Chef's Hat: Make your summer dishes sparkle with fresh herbs

Basil and mint are two herbs you can grow and use on grilled items

Use fresh basil on Caprese Balsamic Grilled Chicken and fresh mint on Honey Grilled Watermelon. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

Even though my garden is not yet full of fresh vegetables, it is overflowing with fresh herbs.

Basil is bright green and bushy, and the mint has taken over one section of a flower bed. Not a bad problem to have.

Basil is a leafy green, aromatic herb that is in the mint family and one of those herbs often associated with pasta and pizza. It can also be used in teas, and some resources say it has a wide range of health benefits from anti-inflammatory to antibacterial to fighting stress and perhaps even cancer fighting.

Basil has a nice, somewhat Italian flare, and can be added to vegetables, meat dishes and fresh salads. Adding a bit of chopped basil to a potato or egg salad will give your old, boring, mayonnaise-based salad a creative twist and a fresh taste.

The classic caprese salad is always a summertime treat, and the Caprese Balsamic Grilled Chicken is a light dish perfect for a summer get-together with family and friends.


Mint is another herb that has a lot more going for it than just being tossed into a salad or into a drink. You can chew mint leaves to freshen your breath, use it as an insect repellent, or for more traditional uses try some on your baked potatoes or place some chopped mint on top of steamed vegetables.

As unusual as it sounds, grilled watermelon is sweet, juicy and has a bit of a smoky taste. It takes just a couple of minutes to prepare and a few minutes on the grill. The grilling method caramelizes this fruit, and a bit of sea salt and mint enhance the sweetness. This is a great dish to end any summer meal.

Enhance those summer dishes with a bit of mint or a handful of chopped basil. Just a bit of either one of these herbs will make the dish richer and something your family and friends won’t soon forget. So be bold, go forward and experiment. Happy Eating!

Use fresh basil on Caprese Balsamic Grilled Chicken and fresh mint on Honey Grilled Watermelon. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

Caprese Balsamic Grilled Chicken

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Montreal Chicken Seasoning
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 slicing tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons jarred garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 slices mozzarella
  • Balsamic vinegar

Gently pound the chicken breasts so they are all the same thickness. If they are thick, cut them in half so they will cook quicker.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of white pepper, ½ teaspoon black pepper, the Italian seasoning and the Montreal Chicken Seasoning. Mix well. Transfer to a large, resealable bag or reasonable container and add the chicken. Seal the bag or close the container and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 4 hours.

Heat a grill to medium-high. Clean the grates, then place the chicken on the grate. Discard any remaining marinade. Grill until the chicken has nice grill marks on one side, about 5 to 8 minutes, then turn over and grill the other side. Cook an additional 5 to 8 minutes. Chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.


While the chicken is cooking, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil and lemon juice, and season with small amount of salt and pepper. Taste, and if desired, add additional salt and pepper.

While the chicken is still on the grill, top each breast with 1 slice of mozzarella and cover until the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Top the chicken with the tomato mixture and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.

Remove from the grill and place onto serving plates. Lightly drizzle the vinegar over the top of the tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

Grill meat and fruit - like chicken and watermelon - and add distinct tastes with fresh herbs from the garden. Donna Evans / Echo Journal Correspondent

Honey Grilled Watermelon

  • 1 teaspoon lime juice (or substitute lemon juice)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Small watermelon cut into 1-inch thick wedges (use half the watermelon if you have a small grill)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh mint leaves, chopped

In a medium sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the lime juice, honey and olive oil.
Brush the mixture on both sides of the watermelon. Place watermelon on the grill and cook until there are nice grill marks on one side. Flip the watermelon over until there are grill marks on the other side and the fruit slightly softens. Cooking time will be approximately 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

Remove watermelon from the grill. Lightly season with salt and then top with the chopped mint.


Donna Evans is a correspondent for the Echo Journal.

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