‘COOKING WITH CULINARY HERBS’
Ever wonder why everything tastes so special and seems to exude delicious aromas when you eat at a good five star restaurant? It’s almost always because of the seasoning. Exceptional chefs know that fresh food is best when the recipe includes fresh herbs.
Cooking with fresh herbs is like icing the cake- it so beautifully completes your dish. Whether you plant them or pick them up at the farmer market or grocery once one begins using fresh herbs, you’ll never want to go without.
Herbs are one of natures little surprise packages that contain a lot of flavor. A little goes a long way, and allows the cook to cut back on the use of sugar, fat and especially salt. You do not need much to make an extraordinary impact in your cooking and your health. Research shows many culinary herbs have antioxidants that may help protect against such diseases as cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Cooking with herbs may seem a little daunting at first so just start with one herb and one dish at a time. Great food should be simply prepared and is wonderful by itself, but add a few fresh herbs and you have created a masterpiece. Once you achieve the art of seasoning with fresh herbs, you will be astounding family and guests with your remarkable culinary talents. Since it can be difficult especially in the colder months to find fresh herbs, dried will do. To extract their wonderful flavor, add them when you first begin the preparation of your dish.
Here are some ideas to help you start combining fresh herbs with your foods.
Basil – a natural with tomatoes, Italian dishes, pasta sauce, peas and zucchini
Chives – great in dips, sprinkled on salads, potatoes and soups either as a garnish or cooked
Cilantro – Use very sparingly a little of this herb will quickly overwhelm the dish. Wonderful with Mexican dishes, Caribbean cooking and fresh tomato dishes.
Dill- Of course the pickle, try some in your potato salad, on cottage cheese, fish, green beans and dips
Oregano- A must with Italian sauces, peppers, and homemade pizza sauce
Parsley- the curly leaf variety is preferred by most cooks, great with potatoes, tomatoes, tabouli and other marinated vegetable dishes. Makes a pretty garnish
Rosemary- A personal favorite- wonderful in hamburgers on the grill, chicken, turkey, roasted potatoes, stews and stuffing
Tarragon- A must for fish, great with eggs and cream sauces
Chives, rosemary, tarragon and dill are also wonderful in butter. Chop the herb very finely, heat the butter very hot, not boiling and add 1/8th teaspoon of the desired herb. Let sit for 24 hours, 48 is better and serve. Dill and chive are also good when mixed with soft cheeses.
If your spice cabinet or garden contain only a minimum of herbs, you are missing out on some of the delightful culinary experiences of life. Can’t find fresh? Try dried herbs purchased from the local health food store where you can buy very small amounts from bulk bins inexpensively. Till next time, Rebecca