Cooking School Lesson 10: Do You Know Your Herbs?
Want to transform humdrum dinners into mealtime magic? It's easy! Hit the kitchen armed with these genius tips and simple recipes from our Every Day experts, and your friends and family will wonder if you went to cooking school on your lunch break!
Lesson 10: Herb is the Word!
Fresh herbs put the dazzle in dinner. Learn a few new uses for your favorites. (And never mistake the cilantro for parsley again!)
Know it: One of the most aromatic herbs around, tender basil leaves have a pungent flavor that's both sweet and savory. There are lots of varieties: Experiment with basils that are lemony, spicy, even cinnamony.
Use it: You know it's killer on pasta and pizza, but basil can also add a fresh, summery flavor to omelets, curries, BLTs and fruit salads.
Know it: Its delicate green- onion-and-garlic flavor and crisp, juicy texture makes it great for mild dishes like omelets.
Use it: Add chives to pureed soups, egg dishes, gratins, biscuits, savory scones and all kinds of vegetable mashes. Or blend them with EVOO for a gorgeous, green-tinged finishing oil. Skip the slicing: It's easier to snip 'em with scissors.
Know it: Many people find cilantro citrusy and aromatic; to others, it tastes a bit soapy. Tell it apart from parsley by its thinner, rounded leaves and lighter color. When in doubt, take a whiff!
Use it: It's ideal for salsas, guacamoles and Asian noodles.
Know it: Dill's frilly fronds are sweet with a hint of licorice.
Use it: Mix it into deviled egg filling, potato and tuna salads or frittatas.
Know it: Marjoram is oregano's tamer, sweeter sister. The smaller leaves have a more delicate, floral flavor than oregano.
Use it: Stir it into chicken pot pie filling, sautéed mushrooms or tomatoes, or orange marmalade for a sweet-savory spread.
Know it: Pointy, jagged mint leaves can range from intense and mentholy to light and lemony sweet. Common varieties are peppermint (cooling; think mint ice cream) and spearmint (light and sweet; iced tea's best friend).
Use it: Muddle mint into cocktails, like mojitos and gin and tonics, or steep in hot water to make a fresh tea. Mint also brightens up meat sauces, roasted lamb, rice dishes or meaty veggies like eggplant. Or sprinkle into salads to add a refreshing, bright note.
Know it: Oregano's round leaves have a pinelike aroma and an assertive bite.
Use it: Simmer it with white beans, toss it into salads, or stir it into pizza sauce.
Know it: Flat-leaf parsley is bright and vivid with a slight pepperiness. Choose it over curly parsley, which is harder to chop and less flavorful.
Use it: Toss it into pasta, meat loaf mix or grain salads.
Know it: These sturdy needles have a piney, woodsy flavor.
Use it: Mix it with roasted veggies, like potatoes or butternut squash, add to homemade pizza dough or shortbread cookies, or use it to flavor EVOO. It's also great with grilled meats.
Know it: Velvety, gray-green sage leaves pack a warming, evergreen punch.
Use it: Add it to brown butter and toss it with pasta or vegetables, or pan-fry the leaves until crispy, then crumble onto risotto or soup. Sage is excellent with pork, great paired with lemon and chicken, and classic in stuffing.
Know it: Think of this as the fresh herb version of licorice. Its long, thin leaves have a bittersweet anise taste with an uplifting hint of mint.
Use it: Pair it with creamy, rich dishes (like chowders and hollandaise sauce), eggs, veggies like zucchini and cherry tomatoes, and seafood.
Know it: These tiny leaves have a slightly spicy, clovelike flavor with a hint of citrus- peel aroma.
Use it: Thyme is a great match for almost any cooked vegetable. Sprinkle it on meats before roasting, or add whole sprigs to soups.