Tips to get the most out of herbs
“You taste fresh basil in your nose more than you do on your palate,” says Ellen Ecker Ogden, author of “From the Cook’s Garden.” That’s why it’s best added at the end of a recipe, such as pasta sauce, or used as garnish. Chopped fresh basil is excellent sprinkled on sandwiches, salad, pizza, eggs, steak or veal. Or mix it into softened butter for spreading on biscuits.
Fresh ginger has a sweeter, lemony flavor than dried versions, which can be hot and spicy. Whenever possible, opt for fresh grated ginger in stir-fries, fish marinades and roasted vegetables. For baked goods, just about any form of ginger works – grated fresh, dried or candied.
Oregano’s flavor intensifies when it is dried. Simmer dried leaves (crush them between your fingers as you add them) in tomato-based sauce, or other Italian, Greek and Mexican dishes. Depending on variety, fresh oregano can range from pungent to mild.
Use fresh parsley as you would basil. Add it to tuna, salads, tabbouleh, pesto, bruschetta and gravy, or use with meat or potatoes. Flat-leaf parsley packs more flavor than curly varieties. Like basil, fresh parsley can be pureed and frozen for use later.
Dried rosemary can be hard and brittle, so use it only in recipes with plenty of liquid and long cooking times to give it ample opportunity to rehydrate. Otherwise, stick with fresh. Both forms of the herb can be used in roast chicken (tuck stems under the skin before baking) or other fowl. Fresh works well in gravy, potatoes, Greek cuisine including lamb, meat marinades and biscuits.
Sage has a pungent flavor best used sparingly with other herbs to add complex flavor. Fresh leaves will be slightly milder than dried. Sage blends particularly well in tomato-based dishes and sauces, as well as poultry, stuffing, gravy, veal, fish, winter squash, hearty soups and stews, biscuits and rolls.
Use fresh leaves as an accent for fish, poultry, ham glaze, snipped into salad or added to dressing. Large amounts can be overwhelming.
Thyme provides an earthy grounding flavor to sweet vegetables such as bell peppers and squash, says Deborah Madison, author of the classic “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” Also add to poultry, stuffing, gravy, pizza, eggs, ham glaze, lamb and veal. Experiment with different varieties, including lemon thyme.
This bright yellow spice is what makes commercial mustard yellow, but most people know it best from Indian curries. Add it to soups for a mild curry flavor, or to rice as a stand-in for saffron. Release dried turmeric’s fragrance by sauteeing it in a little oil first. The fresh root can be found in some gourmet and natural food stores. Keep fresh turmeric refrigerated, then finely grate only the amount needed. Saute it in oil a bit before adding it to sauces and soups.
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