Using herbs in your cooking is a great way to add flavor, keep your recipe healthy, and add antioxidants to your diet. Learning to cook with herbs can take some practice, but once you understand the basics, you can experiment with your own concoctions.
Here are four herb projects you can get cooking with today.
Basil and Oregano
Basil and oregano are perfect complements to tomato sauces and pasta dishes. According to EatingWell.com, they’re a great source of antioxidants, which can help slow or prevent cell damage.
When you’re cooking with fresh herbs such as basil and oregano, the key is to add them last, when you toss the pasta or give the sauce its last stir, so that you don’t dull the flavors.
Rosemary and Lavender
Hearty cooking herbs are perfect for marinades because they break down slowly. Add fresh rosemary to olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some crushed garlic for a great steak marinade. Lavender and rosemary can also add a unique flavor twist to baked goods and drinks such as lemonade, cocktails, and plain water. Simply add a few clean sprigs to a glass or pitcher.
If you have dill growing in your garden, you’ll know it grows quickly. Instead of throwing out all the dill you can’t use, make the best of it with a batch of homemade dill pickles. There’s no need to worry about messy canning procedures, simply pickle them in the fridge. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh dill.
- 4 to 6 small to medium sized cucumbers.
- 1½ cups of apple cider vinegar.
- 1 ½ cups of water.
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed.
- 1 ½ tablespoons of salt.
- ½ teaspoon of black peppercorn.
- ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper.
Wash and cut your cucumbers in halves, spears or slices. Combine the vinegar, water and salt in a pot. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Incorporate all the remaining ingredients in a clean glass jar, and pack the cucumbers tightly on top. Pour the brine on top as well, leaving about a quarter of an inch of air at the top of the jar. Put the lid on, and let the jar sit at room temperature until cooled. Place them in the fridge. They should be ready to eat in two days.
For the freshest flavor, use your herbs the day that you pick them. Most common herbs growing in your garden can be harvested and stored by freezing or drying. Be sure to keep them in an airtight container to preserve the freshness.
One of my favorite ways to store herbs is freezing them in olive oil, which makes adding them to any of my recipes fast and easy. Wash and chop herbs such as basil, dill, and rosemary the same way you would to cook them, then use your olive oil to freeze them into an ice tray. Keep the tray covered in your freezer, and pop out a cube and melt it in your pan when you’re ready to cook with it.
Like any recipe, you can play around a bit and add things like jalapenos to give your pickles a kick. Once you get some experience cooking with herbs, it’ll get easier to know what flavors mix and match the best.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy fresh herbs? Share your ideas in the comments!
Image source: Flickr