Herbs & Culinary Uses
Basic Rules for Herbs
Herbs are a great way to enhance and bring out the flavor in a dish. All the herbs listed are excellent when used fresh, and most can also be dried (unless otherwise noted). Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh, so use a ratio of 1:3 if substituting dried for fresh herbs. To keep your herbs: Cut the stems with a sharp knife. Place herb bunches in a vase or shallow glass with cool water. Place on a window sill with indirect light or on the kitchen counter. Do not refrigerate.
Italian Basil has an intense sweet clove flavor. Use to complement tomatoes, cheese, soups, stews, beef, fish, veal, poultry, eggs, pizza, and vegetables. Great for pesto sauce or sprinkled over pasta. Thai Basil has a distinct licorice flavor and is used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
Cilantro leaves have a piercing flavor with a citrus undertone. Cilantro is an ingredient in many South Asian foods (particularly chutneys), in Chinese dishes and in Mexican dishes, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish. Use fresh; does not hold flavor when dried.
Pungent and slightly tangy leaves are one of the best complements for fish, lamb, chicken, eggs, salad greens, beets, carrots, cucumbers, cabbages and potatoes – and of course dill pickles. The leaves are best raw, when cooked, they lose their strength.
Mint leaves have a fresh, aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Use in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups, candies, and ice creams. Use fresh mint or mint jelly to accompany lamb dishes. Use for alcoholic drinks such as a Mint Juleps and Mojitos.
To make Mint Tea: In a saucepan, combine 2 cups water and 1 bunch coarsely chopped mint leaves and stems (about 1 cup). Remove from heat; let steep 5 min. Strain solids and discard. Pour into teapot or pitcher and mix in 1-2 Tbsp. honey to taste. Serve hot or pour over ice.
The flavor of Rosemary might be described as pine mixed with mint. Because the leaves are tough, chop them finely, which releases even more of their flavor. Rosemary is a popular flavoring for meats, dressings, soups, stews, bouillons, or potatoes; or as a garnish on roasts.
Tarragon leaves have a flavor similar to anise or licorice. Use in salads, marinades, and sauces. Tarragon complements chicken and fish dishes and is a prime ingredient in Béarnaise Sauce. Leaves add flavor to vinegar when steeped. Use fresh; the flavor is lost when dried.
Sage has a smoky and musky flavor. Its astringent quality makes it excellent for cutting the richness of foods. Sage is noted for its use in sausage, meat loaves, stuffings for poultry, rabbit, and pork and paired with winter squash.
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley possesses a slightly sharper flavor, and less coarse texture than curly parsley. Parsley is used as a garnish, with potato dishes, rice dishes, fish, chicken, lamb, steaks, vegetable stews or tabouleh.
Oregano’s flavor can be described as sweet, warm, and spicy. Use as a flavoring on pizza, in Greek salad, with lamb or steak, with roasted, fried or grilled vegetables, or add to Italian-type sauces.
The savory-sweet fragrance of thyme is perfect for earthy cooking – rich stews, roasted game, poultry stuffings, slow-cooking beef dishes, and pasta sauces.
Flavor similar to oregano, but milder and sweeter. Use in sausages, lamb, beef, pork, chicken, fish, tomato, or egg dishes, stuffings, breads, and salad dressings.
Chives are used to impart a delicious, subtle, onion-like flavor to foods. Add them close to serving time to preserve their crisp texture and flavor. Chives are great with poultry, fish, eggs, potatoes, in dips and pasta salads.
Lavender has a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. Adding too much lavender to a recipe can be like eating perfume: a little goes a long way. The stems can be substituted for rosemary in many dishes. Lavender sugar made from dried flowers can be added to cakes. Lavender also adds a mysterious scent to custards, flans, sorbets and drinks.
A long cream-colored root with a pungent flavor. Stirred into a paste with vinegar, finely grated horseradish is an incomparable finish for roast beef and cocktail sauce.
To prepare: Place about 1 lb. diced peeled root in a food processor. Process until finely chopped, add salt, then pour in vinegar until the mixture is of a spreadable consistency. Will keep for several months in the fridge.