Cooking with herbs

Joined Mar 13, 2001
Anyone who is keen to cook quickly should get to know their herbs, writes Sybil Kapoor

Fast cooking, by its very nature, tends to have fewer ingredients than other recipes, so everything you do decide to add should be made to count. Herbs can bring a surprisingly sophisticated depth of flavour to your cooking. A judicious use of sorrel and watercress, for example, will transform a simple asparagus salad, while lemon thyme will add an unexpected fragrance to buttery fairy cakes.

The skill of a cook lies in his or her ability to produce delicious food simply. At no time of the year is this easier to achieve than in summer. The abundance of superb ingredients allows you to assemble wonderful dishes in a matter of minutes.

Herbs can add instant flavour to all manner of recipes. A few leaves of anise-flavoured tarragon, for instance, chopped into a honey and walnut oil vinaigrette will subtly enhance the sweet, root flavours of a beetroot salad. If you are unfamiliar with the taste of a particular herb, nibble it cautiously and then allow the flavour to develop in your mouth. Some, such as rocket, tarragon, watercress and chervil are quite peppery, while others, such as rosemary, thyme and mint have a sweet taste with a slightly astringent back note.

Once you've tasted your herb, it is worth mentally matching it to different foods. An acidic sorrel leaf, for example, is great with bland or slightly oily food such as chicken, eggs or salmon, while the delicate citrus aroma of lavender lends itself to sweet dishes - it is gorgeous cooked with fruit or simmered in a creamy custard.

Faster cooking can alter the quantity of herbs needed in a recipe. The longer a herb is left to infuse in a dish, the stronger it will taste, so if you are going to eat something as soon as it is cooked, you may need to add an extra sprig or two. Bear in mind, however, that the taste of pre-cut packet herbs is not as strong as that of the freshly picked variety. Herbs grown outdoors have by far the best taste, so once you've mastered the art of cooking quick and delicious meals, perhaps you could take up gardening with the time you have gained and grow your own supply of instant flavour.

How do you use your herbs?
Joined Mar 13, 2001
You're welcome, Pastachef. So, how do you use herbs in your cooking?

[ June 27, 2001: Message edited by: Kimmie ]
Joined Nov 19, 1999
Gosh Kimmie, I'm not sure how to answer that question. I use a variety of spices and herbs, but I usually just cook from imagination. I have found that you can take a simple recipe and make it grow and expand, changing the dish totally. Herbs I use in sautees, salad dressings and sauces. I use them in salads and soups. Sometimes I use them simply to add color. I use a lot of basil, both fresh as well as crushed, and dill, tyme, sage, parsley, chives, both fresh as well as dried. I think I use crushed garlic cloves in most of the things I cook because those are the things the girls like at the sorority - Italian dishes and a variety of stir fry sauces. I use herbs lightly in the cooking of fresh vegetables, because I have to add some kind of flavor and the girls don't go for the calories of butter unless I'm doing something like asparagus with lemon/butter sauce. (They will forgive me for that :) They especially love roast vegetables, coated lightly with olive oil, basil, garlic and salt. Potato wedges are really good cooked this way too. And pasta salads :) What would they be without lots of herbs. What do you do with them? :)
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I steep poaching liquid with tarragon,
Use rosemary skewers for kabobs
Tyme in stews/soups
dillweed, tarragon, basil in dressing
Pasta salad
Lettuce basil wrapped around fish and steamed
fina verdi basil on tomato salad
Sauces, pestos,garnishes....
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Pretty much like Shroomgirl, especially Rosemary Skewers for Chicken Brochettes. I use fresh (and dry herbs when appropriate) all the time.

I just realized I had quite a loaded question :confused:


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