I want to introduce you to Aviva Goldfarb. I am sure you already know her but you don’t, you are missing out! She is the lively and vibrant personality behind The Six O’Clock Scramble, an online dinner planning solution for busy parents, author of the acclaimed Six O’Clock Scramble cookbooks, and weekly contributor to PBS Parents.org‘s Kitchen Explorers.
I asked her to talk to us about her favorite summer herbs.. how she grows them and how she uses them..
Aviva in her own words….
Garden Herbs Pack a Nutritional Punch
By Aviva Goldfarb, Founder, The Six O’Clock Scramble
(Photo and recipe by Aviva Goldfarb)
It was soon after my husband and I moved out of the city and bought our house in the suburbs of Washington, DC, that I started to grow my own herbs. Around that time, I also started to cook a lot more as I was expecting our first baby and was feeling the urge to turn our new house into a healthy and nurturing home.
I loved to make Italian pesto with fresh basil and parsley, but I did not love paying 3 dollars for those little plastic containers of herbs. I visited a nearby farmer’s market in Kensington, Maryland and noticed that I could buy a potted herb for about the same price as a little wilted packet at the supermarket. I started small with just some parsley, basil and mint, but once I learned how easy it was to replant those fresh herbs in pots on my deck and enjoy them for months, I branched out to many other varieties.
Now, each spring I plant my favorite herbs on our deck and in our vegetable garden. Some of them like basil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary and mint, I clip and use constantly, while others, like sage, thyme, dill and oregano, languish for most of the season, despite my best intentions.
I savor the convenience of having the herbs right outside my door. I’m crazy about the bright and fresh flavors and colors they add to my recipes, and I think they’re pretty to look at through my kitchen window. In the last couple of years I’ve also learned more about the powerful health benefits of herbs.
It makes perfect sense that herbs would be health heavyweights. They are green (and we know that greens top all the nutritional lists), have intense flavor, and have been used by humans for thousands of years not only for cooking but for healing, too. (Dried spices are also rife with health benefits, but we’ll save that for another day…)
Dr. Larry McCleary, a neurosurgeon and author of Feed Your Brain, Lose Your Belly, is a huge proponent of eating more herbs and spices. He touts their power to increase weight loss and improve brain health and immunity. He says, “Every time you flavor your meals with herbs and spices, you are literally making whatever you eat ‘better’ without adding a single calorie.”
Here are just a few of the benefits of common herbs:
Parsley: Protects the heart and may inhibit tumor formation. Can also be used to cleanse the system and treat digestive disorders, according to Dr. Andrew Weil.
Basil: Compounds in basil promote heart health and have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. May also prevent acne and speed healing.
Rosemary: Its potent antioxidants may prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and calm jangled nerves.
Oregano: Rich in vitamin K, iron and omega-3s, oregano helps protect the heart and prevent diseases like cancer. May also relieve sore muscles, and treat allergies and intestinal problems.
Mint: A natural breath freshener, digestive remedy, diuretic, pain reliever and decongestant. May also inhibit growth of cancerous cells.
Sage: Promotes better brain function and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cilantro: Its powerful nutrients may help improve symptoms of arthritis, improve cholesterol levels, ease nausea, and detoxify the body.
While new studies are underway to pinpoint their health benefits, we can be pretty certain that fresh herbs have vital nutrients that prevent disease, and we know that they provide wonderful flavor boosters for our meals. In addition to using them in your recipes, throw some fresh herbs in your salads, soups, iced or hot tea and lemonade. If you find other unconventional uses for fresh herbs, please share them on The Scramble Facebook page.
I hope you enjoy one of our favorite summer recipes using fresh garden herbs. I recommend serving it with orange ginger glazed carrots with fresh dill.
Ravioli with Parsley-Basil-Walnut Pesto
Prep + Cook = 25 minutes
20 oz. reduced fat cheese ravioli
1 3/4 cups flat Italian parsley, tightly packed (curly leaf parsley will work if you can’t find flat)
1/4 cup fresh basil, tightly packed + a handful of sliced basil for serving
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tomatoes, chopped
Cook the ravioli according to package directions and drain it. (While the water is heating, prepare the carrots, if you are serving them.)
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, coarsely chop the parsley, 1/4 cup basil, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Then, slowly add the oil and continue to process the pesto until it is well combined.
Gently toss the warm ravioli with one cup of the pesto, reserving the remaining pesto for future use. Serve it immediately or refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Top the ravioli with the tomatoes and a handful of fresh basil before serving.
Scramble Flavor Booster: Add 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes to the blender with the pesto ingredients.
Tip: This recipe makes about two cups of pesto sauce, which is twice the amount that you will need for the ravioli. Freeze the extra for a future meal, or serve it as a spread for crackers, layer it over goat cheese for a tantalizing dip, or toss a couple of tablespoons of the sauce with green beans for an excellent side dish.
Side Dish suggestion: To make Orange-Ginger Glazed Carrots, in a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 lb. peeled and sliced carrots or crinkle-cut carrots, and sauté them until they are coated, about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, combine 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1/8 lemon), 2 tsp. honey and 1/4 tsp. ground ginger in a measuring cup or bowl. Pour the mixture over the carrots, bring it to a boil, and allow it to simmer for about 3 minutes. Cover the carrots, reduce the heat to keep them at a simmer, and steam them for about 5 minutes until they are tender. Sprinkle them liberally with about 1 tsp. fresh or dried dill (optional) before serving.
Nutritional Information per serving (% based upon daily values):
Calories 254, Total Fat 11g, 16%, Saturated Fat 4.5g, 24%, Cholesterol 47mg, 16%, Sodium 325mg, 13.5%, Total Carbohydrate 28g, 9.5% Dietary Fiber 1.5g, 5.5% Sugar 2.5g, Protein 13.5g
Thank you so much, Monica! I’m honored to have an article and recipe featured on your site.
Can’t think of a better combination than you two (Monica and Aviva) to talk about herbs and healthy eating. Love the “flavor booster” and side dish.
Great ideas … I love fresh herbs and am spending way too much money on those little packets of them at the market. I am inspired by this article to try (again, yes I’ve failed in the past…) to grow some of my own herbs. BTW, when I buy a bunch of herbs, I usually prep them all at once, and they keep very well in small containers in the refrigerator for up to a week, so I can just grab a pinch anytime to add to any dish!
what a great way to use summer herbs! Thanks Aviva!