Herbs and spices are an easy way to transform dishes from edible to delicious, but many of us do get stuck in a rut with salt and pepper, or rely on whoever manufactured our frozen dinner. Who doesn’t have a row of dusty containers that only see the light of day for the annual pumpkin pie?
Incorporating new herbs is intimidating. What if it tastes bad? I used to think herbs were for serious chefs who knew what they were doing. The ghost of Julia Child might haunt me if I screwed up.
I didn’t venture far beyond basil until I HAD to learn how to cook. I was put on a special diet for health reasons, which forced me to cook most of my meals. I had a strong desire to eat something that smelled and tasted really good, and I knew herbs were the way to go.
Here are three simple tips to help you to take the plunge:
1. Use sufficient potent herb.
Try 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb for 3-4 cups of cooked food. Buy herbs from stores that frequently replenish stock, and
smell bulk herbs to ensure they are still potent. Store herbs in air tight jars away from heat and light, and use within six months of purchase. Herbs with juicy stems such as basil, parsley and cilantro are best used fresh and by the handful.
2. Oil enhances and distributes flavor
The flavor of herbs are concentrated in their oils. Adding a tablespoon of olive, grape seed or coconut oil releases the flavor of these oils and distribute them throughout the dish. Consider of the sheen of oil on roasted rosemary potatoes, or the initial cooking of butter and herbs when making a soup, sauce or sauté.
3. Combine flavors
Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to roast chicken, or 1/4 cup of wine to your soup, and suddenly you have a great meal. Throw in some crushed garlic and your friends will pronounce you an “excellent cook.” Add a little at a time, and taste frequently to ensure you add the right amount.
Test these tips for yourself and taste the difference. You will discover which seasonings are your favorites, and check out recipes online and in cookbooks to discover unexpected pairings of ingredients. Experiment and enjoy!