As a someone who is gluten free I am always looking to herbs to spice up my dishes. I rarely rely on the store bought versions of items afraid contamination and the high sodium count also scares me. Instead I try to use fresh and dry herbs when possible. I usually try and make my own marinade although my husband did find one that was certified gluten free and delicious this weekend.
Using fresh ingredients like herbs is not only for those who are gluten free but anyone who is looking to add flavor to their dishes. Today we will look at different herbs, how to keep them and what they pair well with.
A rule of thumb I always say is don’t be afraid to taste the herb and done be afraid to use them! Some herbs pack a more flavorful punch and need to be used sparingly like rosemary but until you use the herb you will not know this.
One question I get asked a lot is should we use fresh or dry herbs? In practice I will not use fresh herbs if I’m cooking it an item for more than 45 minutes. In these instances I will use dry herbs. Also when using dry herbs they should be discarded after one year as they do lose their flavor. Dry herbs also have a more condensed flavor so cutting the amount in half in a recipe is usually necessary.
How to cut herbs
If you’re not using yours herbs immediately then you’ll want to pretreat them before you place them back in the refrigerator. First remove anything fastening your herbs together. Ties and rubber bands can bruise fragile plants affecting their longevity and flavor.The root ends will need to be snipped as they will draw moisture away from the leaves resulting in premature wilting. If the roots are substantial then you can save them for soup or curry flavoring.
1 Snip off the bottom of the stems.
2 Make sure the leaves are completely dry. Better to hold off rinsing them until you’re about to use them.
3 Fill a jar or a water glass partially with water and place the stem ends of the herbs into the water in the jar.
4 If you are storing the herbs in the refrigerator, cover loosely with a plastic bag. Cilantro loves cool temperatures and should be stored in the refrigerator. Parsley can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. According to Harold McGee, basil is ideally stored at room temperature and not in the refrigerator, because it is susceptible to damage from cold.
5 Change the water after several days if the water starts to discolor.
Fresh parsley, cilantro, basil, and other fresh herbs can last up to 2 weeks or longer when stored this way.
Parsley, Dill or Cilantro- You don’t have to worry about plucking off just the leaves, the thin part of the stem is edible as well. Chop off and discard the thick, bottom part of the stem. Than chop up the remaining stem as you would the leaves.
Mint, Basil or Sage- Pick the leaves off their woody stems, then gently tear them into pieces. This avoids the bruising you can get when using a knife. You can make thin little ribbons with a knife also called a chiffonade. Stack the leaves, roll them into a tight bundle, and slice crosswise with a sharp knife.
Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano and Tarragon- To quickly strip the leaves from their stems, hold a single sprig at the top, pinch the stem with two fingers, and quickly run your fingers down the stem to remove all the leaves. Bunch all the leaves into a pile, then mince to desired size.
Chives- Chopping just makes chives mushy, so you want to slice them instead. You want to keep the circle whole for chives, so there’s really only one way to cut them: across the length of the stem. A knife works, but the best tool for this? Kitchen scissors.
Herb-Food Pairing Guide
Flavor: Licorice and cloves
Cooking Tip: Add at the end of cooking to maximize flavor
Pair With: Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, oregano, pasta, onions, chicken, eggs, pizza, green leaf salads, bell peppers, zucchini, apricots, berries, figs, peaches, plums
Sweet basil pairs naturally with tomatoes, but it can be used with almost every type of meat or seafood. Asian basil has a more distinct anise flavor and is often used in soups, stews, stir fries and curry pastes.
Flavor: Light oniony taste
Cooking Tip: Use raw, or at the end of cooking. Add chive flowers to a salad or use chive stems to tie vegetables together.
Pair With: Eggs, potatoes, sauces, stews and soups, salads, mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, vegetables, stir-frys, breads
Add these delicate herbs at the very end to maximize their color and flavor. Purple chive blossoms are more pungent than the stems and can be a beautiful addition to a salad.
Flavor: Bright and citrusy; some claim it tastes soapy
Cooking Tip: Can be used at beginning or end of cooking
Pair With: Spicy dishes, salsas, chiles, curries, salads, soups, chicken, fish, vinaigrette, apples, bananas, mangoes, pears, summer melons
The sweet stems and leaves are usually eaten raw, added after a dish has been cooked. The roots are used to make Thai curry pastes.
Flavor: Combination of celery, fennel and parsley
Cooking Tip: Fresh packs greater flavor than dry. Add at beginning or end of cooking
Pair With: Fish, beans, hard boiled eggs, beets, soups, sour cream, cream cheese, dressings, yogurt, chicken, potato salad, meats
Its subtle taste makes an excellent compliment to foods with delicate flavors like fish and shellfish, and it is commonly used in cuisine across Europe and the Middle East. Fresh dill should have a strong scent and keeps in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
Flavor: Sweet, fresh, slightly astringent
Cooking Tip: Peppermint has a stronger flavor over spearmint. Could be added at beginning or end of cooking
Pair With: Lamb, chocolate, pork chops, jellies, sauces, cocktails, berries, figs and dates. oranges and limes, summer melons, cherries, apricots, plums, apples, pears
Fresh mint is perfect for summer-fresh salads, to liven up a sauce and or to brew fragrant teas. The cooling flavor is also used to temper spicy curries.
Flavor: Hint of sweetness with some spiciness
Cooking Tip: Strong, robust flavor especially if dried. Mediterranean oregano is milder than Mexican. Add at beginning of cooking; if adding in an herb bag, do not strip leaves from stems
Pair With: Pizza, tomatoes, pastas, eggs, cheeses, eggplant, meats, dressings, oil and butter, pesto
Dried oregano can be substituted for fresh, but use half as much dried oregano as you would fresh since the flavor is more concentrated. Oregano can also be used as a substitute for its close cousin, marjoram.
Flavor: Flat parsley has a peppery bite and curly parsley is relatively bland
Cooking Tip: Flat parsley holds up better in longer cooking, curly looks great as a garnish. Stems have the strongest concentration of flavors and can be added diced finely or in a bouquet garni
Pair With: Fish, vegetables, salad, rice, soups, stews, meatballs, pesto, sauces, marinades, bananas, coconuts, grapefruits, mangoes, pineapples, summer melons
It’s most often used in sauces, salads and sprinkled over dishes at the end of cooking for a flash of green and a fresh taste. Flat-leaf or Italian parsley has the best texture and flavor for cooking. Curly parsley is best used only as a garnish.
Flavor: Pine-like, astringent
Cooking Tip: Add whole stems at beginning and remove before serving; great for the grill. Leaves can fall off so might want to use in bouquet garni. If chopping then dice very finely as it can be quite tough
Pair With: Lamb, potatoes, marinades and oils, eggs, fish, poultry, pork, tomatoes, onions, ice cream, oranges, apricots
Because the flavor is strong, it’s best to add rosemary sparingly at first and more if needed. Fresh rosemary can be stored for about a week in the fridge either in a plastic bag or stems down in a glass of water with a plastic bag around the top.
Flavor: Slightly peppery with touch of mint
Cooking Tip: Robust flavor best with heavy foods. Add at the beginning of cooking
Pair With: Meats, sausage, cheese and cream based items, sweet and savory breads, stuffings, beans, potatoes, risottos, tomato sauce
Flavor: Peppery flavor, winter savoury is more pungent than summer
Cooking Tip: Can be added at beginning or end or cooking
Pair With: Beans, meat, poultry, grilled vegetables, game
The flavor can be somewhat overwhelming — particularly with dried sage — so start off with a small amount and build on that. Fresh sage can add nuance and complexity to a dishes.
Flavor: Licorice, fennel, sweet
Cooking Tip: Can easily overpower dishes. Heat releases flavor, cook with at beginning
Pair With: Chicken, shellfish, eggs, bérnaise sauce, potatoes, vinegar,
Flavor: Sweet, mildly pungent
Cooking Tip: Great paired when cooked with parsley and bay. Can be added at beginning. If using stems prepare for stronger flavor but remove before serving
Pair With: Broths, soups and stews, flatbreads, meat, poultry, potatoes, stuffings, marinades, cherries, figs, grapes, honeydew melon, peaches, pears
Particularly with younger thyme, some of the main stem or little offshoot stems will be pliable and come off with the leaves, which is fine. Thyme keeps for at least a week in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a plastic bag.