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Market Watch: It's Time to Celebrate Herbs

Purple Basil

Purple Basil

Fresh herbs are the culinary workhorses of the produce world. Whether it’s a simple pinch of thyme on sautéed mushrooms, a sprinkle of lemon basil tossed over grilled fish or a blend of mint, parsley and chervil tossed in a vinaigrette, the distinct nuance of flavor they add makes them essential in any kitchen.

At the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this month, we’ll be celebrating the abundance of fresh summer herbs at a series of Saturday cooking demos sponsored by SF Chefs and at CUESA’s Herb Celebration on July 23, complete with a make-your-own-herb-bundle station, herb information and recipes, and more.

We’ll kick off the celebrations this Saturday by welcoming Executive Chef of Bourbon Steak Omri Aflalo to the CUESA Classroom to show us how to select, store and use many of the fresh herbs you’ll find at the market. “Knowing how to store herbs and properly use them is a really important skill,” Omri told me recently. When they’re in season, he utilizes herbs as much as possible on his menu. “Right now we’ve got four different kinds of basil we’re using in various ways,” he said. “We try to be strategic with how we use fresh herbs because they are key to bringing out the best flavors in so many of our dishes.”

Chef Omri buying parsley

Omri gets most of his herbs from farmer Marty Jacobsen of Allstar Organics, who also grows much of his produce exclusively for Bourbon Steak’s kitchen. On Saturday, Marty will join Omri in the CUESA Classroom to talk about what he grows on his farm in Marin County. Omri will grill up steaks and show us his recipe for a simple chimichurri sauce, which he says is great on grilled meats but works well over fish or veggies, too. “For me, it’s just the most classic herb preparation,” Omri said. “You can utilize so many flavors, and it has such a clean and classic flavor that is incredibly versatile.”  

Other chefs joining us this month include Justin Simoneaux of The Boxing Room (July 13), Maya Erickson of AQ (July 20) and David Bazirgan of Fifth Floor Restaurant (July 27). Cooking demos start at 11 am at the CUESA Classroom, are free and open to the public, and include recipes and samples.

Visit SF Chefs to learn more about their week-long food, wine, and spirits festival. And be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, August 3, when SF Chefs hosts Decadence After Dark: The Menu Is in the Music, a lavish grand tasting event that combines music, food, and drink (a portion of the proceeds will be donated to CUESA).