How To Use Herbs To Make Flavors Pop

by Debbie Wolfe
Fresh herbs enhance the flavor of foods without adding fat, salt, sugar, or calories. They also help improve your health while adding sensational taste and aroma to your food.

Chef Erza Title of Healthy Gourmet says fresh herbs make flavors pop and adds a dimension to food that is spectacular. The crazy thing is, as versatile as fresh herbs are, many people are apprehensive to try them. Instead, many will stick to dry herbs you can get from the bottle at your local grocery store.
Dried herbs are not necessarily inferior to fresh. Fresh herbs have a flavor profile that brightens food that its dry version cannot emulate.  


Selecting Fresh Herbs

health-herbsHerbs are the best when purchased locally at a farmers market or stand. If possible, go in the morning when the herbs are the freshest. If purchasing from a grocery store, select herbs that aren't wilted, dried-out, or bruised. Once you become a fan of herbs in your cooking, consider growing your own. Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. They grow great in containers and even in a sunny window sill.


Storing Fresh Herbs

If you are not using the herbs immediately, the best way to store fresh, delicate herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil is as you would cut flowers. Snip the ends and stand them upright in an inch of water in a glass container. You can leave them on the counter—they do not need to be refrigerated. Refrigeration will cause them to dry up faster and lose their flavor. Nonetheless, use in two to three days.

Tougher herbs with woody stems like like rosemary, thyme, and sage can be stored loosely in a plastic bag or plastic wrap. Make sure they are thoroughly dry before you place them in the warmest part of your refrigerator—excess moisture will cause them to mold. Use them within the week for best flavor.  


Using Fresh Herbs

You can use fresh herbs in place of dry or ground herbs in any recipe. Dried herbs are stronger than fresh herbs because in the drying process the water content is removed, thus concentrating the flavor. Use this formula when following a recipe:
¼ teaspoon powder = ¾ teaspoon dried = 2 teaspoons fresh

Also, add fresh herbs at the end of cooking for optimum flavor. A genius trick that Chef Ezra uses to get the most out of his fresh herbs is to save the herb stalks after you strip the leaves. Bundle the stalks and tie with a piece of cotton twine, then add them to sauces, stocks and stews for added fresh herb flavor.  


Perfect Herb Pairings

There are certain herbs that pair better with certain meats and vegetables than others. Here are a few pairings to try the next time you get your hands on fresh herbs:
Basil  Tomatoes, pasta, chicken, fish and shellfish
Parsley Salads,fish, pastas and Tabbouleh
Thyme Poultry, eggs, stews, and vegetables.
Rosemary Poultry, fish, lamb, pork, potatoes and stews.
Sage Poultry, beans, stuffing, and pasta.
Mint Lamb, eggplant, desserts, teas, salads, vegetables and fruits.
Cilantro Mexican, Latin American and Asian cuisine, rice, beans, fish, shellfish, poultry, vegetables, and salsas.
Dill seafood, chicken, yogurt, cucumbers, green beans, carrots,tomatoes, potatoes and beets.
Oregano Italian and Greek dishes, meat and poultry dishes, and tomatoes.
Chives Sauces, soups, baked potatoes, salads, omelets, pasta, seafood and meat (can substitute in place of onions or scallions).

Fresh herbs are a wonderful way to get the incredible flavor to your food without a ton of effort.
The next time you are out and about, grab some fresh herbs—you’re taste buds will thank you.
recipe rehabWATCH on Z Living: Healthy Gourmet, where nutritionist Julie Daniluk and chef Ezra Title join forces and battle between taste and nutrition, helping home cooks create nutritious and tasty meals that can feed a crowd. See a sneak preview here.

Tell us in the comments: Do you pay attention to nutrition labels? Why or why not?

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