One of the pleasures of summer is growing an herb garden. Most herbs require partial shade to withstand our severe summer temperatures, and some such as dill and cilantro are happier in cooler spring and fall months.

Herbs complement simple summer cooking when no one wants to spend hours over a pot or turn on the oven – air-conditioning’s worst enemy. Give me an outdoor grill, good salads and cold soups, and I’m a happy camper.

The easiest herb to grow is rosemary. Year-round, year after year, a rosemary bush usually will flourish in our warm climate with little or no attention. Other herbs need very little care other than adequate watering and weeding.

Some cooks grow their herbs inside in a sunny spot or on a porch mostly in shade. I prefer to grow them in partial shade outdoors. Most go in a bed and some, such as mint, are pretty in a pot.

My favorite herb is basil, the sweet variety that gives us pesto sauce for pasta and the zesty touch to fresh tomato-fresh mozzarella salads. I also love it with fresh Creole tomatoes and Brie melted over warm pasta.

You could sprinkle a few herbs over most anything that comes off the grill, such as fish fillets, lamb chops or chicken.

Here are a few simple summer recipes using herbs with an accompanying guide for matching herbs with food.

Creole Tomatoes with Gorgonzola-Herb Dressing
4 red-ripe Creole tomatoes
7 ounces Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Slice tomatoes about 1/4-inch thick, place on a platter and chill.

In a medium bowl, crumble Gorgonzola cheese. Add buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Stir together, mashing and breaking up Gorgonzola.

When ready to serve, sprinkle half the basil over tomatoes and pour dressing over, choosing the amount that you like. Sprinkle with rest of basil and serve.

Serves 4.

Herbed Goat
Cheese-Stuffed Peppers
1 1-pint package mini sweet
      peppers, red, yellow and
4 ounces soft goat cheese
2 Tablespoons sour cream
2 Tablespoons each, assorted
  herbs (choose at least two
  from parsley, chives, tarragon 
  and dill),
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Cut peppers in half and clean out whitish core and stems. Rinse and drain dry.

Mix together goat cheese, sour cream, chopped fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste, lemon zest – the bright yellow part of peel only, grated finely – and lemon juice. Stuff mixture into peppers and decorate top with a small strip of chive or small leaf of herb.

Serves 4 as hors d’oeuvres.

Herby Egg Salad
6 eggs
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
Salt and pepper

In a small pot, place eggs in water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cover and turn off heat. Let eggs set for 10 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, peel eggs, cut in half and mash with a fork on a plate. Mix all other ingredients in to a smooth consistency.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Herb-Cucumber Soup
3 cucumbers
1 cup plain regular or low-fat
  yogurt (not non-fat)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mint leaves, packed,
  plus a few leaves for top
2 cloves garlic
4 green onions, roughly
1/4 cup dill, plus some for
  sprinkling (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground
  black pepper to taste
Dash celery salt
Dash Tabasco® sauce
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Peel and cut cucumbers lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a spoon and discard. Roughly chop 2 1/2 of the cucumbers, and set other piece of cucumber aside.

Place cucumber chunks and all other ingredients except the reserved half cucumber in a blender and blend until very smooth. Chill. Chop remaining cucumber half into pieces about 1/8-inch. To serve, pour into soup bowls, stir in cucumber pieces and top with a mint leaf each and sprinkling of dill, if using.

Serves 4.

Green Goddess
Salad Dressing
2 cups spinach leaves
1/2 bunch Italian flat-leaf
parsley, long stems removed
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
1 small bunch green onions,
2 cloves garlic
Salt and freshly ground black
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Shrimp with Basil-Garlic Sauce Over Pasta
3 pounds large shrimp
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil,
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Salt, freshly ground pepper and
  Creole seasoning to taste
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 pound fettuccine, cooked
  al dente, according to package

Peel and devein shrimp or use 2 pounds frozen peeled and deveined shrimp. If using frozen, thaw and drain.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté shrimp and garlic in olive oil until shrimp turn pink. Add basil, lemon juice and seasonings and simmer for a minute or so until shrimp are done. Check doneness by tasting thick end.

Remove from heat. Stir in cheeses until melted. Serve over fettuccine with extra Parmesan, if desired.

Serves 4.

Grilled Rosemary Lamb Chops
4 lamb chops, about 1-inch
Several stems rosemary, rinsed
  and leaves removed from stem
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black

Heat a charcoal or gas grill until hot. Meanwhile, marinate lamb chops in all other ingredients.

When grill is hot, sear lamb chops on both sides until browned. Use a meat thermometer to cook them as you like them. Lamb chops cook very quickly and will take only a few more minutes if you prefer them medium-rare or medium.

Serves 2.

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