Cooking With HERBS
M-m-m-m-m! Think taste! HERBS elevate the flavors of your foods like color paints a rainbow.
We have learned that our HERBS meld flavors to provide regional flair. We think of cumin and cayenne in Southwestern dishes; the Fines Herbs of France with parsley, thyme, chervil and tarragon; or HERBS de Provence with lavender, marjoram, rosemary, summer savory, bay and thyme. We also know the Thai seasonings of lemongrass and curry. All of these HERBS will grow in our gardens! If we had to ponder how to "cook with HERBS," we may find the task of choosing and planting the desired plants a bit daunting. Why not just consider flavor? If you like the flavor of anise and would like to try it in your foods, plant basil, tarragon, fennel, and anise. If you like piquant flavors, plant thyme, sage, cinnamon basil, chives, dill, bay, coriander, cardamom, lovage, parsley, savory, and mint. For spicy flavor, plant cayenne and mustard. Pungent flavor is ruled by the mighty Allium: chive, garlic, leek, and onion. If you are preparing a first course, pick up the flavors with mint, basil, parsley, tarragon, or caraway. Drive home robust flavors in your main course by adding thyme, sage, caraway, fennel, lovage, mustard, or cayenne. Lighten your desserts with bay, lavender, mint, cardamom, anise, cinnamon basil, rosemary, or any of the lemon HERBS. "Cooking with HERBS" means also that we have acquired a cadre of "stand-by sauces" that can rescue a ho-hum meal or create a party on-the-spot. The first of these is Pesto - made with basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, mint, tarragon or lemon thyme. Pesto can be made with most any HERB. Use our basic pesto recipe and vary the HERB. Combine pesto with grilled vegetables, pasta, potatoes, rice, tomatoes and cheese, and seafood.
Mix pesto with sour cream and yogurt for a veggie dip or with mayonnaise for a sandwich spread.
Stir into mashed potatoes. Spread on bread or crackers. Add to omelets or frittata.
Salsa is another versatile sauce that lends itself to addition. Salsa can be sweet or savory-both with the addition of hot peppers and cumin. Mint sauce, which accompanies many traditional dishes, combines vinegar with sugar and minced fresh mint leaves. Horseradish sauce combines grated horseradish root with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Refreshing Raita is an accompaniment to the hot-spicy dishes of India. Made with yogurt, cucumber, cilantro and mint, it lifts the palate and cools the tongue. Like Raita, Greek Tzatziki - which adds dill and lemon juice - can be served with warm pita bread or raw veggies. Adding flavors to foods means we can plan ahead by making HERBED vinegars, oils, syrups, honeys, mustards, butters, sugars, jams, jellies, and chutneys. Our informative classes have helped us with recipes and techniques for all of these. You can plant HERBS with these recipes in mind to enhance your own cooking or to share as gifts with those you love.
You can also plant HERBS for use in beverages. Any of the lemon HERBS are refreshing in tea.
Combining the leaves of lemon verbena with lavender, rosemary with scented geranium, orange mint with marjoram and cracked ice will make that pitcher sweat! You can also combine HERB leaves with black tea for full-bodied flavors. HERBAL liqueurs make lovely gifts. Liqueurs are made by steeping herbs, fruits, spices and sugar with vodka. Think: Chocolate Mint, Rose-Geranium Raspberry, Ginger Berry, Lime Thyme, or Lemon Verbena Liqueurs. HERB wines can be made by steeping 3 or 4 HERB sprigs overnight in dry white wine. Again, you can be growing all of these HERBS in your own garden. Using HERBS in your kitchen will mean, for the most part, that you are growing HERBS in your garden. History tells us that the first Culinary gardens were a combination of Cooking and Medicinal gardens -"Cottage Gardens"- that were kept outside the kitchen door. Start simply with that. Grow Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Add Lavender and Roses. Expand to your personal favorites. Place HERBS as companions in the vegetable patch.
Harvest the HERBS and make them a permanent part of your kitchen.