Culinary herbs add flavor and variety to many otherwise simple dishes.
It’s amazing what a handful of chopped basil, a sprig of thyme, or a leaf or two of sage, can do. The same basic dish prepared with different herbs can take your taste buds on a tour around the world.
Chicken for instance with mint and toasted coriander seed is excellent with Indian curries. With lemongrass and sharp basil it becomes an accompaniment to Thai rice noodles with cashews or peanut sauce. Add some chopped hot pepper or fresh ginger root to either of the above for a burst of heat and flavor to knock you wide awake! Chicken with parsley and sage is excellent slow roasted with root vegetables like carrots and parsnips for a northern European flair. Use marjoram or rosemary and switch out steamed green beans for the parsnips as a more southern European variation. Chicken with cilantro leaves and lime juice takes you south of the border so bring on the hot peppers again if you love ’em!
The wonderful thing about many of these herbs is that they are easily processed stored in the freezer. Harvest them fresh and chop them fine or run them through a food processor. Mix them into the pastes described below and pat them into ice-cube trays. Then freeze them and store them in labeled containers for quick flavor solutions to winter meals!
Herb Pastes for Flavor Cubes:
Basil with olive oil and garlic – a simple version of pesto and excellent on pasta
Parsley with butter – delicious on baked potatoes and steamed green beans
Tarragon with butter and lemon juice – excellent with chicken or fish
Marjoram with mustard – good with chicken or pork
Oregano and Basil with olive oil – add zip to any canned spaghetti sauce or layer with cheese and late summer vegetables for a delicious roasted ratatouille
Sage and Rosemary with butter – dress up roasted carrots or parsnips or try it in combination with the parsley butter as flavoring for stuffing in roast chicken
Cilantro with lime juice – Excellent with chicken, also good in chili, or stirred into cooked rice or lentils
Using two or three herbs that smell nice together is a good general rule, but some more complex combinations are excellent! I like to put sharp basil with cilantro, chopped ginger, lime juice, garlic and hot peppers – careful of the fumes! This is a knock out addition to stir-fries as it approximates the contents of green curry paste.
Experiment with your own combinations and have fun!