Cooking with Fresh Herbs


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Cooking with fresh herbs can turn ordinary meals into EXTRA-ordinary meals!

Published in: Health & Medicine

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

  1. 1. Alice Henneman, MS, RDUniversity of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension EducatorJoanne Kinsey, MSRutgers Cooperative Extension/Rutgers UniversityFamily & Community Health Sciences Educator/Assistant ProfessorFresh Herbs: a Picture ofHealthy EatingWhether you plant them or pickthem up at the grocery storeor farmers’ market, addingfresh herbs is a quick way to transformordinary meals into extraordinary meals.Besides helping flavor foods whencutting back on salt, fat and sugar, herbsmay offer additional benefits of theirown. Researchers are finding manyculinary herbs (both fresh and dried)have antioxidants that may help protectagainst such diseases as cancer and heartdisease.A snip of a fresh herb into a dishinstantly kicks up the appearance anotch!Unless directed otherwise by yourrecipe, add the more delicate herbs —basil, chives, cilantro, dill leaves, parsley,and mint — a minute or two before theend of cooking or sprinkle them on thefood before it’s served. The less delicateherbs, such as oregano, rosemary, andthyme, can be added about the last 20minutes of cooking.Experience what a difference inappearance and flavor fresh herbs canmake. Better yet … they do this withoutadding extra calories! For example, topa baked potato with a dollop of yogurtand a sprinkling of chives or parsley.Substituting Fresh Herbsfor Dried HerbsA general guideline when usingfresh herbs in a recipe is to use 3 timesas much as you woulduse of a dried herb.When substituting,you’ll often be moresuccessful substitutingfresh herbs for driedherbs, rather than theother way around. Forexample, think potatosalad with fresh versusdried parsley!When to Pick or PurchaseHerbsPurchase herbs close to the time youplan to use them. When growing herbsin your own garden, the ideal time forpicking is in the morning after the dewhas dried but before the sun gets hot.This helps ensure the best flavor andstorage quality.How to Store Fresh HerbsFresh herbs can be stored in anopen or a perforated plastic bag inyour refrigerator crisper drawer for afew days. If you don’t have access tocommercial perforated bags, use a sharpobject to make several small holes in aregular plastic bag.If you have more herbs than you caneat, enjoy herbal bouquets throughoutyour house. You canuse either single herbs,combinations of herbs,or you can use theherbs as greenery mixedin with other flowers.To help preserve thearoma and color ofyour herb bouquets,place them out of directsunlight.Popular Herb and Food CombinationsBASIL a natural snipped in with tomatoes; terrific in fresh pesto; otherpossibilities include pasta sauce, peas, zucchiniCHIVES dips, potatoes, tomatoesCILANTRO Mexican, Asian, and Caribbean cooking; salsas, tomatoesDILL carrots, cottage cheese, fish, green beans, potatoes, tomatoesMINT carrots, fruit salads, parsley, peas, tabbouleh, teaOREGANO peppers, tomatoesPARSLEY The curly leaf is the most common, but the flat-leaf or Italian parsley ismore strongly flavored and often preferred for cooking. Naturals forparsley include potato salad, tabbouleh, egg salad sandwichesROSEMARY chicken, fish, lamb, pork, roasted potatoes, soups, stews, tomatoesSAGE beef, chicken, potatoes, pork, carrots, summer squashTHYME eggs, lima beans, potatoes, poultry, summer squash, tomatoesTop a baked potato with a dollop ofyogurt and a sprinkling of chives orparsley. Compare the potato withoutan herb topping and you can see thedifference!Photos:AliceHenneman,UNLExtensioninLancasterCountyMany herbs, such as chives, can easilybe grown in a container or garden.If you have extra herbs,enjoy herbal bouquets.This is a peer reviewed publication
  2. 2. Use These Techniques for Chopping HerbsBasil, mint, sage and other large,leafy herbs — a technique called“chiffonade” can be used:• Stack 5 or 6 leaves, and roll tightlyChives:• Quickly snip small bundles of chives with akitchen scissors OR• Cut bundles on a cutting board with a very sharpchef’s knifeCilantro, parsley and other small-leafeddelicate herbs:• Remove leaves (OK to include some tender stems)• Bunch on cutting board• Place fingertips on tip of a chef’s knife and rockblade briefly back and forth. Re-gather leaves andchop again if a smaller size is desired.Thyme, oregano, rosemary, tarragonand other sturdy stemmed, small-leafedherbs:• Hold thumb and index finger together; run downthe stem in the opposite direction the leaves havegrown.• Chop the same as other herbs, if desired.• Cut crosswise• This method cuts herbs into narrow ribbonsPhotos:AliceHenneman,UNLExtensioninLancasterCounty
  3. 3. Fresh HerbGarnishesEdible fresh herb garnishes addappealing color, plus flavor and addednutrients to foods. Here are some foodsthat pair well with herb garnishes:• Soups• Salads• Vegetables• Desserts• Beverages• Protein dishes• Fruits• GrainsThe following photos give ideas howdifferent forms of various herbs can beused in foods.Basil (chiffonade)Chives (chopped)Chives (stems)Chives (flowerettes)Dill (chopped)Dill (small, tender sprig) Thyme (individual tiny leaves)Thyme (young thyme with tender, ediblestems)Parsley (chopped)Mint (in smoothie)Mint (with fruit)Parsley (leaves of flat-leafed parsley)MikeCarroll,,,,,, (leaf)Bluemooninhereyes,