MKN on Cooking with Herbs

 Photo by Emily Adams

Photo by Emily Adams

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


Veggie Spring Rolls w/ Almond Butter Dipping Sauce

This is a great hand-ons meal for kids or a fun dinner party! Just be mindful that rice paper rolls do not keep well for days in the fridge. If this is your first Spring Roll making session, do not fret. The first time I made them they were falling apart and uneven, but after a couple test rolls you should be good to go. When all else fails, you can always chop up the ingredients, throw them in a bowl with some sauce, and call it Spring Roll Salad! 

Ingredients: 

·      10 rice paper sheets OR 10 collard green leaves

·      1 cup shredded cabbage  

·      2-3 medium shredded carrot

·      1 cucumber, julienned

·      ½ cup sliced green onion, long ways

·      6 large shiitake mushrooms, cooked and sliced

·      1 red pepper, thinly sliced

·      1-2 avocados, sliced

·      1 cup bean sprouts

·      1 cup watercress

·      1 cup cilantro

·      1 cup basil

·      1 cup mint

·      zest of 1 lime

Sauce:

·      1/4 cup almond butter

·      2 tsp tamari or coconut aminos

·      2 tsp honey (less if using coconut aminos)

·      1 jalapeño or chili (or less if want less spicy)

·      1-2 garlic cloves

·      juice of lime (the zested one)

·      1 cup cilantro

·      red chili flakes, salt and pepper to taste

·      2 – 4 tbsp warm water, or more

Instructions: 

1. Start with the sauce. Place ingredients in blender and process until smooth, adding a tbsp of warm water at a time. Add more or less water depending on desired consistency. This sauce is amazing and can be used as a dip for pretty much anything. I make a huge batch and store in the fridge. It should last a couple weeks, if you make it that long. 

2. Arrange all spring roll ingredients with a plate of warm water to dip the rice paper. I usually sit at my kitchen table with everything laid out in front of me. Follow the directions for the Spring Roll paper, as the amount of filling will depend on size. I like to make sure the ingredients are evenly spaced, about 1/3 from the bottom of the round, and roll them up like a burrito. Everyone has their trick.