Fresh and dried herbs are swell additions to many foods, recipes and dishes. How to use herbs is something many of us are familiar with. Some of you may use herbs everyday and many of you may be uncertain how to incorporate them into your meals. If you grow herbs you are more than likely in the habit of using them on a regular basis. Whether using fresh or dried herbs we can all use basic info on how to use herbs.
I do work in a spice shop where we sell dried herbs as well as spices. Knowing where your herbs come from and how long they’ve been bottled can make a big difference is flavor and fragrance. Be sure to date your jars and don’t keep store bought herbs for longer than about 9 months. There is a method for substituting dried herbs in place of fresh. Dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor, so the general rule of thumb is to use a third of the amount of dried as you would fresh herbs. Often a recipe will call for chopped fresh herbs in units of tablespoons. Since one tablespoon is equal to three teaspoons, use one teaspoon chopped dried herbs instead.
Let’s start with these 10 basic herbs. I’ll describe their taste and offer ways to use herbs in your kitchen. With spring around the corner it’s not too early to think about planting a few herbs in your garden or in planter boxes or pots for the patio, deck or balcony.
Basil ~ (basic green basil) offers a slightly peppery taste. Basil works well in Mediterranean dishes, tomato based sauces, soups, stews, salads, chicken and seafood dishes. It is especially delicious sprinkled on a platter of mozzarella and tomatoes! Basil should be added to hot foods at the end of cooking.
Chives ~ mild onion flavor. Only use the tender cut leaves of the plant. Chives are delicious with egg dishes, sauces or with soft white cheeses. Add to food just before serving to retain texture and taste.
Cilantro ~ Most folks I know have a love or hate relationship with cilantro. Those who hate it say it tastes like soap – I’d hate it too if I tasted soap. To me Cilantro is a fragrant mix of parsley and citrus. It is often used in latin, Mexican and Asian dishes. It works well in salsas, soups and stews.
Dill ~ Wispy, fernlike and sweet, dill leaves pair well with sour cream, fish, and chicken. It adds a burst of flavor to potato salad, cucumbers and cabbage, and of course, in dill pickles.
Oregano ~ Pungent, sweet and peppery. Greek oregano smells a bit minty whereas Mexican oregano has somewhat of a dirt like fragrance. You know it best used in tomato based sauces, sprinkled on pizza or in Mediterranean dishes. It is a good match for lamb, pork or chicken.
Parsley ~ There are two types of parsley, curly or flat-leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley. Flat leaf parsley has a stronger flavor and is preferred for it’s ability to hold up in cooking. We often see curly parsley as a garnish. Parsleys have a light peppery, grassy taste. There isn’t a salad, soup or meat with which they cannot be used. Think of parsley as an all-purpose herb.
Rosemary ~ Piney in scent and flavor, I find rosemary to be a very versatile herb. Rosemary pairs well with pork, salmon, shrimp and chicken. In my kitchen rosemary and citrus go hand in hand – a lovely seasoning combo. It’s what gives the heady fragrance to focaccia bread. Always fine chop the leaves of rosemary before adding to your recipes.
Sage ~ Musty in aroma, many of us think of sage when Thanksgiving rolls around as it is an integral addition to stuffing or dressing. Besides going into the Thanksgiving dressing sage is a wonderful addition to poultry or pork dishes.
Tarragon ~ Licorice notes make tarragon stand out in the crowd. Again you either love or hate it. I for one, love it! Delicious in egg dishes, sauces, seafood, chicken and is essential in a Bernaise sauce.
Thyme ~ Floral or slightly lemony, there are several varieties of thyme. I rarely cook a beef dish that doesn’t include thyme. The leaves of the thyme plant can be used with almost any vegetable, roasted poultry, pork, lamb and beef. Also delicious with mushroom and in breads.
I hope this “how to use herbs” guide has encouraged you to use fresh or dried herbs in your day to day cooking. The flavor and fragrance will heighten your meals and brighten your recipes. Maybe you will try a new herb or use a tried and true herb in a new dish. Here is a link to “Bouquet Garni” using fresh herbs. If you have a favorite herb leave me a comment – I’d love to hear how you use one or more of the herbs listed in this post. I use a variety of herbs, more than I’ve listed here and am always eager to hear of new and exciting ways to use herbs!
photo – shutterstock