Do you cook with fresh herbs? Spring is the perfect time to start using herbs in your everyday recipes since they are widely available now. The flavor and scent of a freshly picked herb is wonderful and takes dishes to a whole new earthy, fresh level. But it can be tricky deciding which herbs to use and in what form.
Herbs most typically come in four forms: fresh, dried, paste and frozen. Fresh herbs are best, but it’s not always practical to have fresh herbs on hand, so dried, frozen and herb pastes are a convenient option.
Dried herbs are the most concentrated, so you should use the least amount of them in recipes.
Frozen herbs are fresh ones that come pre-chopped and compacted into little cubes. The package tells you the equivalent amount of frozen to fresh.
Herb pastes are made with oil and salt and come in tubes like toothpaste. Because the herbs are often made with salt, you want to adjust the amount of salt you use to avoid adding too much. But the convenience of adding a quick squeeze of flavor to almost any recipe is well worth the risk.
Not sure which herbs to use with your favorite ingredients?
Here’s a rundown of five popular herbs to get you started:
Parsley is one of the most widely used herbs and can be found most often in two forms: flat leaf or Italian and curly. Curly parsley is typically used as garnish and doesn’t really have much flavor. Flat leaf parsley adds a fresh, green flavor to almost any dish, from potato and rice dishes to fish or steak.
It can also be used in herbed butters, chimichurri sauce and in tabbouleh salad.
Basil is a beautiful, bright herb with a slightly sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with Italian foods like tomatoes and mozzarella. It’s also great in pesto, marinara sauce, salad dressing and with chicken.
You can also use basil to make simple syrup to add depth to lemonade. Use it in summer, when it’s at its freshest.
Rosemary has needle-like leaves and an earthly, floral perfume. To use it, strip the leaves from the stem and mince the leaves finely. It pairs well with lemon, feta and other Mediterranean flavors.
It’s also great with meats like lamb, soups and with fish.
Cilantro is a flat leaf herb that looks similar to parsley, except it has a very distinctive, almost soapy, smell. Commonly used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine, it pairs well with spicy foods.
Use it in salsas, or as a garnish tossed with cabbage and lime juice for Mexican food.
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Thyme is an herb commonly used in French cooking. It’s scent is slightly minty, slightly lemony.
Use it to enhance soups, pork dishes and cream sauces, but it’s most commonly used with chicken.