I love winter herbs: Sage, thyme, rosemary. But there is nothing better than when spring rolls (did someone say spring rolls?*) around and we are swimming in Dill, Parsley, Basil, and Chives. Cooking with herbs is one of the first lessons I teach my clients. Herbs add flavor and vital nutrients to our meals. They are packed with vitamins and phytonutrients. Take parsley: it is so much more than a garnish! In just ½ cup you can get 50% of your Vitamin C & K RDA. Here are some beginner tips on cooking with herbs:
My first tip is to keep it simple and do not be afraid to experiment. The only way you are going to find out if you like something is by trying it: Go to the grocery store or market, buy an herb you have never tried, and add it do some sautéed vegetables. If you do this each week starting now, by summer time you will be an expert!
Another tip is to not hold back with fresh herbs. Use them as a main ingredient! If a recipe called for 1-2 tablespoons of a fresh herbs, chances are I’m adding a ½ cup minimum. I will add a few sprigs of basil to my strawberry smoothie, a bunch of chives to scrambled eggs, and a handful of dill, parsley, and cilantro to my salads.
And finally, not all herbs are created equal. Herbs that grow in harsh weather conditions (winter herbs) are naturally designed to withstand extreme temperatures. These are best in stews, broils, and roasts. Long and high heat cooking will do no favors for fresh spring herbs. Use them towards the end of the cooking time to retain the most flavor and preserve their healing compounds. And while most herbs can be used fresh, many Spring and Summer herbs lose their flavor compounds when dried.
Herbs that are best used fresh: Parsley, Basil, Mint, Cilantro, Chervil, Chives, Dill, Sorrel, Tarragon
Herbs that can be used dried: Oregano, Rosemary, Marjoram, Bay Leaf, Thyme, Sage, Savory