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Making Your Own Herb Butters and Spreads

If you love what fresh herbs contribute to your dishes but hate that half of the parsley or tarragon you buy goes to waste, try using the leftovers in a delicious compound butter. A softened butter mixed with herbs, spices, and other seasonings, compound butters can quickly and effortlessly add flavor to many dishes.

To try your hand, have ready a small bowl of softened butter. Rinse herbs, then shake dry; gently pat with paper towels. Pick the unblemished leaves and finely chop, then mix into the butter. A mini food processor can speed things along. You can also use the processor to fully blend a small amount of herb into the butter until it turns a lovely shade of green. Taste (the herb flavor will be stronger when the butter is warm). For a flavor boost, stir in ground black pepper and/or more chopped herb.

Store your herb butter in a sealed container and refrigerate to use over the next several days. For larger amounts, roll the butter into a log shape with the help of plastic wrap. Over-wrap in foil, label, and freeze. You can then slice off as much as you need to for a variety of uses:

Spread on sandwiches

Try tarragon/chive butter on a chicken sandwich or a cucumber and watercress tea sandwich for a bridal shower, tea party-style.

Finish roasted or grilled salmon or sautéed shrimp

Dill/parsley butter and a squeeze of lemon will complement seafood for your next dinner with friends.

Toss with pasta

Marjoram/basil butter with a grind of black pepper and plenty of Parmesan will make a nice side dish.

Add to rice pilaf

Cilantro/green onion butter plus some tomato sauce or paste can give rice a Southwestern flair.

Rub under the skin of a chicken, then roast

Chicken is less likely to be overwhelmed by sturdier herbs like thyme and rosemary, so try them in a butter, which will keep the chicken moist and add flavor. You’ll also get delicious pan juices for an accompanying sauce.

Finish vegetables

Most vegetables taste great with a dollop of butter, and the already-incorporated herb is a plus.

For toast and pancakes

Compound butters with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are great for brunch.

Finish grilled meat

Add butter with blue cheese or smoked paprika to your next cookout.

Use your imagination! Try creating compound butters with different flavor combinations, and experiment with a variety of uses. Your friends and family will be impressed—and they’ll never guess how easy it was.