and salt and whisk again until combined.
- Add the flour all at once. Whisk just until a thin batter forms- do not over mix. The batter may have small lumps- this is normal. Gently whisk in 1/3 cup parmesan cheese and herbs until just combined.
- Let the batter rest for 20 minutes while the oven heats up.
- Heat a standard 12-cup muffin pan in the oven for a few minutes until hot. Remove the pan and spray generously with cooking spray. This will help prevent the popovers from sticking to the pan. Pour the batter into the wells- they should be about ¾ full. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon parmesan on top of each one and garnish with fresh herbs.
- Place the pan in the middle or lower third of the oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes until the
- popovers are puffed up and golden brown. Do not open the oven door while they bake. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 12-15 minutes until done.
- Remove the popovers from the oven and cut slits in the tops with a sharp knife to prevent them from collapsing. Serve immediately.