If you’re looking for easy ways to add flavor to your foods, fresh herbs are the answer. Fresh herbs can elevate your dish to the next level. It’s also a healthy way of adding flavor without using too much salt. Whether you add herbs throughout cooking or adding fresh chopped herbs before serving, herbs will increase the flavor of any dish! Here is a guide to the most common herbs that are used in many kitchens.
Basil is easy to grow in your garden, on your balcony or even inside as long as it gets enough light. Basil has many varieties. It’s a strongly flavored herb that tastes amazing in Italian recipes like lasagne and pizza including pasta sauces and pesto. Basil can be added throughout cooking, but it’s often added before serving. Add whole leaves or tear them with your hands, but don’t chop basil, the leaves are two fragile, and the flavor is stronger if you break them with your hands.
Parsley is often used in French cuisine. It adds a fresh flavor and a peppery bite. There is two common varieties, Italian parsley with flat leaves which provides most flavor, and curly parsley. Parsley is great mixed with scrambled eggs, kuku sabzi (herbs frittata), in butter baked potatoes and with French style haricots verts with garlic. Parsley and garlic work really well together and are perfect blend with olive oil and lemon to marinade chicken or fish.
Coriander or cilantro add a strong flavor to any dish. Some people dislike it because sometimes it can have a bit of a soapy flavor. If you’re traveling in Asia you’ll have to love it, cause it’s used in many Asian dishes. Coriander adds great flavor to salsa, curry, soups, couscous and chimmichurri. It blends well with spicy food because it adds freshness. Coriander is best added just before serving.
Dill adds a light, fresh, pickeled flavor to your dressing, sauces, salads, spreads, fish, potatoes and veggies. I could go on, because it’s just an amazing herb. For example combine it with yoghurt, garlic and fresh pepper and your have a delicious fresh dip for pita or sweet potato fries. Here in Lisbon it’s rare to find in supermarkets but on the organic market in Principe Real you’ll be most lucky. Dill is mostly used in Nordic cuisine, like in Borscht (Slavic Beetroot Soup) or with salmon!
Bay leaf is a must when cooking soups, stewed dishes, marinades, stocks and risotto. The aroma spreads once the bay leafs are infused into water. It develops hints of wood, black pepper and pine tree. It’s amazing in heavy soups because it adds some bitterness that makes it less heavy. You can actually add a few leaves to any kind of meal that is prepared in boiling water.
Rosemary is often used in marinades for meat, chicken or potatoes. It adds a fresh lime and pine tree aroma to your dish. You could add it to your pasta sauce, dressing or flavor your chicken with when you roast it in the oven. It also taste pretty good with warm goat cheese and honey.
Thyme is a strong herb often used in stews, sauces, vegetables, poultry and fish. It is often combined with rosemary and oregano, for example to add flavor to a pasta sauce. Thyme is popular in the French cuisine. It taste amazing with baked mushrooms, potatoes, oven roasted chicken or Vegetarian Wellington with Mushroom and Chestnuts.
Sage is often used in Mediterranean cooking and combined with strong herbs like rosemary and thyme. It tastes slightly bitter and has a herbal taste and aroma. Sage is often used to flavor meat, stuffing, and sausage. If you want to give your dish a fancy touch, you could use fried sage and crumble it on top of your dish. Sage leaves are also used in herbal teas or cocktails.
Although oregano is often used dried, it won’t beat the taste of fresh oregano. Of course oregano is often used in pizza sauce and as a garnish on pasta and salads. Add some chopped oregano to olive oil with a pinch of sea salt and pepper as a dip for bread. When you buy fresh oregano, use the leaves. Some have pink edible flowers and can be used as a garnish for salad for example.
Tarragon is not a basic herb but try it out, you will love it. Cook with fresh tarragon if you prepare chicken or chicken salad. It’s an amazing herb to add to creamy sauces and goes well with duck as well.