Using Fresh Herbs and Pairing them with Foods
Using fresh herbs and pairing them with foods is not a recent question, but one that has existed throughout the ages. Reading recipes from as far back as the Biblical days, we see herbs being used with stews, lamb, venison, oils, and vegetables just to name a few. One of my favorite times of the year is the day I get to plant my seedlings and transplant them into my herb garden.
Experimenting with herbs, for me as a cook, is my duty and my passion! They make a dish sing, make vegetables come alive, intensify meat, gently flavor fish, and make oils, vinaigrettes, and pestos complete!
Throughout all of history people have used herbs medicinally as an antiseptic, antibiotic, or even as a relaxant. As you can see, herbs are a cook and a wife and mother’s best friend! My favorite herbs for medicinal purposes will be posted to a later blog.
Herbs to grow or keep on hand in your refrigerator at all times are BASIL, PARSLEY, THYME, OREGANO, ROSEMARY, AND CHIVES.
Herbs that I grow, but use less often are CATNIP, FENNEL, DILL, CILANTRO, MARJORAM, MINT, SAGE, TARRAGON, and BORAGE. (I will go into depth on these herbs in a later post).
I am going to simplify as much as possible my favorite uses, but as I mentioned before, the sky is the limit! Get creative and try what you think will be great. No big deal if it doesn’t work. You will know not to use them in that way again. Have fun!
I like to keep BASIL PESTO in my refrigerator at all times. I make and drain pasta, then put the pasta, a little oil, anchovies, big dollops of pesto, and a minimal amount of red pepper flakes into a large skillet and warm through. This is a winner in my family, especially topped with venison or organic beef or chicken. Any meal,soup, salad, or sauce that I use tomatoes, I automatically think “basil”. I top many sandwiches and pizzas with basil.
I love to use parsley as a garnish to almost any dish. My favorite uses are as a garnish over heavy sauces, meats, and fish. I cook parsley in stews and soups being careful to add them toward the end of the cooking time to retain as much flavor as I can. I also love to add it to most of my salads (it is my secret ingredient)!
Actually thyme is great in your favorite tea mix. It tastes great and especially helpful when I have a headache! I love to pair it with rich meats such as duck, goose, and sometimes venison. I usually will use other herbs with thyme consisting of oregano, rosemary, parsley, and sage. Thyme is a must in a Bouquet garni. (This is a group of herbs tied together to add flavor to a stew or broth. I like to use it when making chicken broth. One of my favorite applications is in my pizza sauce and in my favorite bread recipes. It adds tons of flavor.
Obviously, I use oregano in my pizza sauces. One of my favorite ways to use oregano is over my roasted vegetables. I sprinkle olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano! A meal in itself. Yummy!!
Rosemary, being so earthy in flavor, is the perfect pair with venison. It is so extremely easy to grow. I use it as foundation plants around my house. When I walk outside in the early morning, I am greeted with the scent of sweet pine. It is incredibly earthy. I use this with most of my wild game , lamb, and chicken and egg dishes. One of my easy, favorite dishes using rosemary consists of placing 2 eggs in a ramekin dish, sprinkling it with fresh rosemary and baking in the oven. It is also excellent in my Crusty Bread recipe.
I always use chives chopped over my soups and salads. It is especially great in my pureéd soups such as Vichyssoise (a chilled potato leek soup). I also love thee with omelets, salads, fish, and vegetable dishes.