Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Summer 2012
|Even just a pinch of fresh herbs can turn ordinary dishes extraordinary. Taste for yourself as chef and herb expert Jerry Traunfeld reveals the secrets of using these small but mighty aromatics in both familiar and unexpected ways.|
Traditional uses: Sage, which is best enjoyed cooked because of its somewhat astringent taste, is the signature flavor in turkey stuffing. Also try topping pasta (throw in some peas and prosciutto) with a brown butter-sage sauce.
Innovative uses: Add sage to your favorite corn bread recipe. Before pouring the batter, press sage leaves in the buttered pan. After baking, turn the corn bread out upside down; the leaves will make a beautiful pattern and flavor the bread.
Traditional uses: Basil is the key ingredient in pesto. It's also popular added to tomatoes and mozzarella for a caprese salad and in tomato sauce for pasta.
Innovative uses: A leafy summer herb, basil pairs well with seasonal vegetables like corn; try it in corn chowder or corn pudding. This herb's sweet notes also make it a pleasant match with summer fruits, adding flavor depth and complexity. Combine chopped fresh basil with cinnamon, then sprinkle the mixture into your peach pie filling.
Traditional uses: A Mediterranean herb, rosemary has an earthy, peppery flavor that's perfect for enhancing meat dishes, especially lamb. Or try it in a hearty white bean soup.
Innovative uses: Use the woody stems in place of wooden skewers when you grill. Try adding a sprig of rosemary to the pot when making shell beans (such as limas). Or add a pinch of chopped rosemary to a traditional Hoppin' John recipe for extra richness and flavor.
Traditional uses: Thyme is the quintessential all-purpose herb. Unlike many others, it can cook for a long time and still keep its flavor. Thyme is a staple in stocks and stews—also for braised short ribs and pot roast.
Innovative uses: Sprinkle chopped thyme atop honey-drizzled blue cheese on crostini or pair it with grilled figs. Also try it as a topping on grilled chicken breasts, along with a little fresh lemon juice or lemon pepper seasoning.
Traditional uses: Tarragon, with its slight licorice taste, pairs beautifully with chicken. It also shows up regularly in omelets and béarnaise sauce for beef or seafood.
Innovative uses: Making pickled watermelon rind? Add tarragon leaves to the brine. And this herb is surprisingly delicious when combined with honey and lime juice and drizzled over a fruit salad.
Store fresh herbs in the refrigerator in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Never wash before storing; the moisture will make them wilt and lose freshness faster. Basil is the only exception. If your basil is store-bought, trim the stems of the basil and store on the counter in a glass of water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag. Replace the water every day or two and the basil should last for four or five days.
Swapping Fresh & Dried Herbs
It's easy to substitute fresh herbs for dried in a recipe, or vice versa. Fresh herbs are less concentrated than dried, so use three times more than the amount of dried herbs called for in the recipe.
Chef Jerry Traunfeld has been cooking with fresh herbs for nearly 30 years. Traunfeld is the author of The Herbfarm Cookbook (Scribner, 2000) and The Herbal Kitchen (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2005).