Dominion Over Nature


My herb garden must be tamed.


Who knew lemon balm could grow so big? Or lemon verbena so tall? Between the two lemony bullies and the weeds the size of trees that I haven’t bothered to pull out (they certainly haven’t affected the lemon balm), sunlight to those herbs that are not upright of habit is all but choked off. That’s why I had to mercilessly mow down the lemon verbena tonight for some striped bass with lemon verbena-macadamia pesto.

The lemon balm, I didn’t touch. It’s large enough to be dangerous, and I don’t trust it. Who knows what lurks within its depths?

aw nuts.

Well, giant bumblebees, for one, which is quite enough to keep me from investigating any further. We’re lucky I forced myself to get close enough to the herbs to snag the verbena, or dinner would have been utterly lacking in condiment.

Macadamias completed the pesto dyad.* Fish naturally pairs up with butter and lemon, so why wouldn’t it pair well with a pesto made of lemony herbs and buttery nuts? It only makes sense. That was the premise from which this meal proceeded.

It also provided a convenient excuse to splurge on macadamia nuts (which, in this photo, look very much like tiny potatoes). And to munch on said nuts while making dinner.

*No cheese, because fish with cheese squicks me out, crustaceans exempted. It’s like my own personal rule of kashrut.


Here’s the thing: my original butter + lemon premise only works if the lemony herb in question actually tastes lemony. Which lemon verbena, as it turns out, does not when pulverized; the bright, sharp lemon scent given off by the leaves transforms after being FoProed into something decidedly herbaceous but remarkably sweet.

So I bolstered it with lemon zest and juice, because it was crying out for some punch. Damn lemon verbena and its damn misleading scent. What kind of fucked up asshole of a plant reeks of lemon but refuses to taste like it? I CALL SHENANIGANS.

See if I ever plant YOU again, lemon verbena. I bet the lemon balm could KICK YOUR ASS.

a nice piece of fish

It all ended up tasting good in the end, so I’ll stop excoriating the verbena. It knows how I feel.

I had some truly loverly pieces of local wild striped bass that I seasoned simply with salt and pepper and cooked off quickly in a hot pan. Brian, who is known as a lover of A Nice Piece of Fish (said with old Brooklyn man accent) had been waiting for this meal like a kid on Christmas.

Not that he knows what Christmas is like, because he’s Jewish and they don’t get Christmas because they killed Jesus. For other Jews who may be reading, Christmas is when Santa comes down from heaven and gives new bicycles to the good Christian children so they can ride in circles around their non-Christian classmates and gloat.


But let us not allow theological inquiry, however intriguing it may be, to stand in the way of dinner.

Lemony pesto on fish is a winner – the citrus and herb are bracing against the sweet, succulent fish – and the macadamia nuts are so wonderfully fatty that Brian asked if there was butter in the pesto. We both scarfed our dinners in record time, and I didn’t even remember to be mad at the lemon verbena.

This is the fourth killer pesto in a row – spinach and walnut, basic basil, cilantro and now lemon verbena – and I decree that all greens shall henceforth be consumed only in pesto form.

Lemon Verbena Pesto
2 c. lightly packed lemon verbena
1/2 c. macadamia nuts
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 c. olive oil
s+p to taste

Whiz the verbena, macadamia nuts and lemon juice/zest in the FoPro until finely minced. With the FoPro running, slowly add the olive oil until you get a thick paste. Taste, and adjust the seasoning; you’ll likely need salt.

13 thoughts on “Dominion Over Nature

  1. fyi, the sorrel i have upstairs doesn’t smell like lemon but does taste like it. holla if you wanna try some…

  2. I only dream of having the voracious herb garden problems that you have. We are now on our third measly little herb garden that we have killed. Its gotten beyond the point of being able to blame other things; the blame now solely rests on our shoulders, and I feel the worse for it. Mostly because I will never have the opportunity to use lemon verbena or lemon balm at a whim. So cheers to you and your overactive herb garden! Keep up the great recipes :)

  3. I know what you mean about fishy-fish and cheese. Something wrong there, but I don’t quite know what. My big food combination freakout might make a little more sense: any combination of poultry flesh and (obvious) eggs. That just seems wrong, wrong, wrong.

  4. That’s some kick-ass plating, right there; I always end up with a dribble or smear off to the side, but leave it there for authenticity, aka laziness. And I love the sound of the this dish. You’ve inspired me to branch out from my standard spinach-arugula-walnut pesto with this post!

  5. edgertor, that may have to be my next pesto experiment. what have you used it for?

    allison, the key is poop. at the beginning of ever season, i work lots of poop into the dirt, and the herbs and veggies go all overactive.

    cynic, then put it into action!

    sara, anytime. my theology degree finally comes in handy!

    fiddle, that DOES seem wrong. even writing it out seems kinda icky.

    karen, you’ve got a hunter-gatherer? nice! i don’t have one of those, although i do have a tinkerer-bug killer.

    amy, thanks! also: that’s what cropping is for.

  6. Great post! Yummy looking recipe (we were tricked by the verbena this year too) and so funny I choked and spit a little coffee.

  7. People are always mooning on about how refreshing and “lemony” a nice tall glass of water with a crushed sprig of lemon verbena is but I’ve had my suspicions all along. You have deepened them.

  8. claudia, thanks! nice to see you around these parts again, you were missed!

    sarah, i live to cause spit-takes.

    angelina, when you bruise it, the scent is intoxicating; it might work. it’s when you chop it that it seems to die.

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