Herbacious Spring!

Author: Corinne  //  Category: Uncategorized

The weather is right and I’m planting again.  The herbs in my garden help lift the flavor of everything I make, from soups to desserts.  But cooking with herbs can be a little intimidating and tricky.  Knowing the right herb for your culinary masterpiece is key and hopefully I can shed a little light on that here.

We recently took a “field trip” to a small herb seller in my neighborhood.  Many times I’ve past by this little hidden gem because I grow my own herbs.  Sadly, though, as a caterer, there are times I have used all that I have grown and I need back up.  This was the reason for the visit.  We could smell the fresh herbs in the air the minute we exited the car.  

Nothing, absolutely nothing in the whole food world can replicate the flavor of fresh herbs..(not even some air freshener..kidding).  If you are a beginner at this whole “grow your own” thing, a pot in the windowsill works just fine.   If you are craving for more time with Mother Earth, then get going.  You have nothing to lose!  Most herbs can be started from seed with little or no fuss, but if you want a head start ( I have to do this with basil because I use soooooooo much) stater plants are the way to go.

When you want to cook with your little lovely darlings (I love to smell them when just picked and imagine what I’m going to make) WASH. DRY and CHOP your herbs just before you use them.  They’ll stay fresher that way and their potency is far stronger.

If you substitute fresh herbs in a recipe (instead of those old dried ones in your cabinet) use 2 to 3 times more than the dried amount called for in your recipe.  Certainly, the amount you use is all up to you and your taste.   Bay leaf is one herb where the ration is the same from fresh to dried.

To store your herbs, wash and dry (a salad spinner works great for this).  Dampen a lenth of paper towel, wring it out, and wrap the herbs LOOSELY in it.  Put ‘em in a plastic zip loc and press out as much air as you can.  If you change the paper towel every few days the herbs should last for up to a week.

A few herbs worth considering:  (in alpha order of course) 

Basil: Pair with Italian, Mediterannean and some Asian ingredients

Bay: A savory foundation for soups, sauces and the like.  Use in bouqet garni.

Chives: Milder than raw onion(and prettier too).  Snip and use for garnish, in soups, potatoes, eggs and vegetables.

Cilantro: Zzzzzesty!  Some like it, some do not but cilantro is great for cooling the spice in Asian, Latin American, Indian and American dishes.

Dill: Fresh dill is less assertive than dill seed.  The pretty fronds can serve as garnish or use at the end of cooking if roughly chopped.  Great on mild flavored fish.

Marjoram:  Italian favorite and milder than oregano. 

Oregano:  Mexican or Greek oregano will produce subtle differences.  Paired with lemon and garlic for Greek flavors.  Accents meats, marinades, and hearty dishes.

Parsley: Flat or Curly (I like flat leaf better for flavor but it’s a personal preference)  Hopefully, long gone are the days of the curly parsley garnish…but I always ate it, even as a kid.  Just an all purose herb that can be used to flavor or brighten anything and everything.

Rosemary:  Like a little pine tree!  Great on grilled meats, in marinades, on potatoes, used for skewers, or in baked goods like bread and savory puddings.

Sage:  Use this one lightly or you can end up with a medicinal flavor.  Fresh leaves fry up beautifully for a light appy, pair with meats or a nice browned butter.

Spearmint:  This is the “gold standard” of mints for cooking but there are many more to try your hand at.  Be careful where you plant this or it can get away from you.  Used in everything from pasta to salads and beyond.

Good luck and happy eating!

3 Responses to “Herbacious Spring!”

  1. Corinne Says:

    Ahhh, if only I didn;t have writers block and little more time at the computer instead of cooking in small galleys. Thank you for your feedback.

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