Cooking with herbs is a great inexpensive way to get lots of flavor into a dish. Growing your own herbs saves even more money and offers less waste. This article will address some of the more popular herbs used in cooking plus a couple of recipes to get you started.
Basil is popular in Italian cooking and is the base for delicious pesto. Many Mediterranean and Asian dishes also use basil. Basil has a faint taste of anise and it is often paired with tomatoes and mozzarella for an appetizer or first course. There are many varieties of basil each with unusual flavors. Try purple basil or lemon basil for something new.
Chives add a mild onion-like flavor without the bite of an onion. Because chives will turn a gray green color and lose flavor if cooked too long, they should be added at the end of cooking of used as a garnish. Use them in scrambled eggs, soups and salads. My favorite way to use them is on a loaded baked potato.
My brother loves mushrooms and shared this make-ahead appetizer recipe with me a few years ago. It did not originally include chives but they really make a difference.
1 loaf sliced white bread, crusts removed
1 stick butter, divided
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup whipping cream (not heavy whipping cream)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped chives
Using a rolling pin, gently roll out the bread sliced to 1/8 inch thickness.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until soft. Season to taste with salt and sprinkle in the flour, stirring to blend. Add the cream and stir for 1 minute until mixture starts to thicken. Stir in the lemon juice and chives.
Spread equal portions of the mushroom mixture on the bread slices and roll up like a jelly roll. Wrap airtight and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, when ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in microwave or saucepan. Place the rolls seam side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Brush rolls with melted butter. Bake until golden, 5 to 10 minutes.
Cilantro can be found in Mexican, Indian and Chinese cuisines among others. It is truly a flavor that can’t be missed. Cilantro is best used fresh as it loses pungency when dried. Like chives it is best to add cilantro at the end of cooking so it retains its beautiful color and the best flavor. You are probably most familiar with cilantro if you are a fan of salsa. It is a key ingredient in that dish. It is also know as fresh coriander and Chinese parsley.
Watermelon salsa is a condiment I like to serve over grilled chicken or fish in the summertime. It is cool and refreshing. Personally I do not add jalapeno to my watermelon salsa but if you prefer a little heat, chop up as much jalapeno as you can take!
3 cups finely diced seedless watermelon
1/3 cup chipped cilantro
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients except salt. Stir well but gently. Season with salt to taste and chill until ready to serve. Can be kept at room temperature if serving over grilled chicken or fish. Chill if serving with tortilla chips as a snack.
Makes 8 – ½ cup servings
The fine, feathery leaves of dill have a very distinct aroma. It is very popular to use in fish recipes and in the making of pickles. It is delicious paired with fresh lemon juice to make a light sauce for grilled fish.
Rosemary is a woodsy and fragrant herb with a strong flavor. This herb has a thick stem and only the leaves are used. They are usually chopped or minced when added to recipes. It is a great compliment to lamb and chicken dishes.
Marinated lamb chops is a recipe I developed for my lamb-loving husband. Rosemary and parsley compliment the marinade. This has the best flavor if left to marinate for 3 days but if you’re pressed for time, overnight is sufficient. Served with mashed potatoes and green beans makes it a dinner to remember.
Marinated Lamb Chops
2 cups red wine, such as Merlot
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons chopped shallots
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¼ cup loosely packed, roughly chopped parsley
4 loin lamb chops
½ cup beef broth
4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup olive oil
Chopped parsley for garnish
In a medium saucepan combine wine, rosemary, shallots, pepper, garlic and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Put the lamb chops in a shallow glass baking dish and pour cooled marinade over them. Cool and refrigerate up to 3 days, turning the chops once or twice during this period.
When ready to prepare the dish, remove the lamb from the marinade. Strain the marinade and boil it down to 1 cup of liquid. Add the beef stock and continue to boil until the mixture is reduced to 4 tablespoons. Remove from the heat and whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to make sauce. Set aside and keep warm.
In a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the lamb chops and sauté, turning often until browned and cooked to taste. To serve: In the middle of a dinner plate, place a serving of mashed potatoes. Place the lamb chop on an angle to the potatoes and drizzle the sauce over the chop. Sprinkle with chopped parsley as a garnish. Serve any remaining sauce on the side.
Makes 4 servings.
Italian parsley is my go-to herb. I use this probably more than any other herb. Often added as a garnish it has a vibrant green color. When using Italian or flat-leaf parsley it’s OK to chop the thin stems along with the leaves. Sprinkle over chicken Parmesan for added color and a slightly peppery flavor.
Hopefully this beginner guide to using fresh herbs will inspire you to seek out recipes that use these flavorful ingredients. For more information on growing herbs check the website www.flowers-and-garden.com . For a related article on Associated Content check out this article about herbs.