There are lots of interesting recipes available plus many more ideas to encourage you to experiment by adding herbs to your favorite recipes.
With a little imagination, you can find all sorts of ways to use herbs in your cooking, supplementing home-grown herbs with fresh herbs from the supermarket if necessary.
Fragile herbs-parsley, chervil, tarragon, mint and basil- are all best used coarsely chopped as their leaves bruise easily. They are frequently used raw or added at the end of cooking as their flavor is lessened by heat. More robust herbs—rosemary, bay, sage and marjoram—are generally used cooked and they also dry more successfully than fragile herbs. Herbs should be chopped with a sharp knife until they are the texture you require, or they can be ground with a pestle and mortar or in a food processor to release their essential oils.
Herbs in Soups and Starters
Many plain soups can be given extra flavor with the addition of a few fresh herbs; chives or lemon balm are excellent in a potato or leek soup, sprinkle borage in a tomato soup, or add coriander (cilantro) seed to give extra spice. Parsley is often used to garnish soups but will release more flavor if it is stirred in just before serving or sprinkled in the soup. Croutons are tasty when they are fried with chopped garlic and a few chopped herbs.
Light vegetable starters will benefit from herb sauces: lemon thyme or lemon balm can be added to a white sauce made with a mixture of milk or stock to create a light, lemony sauce to coat vegetables such as broccoli. Prawn can be served on cucumber slices with a minty or chervil flavored mayonnaise, or tossed in flour spiced with ground coriander seed and fried quickly. Fish pâtés benefit from the addition of a little dill or parsley.
A fresh bouquet garni takes only moments to prepare: simply tie together sprigs of thyme of parsley and a bay leaf. You can vary this traditional mixture by substituting sage or basil, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon or dill for either the parsley or thyme. Leave a length of string to tie on to the handle of the saucepan or casserole dish so that the bouquet garni can be easily removed before serving.
To make a bouquet garni with dried herbs, place spoonfuls of dried herbs in the center of a circle of muslin (cheesecloth), gather up the edges and tie them into a sachet. A few sachets of bouquet garni in an attractive box makes a useful gift.
Take equal quantities of finely chopped fresh herbs – tarragon, chives and chervil, sometimes with parsley – and add to savory dishes at the end of cooking.
Kali S. Winters