June 10th is National Herbs and Spices Day and we are focusing on Dill: a great summer herb that can add a lift of flavor to the dishes you cook. Dill has traditionally been used in pickling (dill pickles) and to delicately season fish, but it has so many other uses.
Dill grows in the early spring and is in season during the summer. The fronds are picked and used as the herb. Usually the root is not used in American cooking. Both the flowers and leaves are edible.
All About Dill
Reports of dill use go back several thousand years. It was known to the Egyptians and the ancient Greeks. There are references to this herb in the Bible.
Dill weed hails from southern Russia which is how it probably ended up flavoring potato salad and why it is found in some versions of Borscht (beet soup). The herb is found throughout the Mediterranean and its seeds and fronds show up in dressings for salads. Historically it was used in Scandinavian and Germanic cooking.
Dill was used as a carminative medicine. The seeds were passed around at banquet tables for the sole purpose of alleviating guests of gas. The seeds were used as a healing agent by Greek soldiers and Hippocrates used it as a mouth cleaner.
Cooking with Dill
Dill is the number one herb used in pickling cucumbers. The fresh fronds are packed in jars with cucumbers and then left to sit in their brine until ready. Sometimes just the seeds are used, which creates a bit of a different flavor profile, but the pickles are still tasty. This light, refreshing herb is found in Borscht and in a variety of sauces that usually include products made from dairy cows. It is used to flavor cheeses, sour cream, and in yogurt dips for sliced cucumbers and other crudités.
Since we don’t use dairy products here on this blog, there are alternative ways of using dill. Of course, you can use a vegan version of sour cream to make the dip. I have yet to see a vegan cheese flavored with dill, but I’m sure you can make it if you have the patience for vegan cheese.
Dill pairs well with lemon. A quick search on the internet revealed a full page of lemon dill tofu recipes. Here’s one from Oh She Glows that can make an outstanding and refreshing summer dish. Serve it with a rice and chickpea pilaf.
Another use is in compound butter. You’re probably thinking, “how can I do that?” Well, compound butters are just butter that has been softened and flavored with different herbs and spices. I use Earth Balance margarine sticks, soften the stick just like you would butter, and then add the other ingredients.
Add dill fronds to rice or in every day vegetable sautés. It works well in soups with lots of summer vegetables. The seeds can be added into salads as is or combined into a zesty dressing to be poured over salads.
However you use this summer herb, you will be following a long culinary and medicinal tradition. If you do experiment, please feel free to share your results with us over on Instagram or Twitter, just hashtag #kitchenshaman. We love food porn!
While you’re here, check out these other herbs to use today.