Thursday, June 20, 2024

Spring has sprung, and that means fresh dill!

Springtime means that lots of beautiful produce starts appearing in markets and shops that we haven’t seen for a while. Mazatlán’s farmers’ market last weekend was a good example, with a cornucopia of goodies spilling from baskets, boxes and tables.

Fresh herbs were in abundance: fragrant bunches of basil (albahaca, pronounced “al-bah-cah”), parsley (perejil), sage (salvia), rosemary (romero) and — could it be?! — fresh dill (eneldo). 

Traces of dill have been found in some of the pharaohs’ tombs in Egypt.

Fresh dill is something that isn’t found often, at least where I live, so this was a treat. I love having fresh herbs in the kitchen, and while cilantro is always wonderful and I appreciate having it available year-round for literally pennies, having other options is cool too. 

It’s dill that we crave in pickles, in a sour cream dip or in a sauce for salmon. Minced fresh dill brightens up almost any potato or dairy dish, lending its characteristic flavor and aroma and adding a note of complexity. A simple summer salad of sliced cucumbers, rice wine vinegar, salt, freshly ground black pepper and some fresh dill is a welcome dish for the hot summer days ahead.

Traces of dill have been found in some of the pharaoh’s tombs in Egypt, dating to 1400 B.C. It’s a kitchen staple in Scandinavia, Russia, Ukraine and central and eastern Europe (think borscht or gravlax). Dill is not used very extensively in Mexican cuisine, other than in the dishes mentioned above.

Fresh dill will always have the most flavor, and while you can freeze the fresh stuff, it won’t taste quite the same or be as strong. Dried dill and dill seeds can also be found, each of which has a slightly different though distinctively dill flavor.

Persian Dill Rice
Add some minced fresh dill atop plain, cooked rice to make it into a more exotic Persian Dill Rice!

Dill and Garlic Vodka

  • ½ cup loosely packed dill, washed, patted dry, tough stems removed
  • 1 clove peeled garlic
  • 750 ml. vodka

Put dill, garlic and vodka in an airtight glass container (like a Mason jar). Seal tightly and refrigerate for 24–48 hours. Strain into a glass pitcher; add fresh sprigs of dill and a few cucumber slices. Serve very cold.

Persian Dill Rice

  • ½ large bunch dill, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1-2 Tbsp. dried dill
  • 1 cups Basmati or other rice (to be cooked)

Set aside 3 Tbsp. of chopped fresh dill. In a bowl, combine the remainder of fresh dill with the dried dill. Fold dill mixture into hot cooked rice; cover with lid and let sit about 10 minutes. 

Gently fluff with a fork, then transfer to a serving platter, scattering the reserved fresh dill in between spoonfuls of rice.

Dill Vinaigrette

  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
  • ½ tsp. fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper

In small bowl or shaker jar, combine garlic, rice vinegar, olive oil, dill, fish sauce, sugar, 1 Tbsp. cold water, salt and pepper. Whisk or shake until well combined. Toss with salad greens. 

Dill Avocado Ranch dressing
This Dill-Avocado Ranch dressing is an addictive alternative for those who can’t have dairy.

Nondairy Avocado Ranch Dressing

  • 1 medium ripe avocado
  • ½ cup roughly chopped dill, plus more as needed
  • 4 tsp. dill pickle brine, plus more as needed
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped dill pickles
  • Salt and pepper

In food processor or blender, combine avocado, fresh dill, pickle brine and garlic with ⅓ cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. 

Stir in chopped pickles. Taste and adjust with more brine, water, salt, pepper and dill. Refrigerate up to two days. (The top may brown, but just stir it in.)

Butter-Poached Shrimp with Dill Mayo

  • 2 tsp. toasted whole coriander seeds or ½ tsp. ground coriander 
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine, plus more if needed
  • 1 pound shelled large shrimp
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided in half, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (or make it yourself)
  • ¼-½ tsp. salt

To make the dill mayo: In a small bowl, whisk lemon zest and juice from half the lemon, dill, mayonnaise and pinch of salt. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if needed.

To toast the coriander seeds, use a mortar and pestle or a cutting board and the flat side of a knife to crack the seeds. Add seeds to a large dry saucepan over medium heat; stir and toast 1 minute or until fragrant. 

Add butter and wine to pan. (If using ground coriander, add it now.) Swirl until butter melts, 2–3 minutes. 

Add shrimp, remaining lemon juice and pinch of salt. Liquid should come about halfway up sides of shrimp; add a splash more wine to the pan if needed. Gently poach shrimp for 2 minutes, flip and cook for another 1–2 minutes, until pink and just cooked through. 

Pour shrimp and juices into shallow bowl. Top with dollops of dill mayo. Garnish with dill fronds and serve.

Butter poached shrimp with dill mayo
Butter-poached shrimp with a dollop of dill mayo is a decadent treat!

Chicken and Potatoes with Feta, Lemon and Dill

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice 
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1½-2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4-6 thighs)
  • 4-6 new or baby potatoes, cut into ¾-inch pieces
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill

Whisk 2 Tbsp. olive oil with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, garlic, oregano, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper in a bowl. Add chicken; toss to coat. Let marinate at least 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours, covered, in refrigerator.

Heat oven to 425 F (220 C). On sheet pan, drizzle potatoes with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss well and move to one side of pan. 

Pat chicken dry and evenly space thighs on the other side of the pan. Roast 15 minutes, toss potatoes, then return everything to the oven. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is golden and potatoes are tender, 15–30 more minutes. 

Place chicken and potatoes on a platter; sprinkle with lemon juice, scatter with feta, dill, salt and pepper and serve.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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