Unique Uses for Herbs – Many new meal ideas!
BASIL – a natural snipped in with tomatoes; terrific in fresh pesto; a great add to pasta sauce. To one stick of room-temperature butter, add from 1 to 3 teaspoons finely chopped basil for spreading on breads or crackers. In scrambled eggs or any chopped egg salad, add between one and three teaspoons minced basil. Coarsely chop leaves and add to the cooking water for green beans, broccoli or any other green vegetable. Finely chop the leaves and toss with flour for coating poultry, chops and vegetables. A good ratio is a tablespoon per cup of flour. For baked tomatoes, finely chop basil, add shredded cheese, a pinch of pepper and bread crumbs in equal quantities and cover the cut surface of the tomato. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. For tomato soup, add a teaspoon of finely chopped basil 5 minutes before serving for each portion of soup. For tomato sauce for pasta or pizza, coarsely chop the leaves (1/4 cup for each two cups of tomatoes) and simmer for the last 15 minutes before use. Basil and garlic are very compatible flavors. Run 5 cloves of garlic, a couple ounces of broth or stock and about a dozen good-sized basil leaves in a processor until it’s a thin, chunky paste. Brush that on lamb, poultry, split zucchini, eggplant and fish filets before roasting. Laura’s favorite – pasta with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. Yum!
PURPLE BASIL – is somewhat more intensely flavored than sweet basil and also has that wonderful color. Add chopped purple basil leaves to salads with yellow tomatoes for a rich color contrast and sympathetic flavors. Drop some chopped purple basil leaves into the cooking water for cauliflower to tint it a slightly pink color and add good basil flavor. Add a few finely chopped purple basil leaves to mayonnaise or sour cream to serve with other foods. Hold overnight to get the richest color. Substitute purple basil for the green basil in pesto and use it as a pasta dressing or spread on grilled bread slices. Add chopped purple basil leaves to marinades for poultry or pork to flavor and color the meats. Add coarsely chopped purple basil leaves to tomato soup and sauces immediately before service as a colorful garnish and flavor intensifier.
CHIVES – .. They have an oniony flavor, but it’s mild and more delicate than the bulbs usually used in cooking. They produce purple flowers on a tall spike which are also edible. They are good for dips, potatoes, tomatoes. Add chopped chives to cream soups and cream-based sauces – a teaspoon per cup of sauce. Chop and add chives to scrambled eggs and omelets- a teaspoon per egg. The best use is a simple one, on a baked potato!
CIILANTRO – This fresh herb is very fragile and should be added in the last few minutes of cooking time. Add chopped cilantro to the water for cooking rice -2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro per cup of rice added in the last five minutes of cooking. Add chopped cilantro to the cooking water for beans in the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking. A couple tablespoons for each cup of dry beans. Add a generous handful of chopped cilantro to salsa mixtures and let sit for a few hours to meld the flavors. Handful of cilantro to two cups of salsa. Chop and toss cilantro with the dressings for avocado salads and sprinkle a dusting of the chopped fresh herb for garnish. Brush fish filets with butter and sprinkle finely chopped cilantro and chives on them before baking.
MINT – is of the few herbs used in sweets. Finely chop two teaspoons mint and add to chocolate pudding recipes that use about two cups milk. Increase or decrease the amount of mint to suit your recipe. Add a few mint leaves to the cooking water for peas and other fresh beans. Chop a tablespoon of mint and add to lamb stew – for one to two pounds of meat. Steep a cup of mint leaves in a pint of cider vinegar for two weeks. Strain and add 2 cups honey to make a sauce for fruit compotes, waffles and pancakes, ice cream, and to add to iced tea. Use whole mint sprigs to garnish fruit salads, melon slices, berries in cream and strawberry shortcakes. Mix 3 tablespoons chopped mint leaves and a tablespoon chopped chives with a cup of yogurt as a dressing for peeled and sliced cucumbers. Add mint leaves to any cooked fruit – chop a few leaves and mix with apples to be sautéed, tuck a sprig or two in home-canned fruit like peaches and plums.
OREGANO – Native to southern Europe, it has spread all around the Mediterranean and become important to all the cuisines of the region. Add chopped oregano leaves to tomato sauces for pastas, pizza and for dipping – two tablespoons per cup of tomatoes. Add oregano at the very end of cooking mushrooms – a tablespoon per cup of cooked mushrooms. Finely mince a couple tablespoons each of oregano, basil, thyme, parsley and add to 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and mix with two cups of breadcrumbs – to coat veal, poultry, fish, eggplant slices and as a topping for casseroles. Slice peppers and onions and gently fry in olive oil – add a tablespoon chopped oregano for each onion near the end of cooking. Make a basic pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese as toppings and spread a good handful of whole oregano leaves over top and finish with more mozzarella and some grated Parmesan. Tuck sprigs of oregano under the skin of chickens to be roasted or in the cavity of any fish to be baked.
SAGE – is one of the dominant flavors in sausage-making and poultry stuffings. Alternate sage leaves with cubes of meat and vegetables on skewers when making shish-kabobs. Heat 1/2 stick of butter in a skillet and add two tablespoons chopped sage and toss to cover. Warm through and serve over pasta or mixed into rice. Slide a few sprigs of sage under the skin of chickens and turkeys top be roasted. Put a few in the cavity, as well. Combine two tablespoons chopped sage with 8-ounces of cream cheese and three or four tablespoons white wine as a light spread or dip. When frying or sauteing onions, a few sage leaves added to the pan intensifies the richness of the onion flavor. Mince a couple tablespoons sage leaves and add to beanpots near the end of cooking – likewise add to chili and other hearty soups and stews. Add two or three tablespoons finely chopped sage to a cup of flour for coating chicken for frying or baking. Mix two tablespoons finely chopped sage to one stick of butter and whip through. Roll in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill. Slice off small “coins” and put on steaks or chicken pieces immediately before service. Also good on vegetables.
TARRAGON – Tarragon is native to Asia and is a perennial with very highly aromatic leaves. Put a couple sprigs of tarragon into a bottle of white wine vinegar and let it steep for a month or more. Strain out the tarragon and use the vinegar as part of a vinaigrette, to dress cooked vegetables or on fish or poultry. Chop a couple tablespoons of tarragon and add to a stick of softened butter. Use for making omelets, sauteing thin slices of meats and fish, and for moistening potatoes and corn. Add whole leaves to white sauces for eggs and fish – a tablespoon per cup. Add to mayonnaise with a few capers, a dash of buttermilk to thin , salt and pepper to taste – makes a good salad dressing or sandwich spread for delicate fillings like sliced chicken and many cheeses. Add a tablespoon or two of whole leaves to peas, spinach, broccoli or tomatoes at the very end of cooking times and garnish with whole leaves at table. Put a few sprigs of tarragon in the cavities of small birds -squab, Cornish Game hens, etc. – before roasting. A few sprigs slid under the skin adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the meat. Chop and sprinkle tarragon leaves over steamed vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, and potatoes, or leafy ones like spinach and chard, and finish with a few drops of tarragon vinegar.
THYME – is a perennial plant in the mint family and is still used to flavor a wide range of foods from cheese to liqueurs. • Strip some leaves from the stems and drop into mushrooms while they saute,. Maybe a tablespoon per pound of mushrooms. Chop thyme and add to flour for dredging chicken for frying. A tablespoon per cup of flour. • Chop coarsely and add a teaspoon or two of thyme to a recipe for a dozen biscuits. Saute three tablespoons thyme leaves in two tablespoons butter to pour over Brussels sprouts, green beans or egg noodles. Add a teaspoon of thyme leaves per cup of clam chowder just before service. Add three or four tablespoons of thyme leaves to two cups of hot chicken broth. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 1 hour. Strain and chill. Use that broth to add to the water to cook rice and pasta. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar, a cup of the broth and 1/2 cup oil for a low-fat salad dressing. Shake or whisk and pour over salads. Refrigerated, it will hold for a week. Add a tablespoon of finely minced thyme leaves and a tablespoon chopped garlic chives to the pot when mashing up to two pounds of potatoes. Increase or decrease amounts according to your recipe quantities. Add the leaves from a good-sized sprig of thyme to beans while they simmer – about 15 minutes from the end of cooking.
WINTER SAVORY – Add a tablespoon of savory to each pound of ground beef for burgers, meat loaf any formed meat dish. Mince savory and toss with bread cubes for stuffing or to use as croutons with salads. Add a couple tablespoons finely chopped savory to cream and cheese dishes like macaroni and cheese, cheese-mashed potatoes, cheese fondue, green vegetables with cheese sauce and even hot nacho cheese for dipping. Sprinkle finely chopped savory over fish or chicken to be oven-baked after brushing with oil or butter. Add coarsely shopped savory to fish soups and chowders – a tablespoon per portion. Laura’s favorite – add to fried potatoes a minute or two before done cooking. Outstanding!
Sources – various internet web sites, and Laura’s taste buds! Compiled at Starwood Farm