Last week my Son-In-Law, Randy, asked me about cooking with herbs and spices. Since he was deployed to Qatar last year and visited the spice baazars, he has been fascinated with cooking with some of the great flavored spices he brought home with him. We have tried Morrocan cooking, Arabic cooking, and Egyptian cooking with him. Wonderful grilled rubs and marinades! We have all benefitted from the wonderful tumeric, cinnamon, fennugreek, paprika, and curry that he has given us as gifts and the fabulous stews, couscous, and spice rubs that he is experimenting with!
But he was unsure how to use fresh herbs, or how to pair them up with food.
I have a small raised bed outside my home that I use mostly for seasonal veggies and herbs. A couple of years ago, I planted one rosemary bush, a small thyme, some chives and a purple sage and garlic. They have all wintered over nicely and are large enough now to provide all the herbs I could want! I also grow mint in a pot (it is a notorious spreader), and every year I plant fresh basil, dill, and flat leaf parsley. I’ve tried cilantro a few times, but with less success. The gkids always enjoy the garden, clipping, pulling carrots, radishes, onions, garlic, and planting seeds. It’s a great family activity!
Cooking with fresh herbs is also very good for our bodies. They contain large amounts of anti-oxidants and vitamins. Herbs strengthen the immune system, lower blood sugar and cholesterol; they have anti-inflammatory properties, and prevent Alzheimer’s diseases and cancers. And they are easy to grow and cook with.
We talked about keeping an herb garden and he specifically asked me how to use them and what to use them with, so here are some pointers:
1. Never spray pesticide or herbicide near an organic garden. By planting “companion” plants together, you can avoid damage naturally. Planting garlic bulbs in your garden will help drive pests away. Cabbage, lettuce, beets, and onions all love garlic and it will keep away aphids. Garlic is also said to improve the flavor of neighboring plants and also improve your roses! However pulses and legumes (beans, potatoes, peas) don’t seem to like to be near garlic (or onions). Cucumbers also don’t like aromatic herbs, but sage protects carrots, parsley protects asparagus and tomatoes, basil protects beans and peas. So by planting carefully, you can have a pest free garden without sprays! (Please!)
You don’t need a big garden…you can grow things in buckets on the patio if that is the only space you have…just water them regularly.
2. Fresh Herbs are somewhat stronger than dried herbs, so you can use less. I like to use herb bundles in soups and stews instead of trying to pick off all those tiny leaves, just tie a few compatible herbs together and then fish out the stems after cooking. I will also often add a sprig of whatever I used in the dish to garnish the plate…very pretty! Always wash the herbs first and store in a zippy bag with a damp paper towel inside. They should keep for quite awhile this way. But part of the joy of having a garden is being able to go out a just clip off some fresh herbs whenever you need them!
3. Here’s my list of what to use in what. It is by no means exhaustive! There are lots of other variations and everyone to their own taste…but it’s a start!
Garlic: soups, stews, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, chicken, pork, lamb, beef, everything Italian, infused oils, almost anything tastes better with garlic!
Basil: Eggs, Tomatoes, ratatouille, fish, pizza, pesto, soft cheeses, anything Italian, especially pasta or rice. Cocktails (muddled basil to lemonade, bellinis, or gimlets)! Soups and salads, also good in some desserts with lemon or orange. Infused oil, vinegars, tea.
Rosemary: Sausage, eggs, soup, stew, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, potatoes, again, anything Italian, oranges, infused oil, vinegar, tea, meat marinades, bread (esp. foccacia), honey.
Thyme: Eggs, soups, stews, gravy, meats, poultry, tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, beans green and white, oils, vinegars, tea, marinades, broccoli, ratatouille, cucumber, onion, squash, honey, goat cheese.
Sage: Poultry, flavored butters and oils, eggs, lamb, beans, pasta, rice, soups and stews, apples, pineapple, fish, pork, sausage, honey, asparagus, squash, goat cheese. Freeze in ice cubes for summer drinks.
Parsley: tea, soups, eggs, gravy, cream sauces, tomato sauces, garden and potato salads, grilled fish, chicken, and beef dishes, potatoes, stews, pasta, rice, to top or garnish anything for a fresh grassy flavor.
Dill: fish, shellfish, potatoes, yogurt, mayo, sour cream, cream sauce or gravies, beets, carrots, soups, stews, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles.
Oregano: tomatoes, potatoes, fish, poultry, fish, pasta, soups and stews, eggs, lamb, most vegetables, tea, oils and vinegars.
This may also help….it’s from About.com.
||cumin, cayenne, chili, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, thyme
||basil, bay, chili, cilantro, curry, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
||anise, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, poppy seeds, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme
||basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chili, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
||allspice, basil, bay, cinnamon, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger lemongrass, mustard, paprika, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme
||chili, curry, dill, marjoram, parsley, savory, thyme
||basil, chervil, chili, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
||anise, basil, bay, cayenne, celery seed, chives, curry, dill fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon, marjoram
||allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mint
||basil, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, garlic, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme
||basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
||basil, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, thyme
||basil, caraway, chives, dill, garlic, lemon peel, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
||basil, bay, chervil, chili, chives, cumin, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme
||allspice, angelica, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary
||basil, bay , celery seed, cinnamon, chili, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, gumbo file, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme