Fresh herbs are creating a lush garden in today’s grocery stores. What was once limited to summertime is now available year-round, and our meals are more tantalizing as a result. “Fresh herbs offer an astounding palette of vibrant and glorious tastes,” says Jerry Traunfeld. As executive chef of The Herbfarm Restaurant just east of Seattle, Washington, and a cookbook author, he’s received national praise for his innovative dishes showcasing herbs.
Keep them fresh and tasty
To get the most out of your herbs, try these storage and prep tips:
Use fresh herbs as soon as possible to experience the fullest flavor.
For storage, place unwashed herbs (so they’re dry) in resealable plastic bags and store in vegetable compartment of the refrigerator.
Chop herbs coarsely or tear their leaves so it’s still possible to distinguish their unique characteristics (unless you’re using basil to make pesto; bay leaves added to soups and stews are left whole).
Use the most aromatic herbs—thyme, rosemary, winter savory, bay, and sage—in small amounts to test their effect on a dish’s flavor.
Discard woody stems of herbs such as thyme and rosemary, but chop stems of parsley, dill, chervil, and cilantro and use them for cooking, too.
Add fresh herbs to a dish only in the final few minutes of cooking so they don’t overcook and lose flavor.
Work up to mixing herbs; it’s best to start by cooking with one at a time. Avoid combining two strong herbs, such as rosemary and sage, in the same dish, as the flavors will compete with each other and confuse the palate.
When pairing a flavorful herb with a delicate one, use only a small amount of the stronger one so both flavors will come through.
Substitute fresh herbs for dried herbs in recipes, but take their flavor differences into account: drying can concentrate an herb’s flavors so they can actually be stronger. For most recipes that call for dried herbs, use twice to three times the amount of fresh.
Make some terrific dishes starring fresh herbs
Discover the amazing versatility of fresh herbs in these recipes: