Dill weed, which refers to the actual leaves, is possibly one of the most aromatic herbs we have in our culture. If you are of Scandinavian, Greek, German or European descent, then you will probably be more familiar with the lovely flavor of dill. Dill (Anethum graveolens), a member of the parsley family, grows wild in most temperate climes. Dill is an old herb; it’s been with us for centuries. The Romans fed it to the gladiators to give them more fortitude and early Greeks thought it a cure for hiccups. European monks believed that dill had the power to chase off male demons who preyed (not prayed, indeed) sexually on sleeping women. It was considered an aphrodisiac, warded off spells and helped increase the powers of spells…it seems to have been a pretty popular myth provider, though I’d like to get a look at those male demons. They might have a considerable resemblance to some of those monks! Dill probably arrived on our shores with the earliest settlers, who were known to grow it in their gardens. The name “dill” means to “soothe” and for centuries has been used to calm irate stomachs and colicky infants.
The spidery looking “heads”, with the flowers attached and from whence the seeds will come, are used in pickling. Dill seeds (the spice part of the plant) have a very pronounced flavor and are often found in steak seasonings.
Dill pickles may well be the most common use for dill. And they are good, but dill weed is great with potatoes, cheese, smoked salmon, in yogurt, with cucumber and with mustard. While dried dill is available, it lacks much of the aromatic aspect that makes dill lovers swoon. It does however, freeze reasonably well, but please put it in a well-sealed plastic (or glass) container or the entire freezer, including the ice, will be dill-flavored! It will darken considerably when frozen (keeps for up to 2 months) and can be used unthawed.
Dill combines well with onions, potatoes, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.), cumin and paprika. It is eaten with fish, vegetables, eggs, or with lamb, in this case a lamb burger, as shown here.
It can be mixed into butter and added to breads.
Or used in soups or sauces. It is great in the simple sauce of Middle Eastern and Greek cultures, Tzatziki.
- 1 1/2 cups Greek-style yogurt (I use Desi®; you may use labneh instead)
- 1/2-3/4 cup finely diced English cucumber, unpeeled
- 2 scallion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
- Grated rind of 1/2 lemon (I prefer Meyer lemons)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill weed
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 teaspoon sumac (available in Middle Eastern markets)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl; stir until well mixed. Set aside, in the refrigerator, for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Can be made up to 24 hours before using. You may drain any accumulated clear liquid, if desired.
Tzatziki Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
This is the version of tzatziki I usually make. I like the small amount of added dill weed and the sumac, too. Sumac isn’t the stuff we think of with the red leaves in the ditches…yeah, leave that stuff alone, as it is not for human or any other being’s consumption. It’s very pretty, as deep reddish-purple; it tastes of lemon and adds an exotic nuance to salads and dressing, too. You can purchase it from The Spice Mill, either at the store or through mail order. We love this sauce with fish, chicken and lamb. But tonight, she used a lamb sausage, removed the casing and formed the raw meat into a patty, pan-fried it until medium-rare, dressed it with sautéed onions, diced tomatoes, cucumber slices and tzatziki. It’s a quick and dirty version of that wonderful treat,
Sometimes, The Goddess adds more dill weed to the sauce and uses it on baked potatoes for summer dinners. She also uses the basic “dressing”, without the addition of the dicec cucumber, to dress a cucumber, onion and tomato salad…you know, when summer sends its bounty to her doorstep.
By the way, I’m sorry for not having pics of the actual dill seed and the fern-leafed plant. I ran out of dill seed and I used the dill weed before I remembered that I hadn’t taken pictures. Sometimes actual cooking gets in the way of blogging! But please, have a wonderfully happy Easter or a perfect Passover.