For years, I was a total dickweed when it came to dill weed. I’ve always loved pickles (speaking of which ... are you gonna eat yours? otherwise, please pass it over); but I didn’t properly appreciate that the dill in “dill pickle” meant, well, DILL. What a picklehead!
I believe my first introduction to dill as a spotlighted ingredient was in a dish prepared, as my mother so aptly described it, “with dill and capers.” This moment also represented my formal introduction to capers. Thus, for many years, the pair were linked as inextricably in my mind as Simon and Garfunkel.
The thing is, I don’t really care for capers. Or caper flicks, for that matter. Except After the Fox. Oh, and Hot Millions—that’s a good one. I love the part [*SPOILER*] where Peter Ustinov accidentally sets off the alarm, then slyly pretends his break-in was part of a security test that he’d alerted Karl Malden and Bob Newhart to in advance, via a memo that has “mysteriously disappeared.” I was thinking about that scene the other day, when I heard news of Malden’s death. And this, of course, brings me back to dill—by virtue of the fact that it’s the topic I’m actually supposed to be writing about.
As I recall, it was the dill hummus that finally elicited my appreciation for the complex, unusual flavor of this fine herb. I enjoy hummuses (hummi?) with a variety of seasonings, and I noted that despite the piquancy of the cayenne-pepper variety and the potency of the garlic variety—two of my favorites—the dill variety was, in a way, the most distinctively flavored hummus of them all. Dill is, like, its own thing, dude. And the dill hummus was really dill hummus rather than merely hummus with dill. (Dude.)
Since this awakening, I’ve tried to remain attuned to the inimitable herbish charisma of dill—in breads, rolls, soups, sauces, and salad dressings. Around here, Helia’s repertoire includes a little something that I like to call haricots verts au fenouil (lest my degree in French go to waste). Here’s her recipe—I tell you, it’s a dilly!
1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed* (frozen works too)
1 tbsp. butter, olive oil, or a mixture (best!)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried dill [aka dill weed —J.)
salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste [see Haven and Craig, respectively —J.]
optional but nice: lemon juice, toasted slivered almonds [Jacuzzi, Moët et Chandon, vacation on the Riviera ... —J.]
* And a manicure, please. —J.
Steam the green beans until just tender. Meanwhile, put the butter/olive oil, garlic, and dill in a pan or heat-proof serving dish and cook on low heat until the butter melts and the garlic becomes slightly translucent. Add the beans and toss. Season with the salt and pepper and optional lemon juice and toss again. Sprinkle almonds on top if desired.
Thanks, Helia! You can oil my almonds anytime. ; )
♪ ♪ ♪
Wikipedia describes dill as a “short-lived perennial herb.” So I guess it’s a good thing I’m writing about it now, before it’s too late. And yet, in the same pickled breath, Wiki notes that “the earliest archeological evidence for its cultivation comes from late Neolithic lake shore settlements in Switzerland.” (Am I the only one picturing Chicago- or Toronto-style condominiums?) So you see, there is an historical link between pickles and yodeling, Virginia!
Charlemagne, we are told by Wiki, “used it [dill] at banquets to relieve hiccups.” If that failed, Madame Charlemagne would jump out of a tureen. Moving from Frankish sexual mores to sexual frankness, it is alleged that dill and fennel like to fuck (though Wiki opts for the term hybridise). Who knew! Apparently, if you plant them near enough to each other, they’re likely to end up in the same bed. Mind you, this (nudge nudge) “hybridisation” gossip has been flagged by Wiki with a “citation needed” tag ... but, come on, you think they’re not sleeping together after all this time? (What the hell do you think they were doing out at the lake in Neolithic Switzerland, dude?)
One final tidbit before I stop pestering Wikipedia: After dill seeds have been harvested, “the seed heads are placed upside down in a paper bag.” Now that sounds like a hiccup cure.
Perhaps I’m justified in thinking that dill, though an herb (and a short-lived one at that!), is more comfortable hanging out in the brazen and sexy world of spices. I say this not only because of its front-and-center flavor, but also because I like how it looks, in its fresh form, as if it would make a nice, soft feather substitute for a bit o’ tickling. (I realize, in actuality, it would probably feel scratchy; still, no harm dreaming feathery dreams of a dilly dalliance.)
But enough dillydallying, for the nonce. Now it’s time for some shilly-shallying. (Curiously, Merriam-Webster asks me to hyphenate the latter, but not the former. I think someone at M-W is pulling my pickle.)
Discussion Topic: What’s your favorite phase of the writing process, if you have one? I think I like writing the beginning of a story the best. Sure, the follow-through leads to richer artistic rewards, and there’s nothing like that sense of accomplishment as a piece comes together in its final stages of revisions ... but I find such magic, such joie-de-vivre (lest my degree go to waste), such a giddy sense of potential in the first few hundred words I get down (which usually, though not without exception, comprise the beginning of the story, in my case). When I’ve completed a piece to my satisfaction, I can hopefully feel that I’ve lived up to the potential ... but at that point I’ve become, with respect to that particular piece, a grizzled, wrinkled, old soul (I’ll thank you to keep your snickers to yourselves) who has labored over every sentence—and that’s different from being the starry-eyed first-draft puppy.
Before I turn the mic over to all of you, let me just say how glad I am to have you here. [Sings] It’s dill-licious, it’s dill-lightful, it’s dill-lovely ... [Nuts, I can’t find an image of a vaudeville performer getting the hook!]
♪ ♪ ♪
The Spicy Summer Sunday blog tour continues!
7/26 Isabel Kerr—ginger
8/2 Marina St. Clare—basil
8/16 Emerald—poppy seeds
8/23 P.S. Haven—salt
8/30 Gala Goodbye