Herbs are a wonderful way to add flavor, depth, and dimension to our meals. Not only do they add delicious tastes, but they also offer numerous health benefits. Fresh herbs can be added to salads, soups, stews, dressings, marinades, sauces, and so much more. In this post, we will dive into the world of cooking with fresh herbs and explore some tips and tricks for enhancing your cooking game.
Choosing and Storing Fresh Herbs
When choosing fresh herbs, look for bright colors, firm leaves, and avoid herbs with any signs of wilting or discoloration. It’s best to choose fresh herbs if possible, but if you are purchasing packaged herbs, make sure they are not outdated. When you get home, rinse the herbs in cool water, gently pat dry with a paper towel, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. If you have some extra herbs that you won’t use right away, you can freeze them in ice cube trays with water or oil. This way, you’ll always have fresh herbs on hand when you need them.
Most Common Fresh Herbs
There are a variety of herbs that you can cook with, but here are some of the most common ones you’ll find in recipes:
- Basil: This is a popular herb used in Italian cuisine, with a sweet and slightly peppery flavor. It pairs well with tomatoes and is a key ingredient in pesto sauce.
- Mint: A fresh and cool herb that is often used in savory dishes, such as Middle Eastern cuisine or to add a refreshing flavor to drinks and desserts.
- Cilantro/Coriander: A versatile herb found in many Mexican and Asian dishes. It has a bright, citrusy flavor that pairs well with beans or seafood.
- Rosemary: A woody, piney herb that is often used to flavor roasted meats and vegetables. It has a strong aroma, so use sparingly.
- Thyme: A tiny herb with a subtle, earthy flavor that pairs well with chicken or fish dishes.
- Parsley: This herb has a bright, fresh flavor that is often used as a garnish, but it also adds depth to soups and stews.
Cooking with Fresh Herbs
When cooking with fresh herbs, there are a few general rules to keep in mind:
- Add fresh herbs towards the end of the cooking process to preserve their flavor.
- Use about three times as much fresh herbs as you would dried herbs, as fresh herbs have a more subtle flavor.
- If a recipe calls for dried herbs but you have fresh ones on hand, use one tablespoon of fresh herbs for every teaspoon of dried herbs.
- Chop or mince fresh herbs finely to release their full flavor.
Here are some examples of dishes to try using fresh herbs:
Herb and Garlic Roasted Vegetables
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Cut up your choice of vegetables (such as carrots, potatoes, zucchini, and bell peppers) into bite-sized pieces and spread them out on a baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix together finely chopped rosemary and thyme, minced garlic, and olive oil.
- Drizzle the herb and garlic mixture over the vegetables and toss to coat.
- Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned.
Simple Herb Salad Dressing
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Fresh Herb and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts
- Preheat your oven to 375°F.
- Butterfly 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts by slicing them in half.
- In a mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and 1 minced garlic clove.
- Spoon the herb and feta mixture into the chicken breasts and fold over, securing with toothpicks if necessary.
- Season the stuffed chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of oil, and sear the chicken breasts for 3-4 minutes on each side.
- Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
Cooking with fresh herbs is an easy way to add delicious flavors to your dishes. By choosing, storing, and properly adding fresh herbs to your meals, you can enhance your cooking skills and impress your friends and family. Try out some of the recipes shared in this article as a starting point for adding more herbs to your meals.