Using Fresh Herbs When Cooking
Herbs can flavor and garnish both raw and cooked dishes. Most herbs work really well in cooking, but not all herbs behave in the same way. When I think of using herbs for my dishes, the first set of herbs that comes to mind are parsley, thyme and chives, which are among my very favorites since they give an extra lift to the taste.
Herbs for cooking should enhance not overpower food flavors. Some have a dominant punch and can be used by themselves or in combination with milder ones. Milder herbs can be blended into many delightful flavor combinations.
So here are some tips that would be useful when dealing with the herbs of your favorite.
- The flavor of fragile herbs, such as basil, dill and mint, diminishes when heated, so add them at the end of cooking. By contrast, hearty herbs such as thyme and rosemary benefit from long cooking because their perfumes are allowed to slowly permeate the dish
- The method in which herb is cut also affects its intensity. Grinding herbs in a pestle and mortar or food processor improves their flavor. Shredding herbs gives a less pungent taste and is best for soft-leaved herbs like basil.
- Delicate herbs may turn black if chopped too long in advance, this is especially true of mint. This is because the fragrant oils evaporate. To retain color, cut herbs just before use.
- Use a very sharp knife and make sure they are dry, if the herbs are wet they will lose flavor and be harder to chop. I always wash and dry the herbs well before I start to chop them. The stalks can be discarded but I always prefer to save them for the broth pot.
Why not try growing your own? They will always be lovely and fresh when you need them, and are so much more economical too.