Cooking with Herbs: Part 1

So, you may remember this post from last summer when I started my own herb garden.  It went way better than I expected!  I lost the dill pretty quickly, I think it never really got going, but the rest are still alive and well.  I brought them all in and put them on my huge window seal for the winter and recently took them back outside.

Part of having the herbs though, is knowing how to use them best.  I definitely have ones I use way more often than others (basil, cilantro), but I am continually trying to find ways to use them in my cooking.  So, for the next few days, I will post some info on different herbs, and how best to use them.  Share with me in the comments section how you use your fresh herbs!

Famous in pesto, basil has a spicy, fresh aroma and a flavor that combines pepper, clove, mint, and licorice into one. Many varieties exist (try sweet basil for a new option), but basil is usually a pointed, oval-shaped leaf. For best flavor, use very little basil in the cooking process, but add it to a finished dish. Tear the leaves, rather than chopping with a knife to prevent blackening. 

Basil combines well with garlic, olive oil, lemon, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, and rice.  Use in salads or in dressing for a fresh taste.  I love fresh basil as a finishing touch on pasta, or on top of pizza, YUM!

Mint is a very hardy and highly sweet smelling crop. It is best used fresh, but may be dried and added to dishes such as soups, stews, and stuffing. The leaves of the mint plant have a coarse texture and are ragged on the edges. They grow on stalks or in little clusters.  Mint has over 30 different species, including popular ones like spearmint and peppermint.  Variations of mint have been used to help with digestive issues, and even the common cold.

Mint is used frequently in Thai and Greek dishes.  It enhances the taste of carrots, eggplant, beans, grilled fish, lamb, in desserts, with chocolate, . It is also compatible with ginger, cumin, cardamom, and cloves. It is often used for enhancing iced teas.  Also, like the basil, try adding mint to salads and dressing for a new twist.

(I LOVE this picture!) From:
Essential in Western and Middle Eastern cooking, thyme has a close tie to zahtar, a similar Middle Eastern spice. Thyme has a very earthy scent, and combines the tastes of clove, camphor, and mint into one.  Thyme works well fresh, but dried thyme does not lose its powerful scent or flavor and is wonderful to use too. Thyme is often found dried and tied with a string. Fresh thyme has woody stems and quite small leaves. 

Best known in long, slow-cooking recipes, thyme combines well with garlic, onion, red wine, basil, bay, lavender, marjoram, parsley, and savory.  Use it when cooking tomato-based or wine-based sauces, vegetable soups, and marinades for pork and poultry. It also works well with mushrooms, leeks, eggplant, corn, tomatoes, and dried beans.


Hope you got your daily dose of nutrition today, and thanks for reading! If you enjoy the blog, please share using the buttons below, or in the box to the right. Also, we would love to have you join us! Join this site in the "followers" box to the right. "Like" the blog on facebook, and follow me on twitter (@jennasteprd), tumblr, and pinterest using the the boxes on the right. Thanks, and have a great day! ~jenna

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