Home Cooking with Herbs

With the current interest in (and need for) home cooking, here are a few quick and easy ways to incorporate fresh, home-grown herbs into your meals:

Bouquet garni: This traditional flavoring method is one of the simplest ways to use fresh herbs. Tie together a small bundle of fresh cut sprigs of your favorite herbs with string, or into a small pouch of muslin or a paper coffee/tea filter. Traditional bouquets garnis use one or two leaves of bay combined with parsley stalks and a sprig or two of thyme, but other combinations may be used (personally I favor a small sprig of rosemary with a branch of winter savory and a couple of sage leaves). Cook the bouquet in savory soups, stews, or casseroles, and remove prior to serving.

Leafy herbs: Cilantro, and parsley are quick and easy additions to your recipes. Coarsely chop a handful of these flavorful herbs and add at the very end of your cooking to sauces and pasta dishes. For stronger flavor, chop in a fair amount of the finer stems as well. Chives are another easy-to-use flavoring – use similarly to above (though I prefer to cook them in just a little longer to lighten it up a bit).

Rosemary and Bay: Fresh rosemary and bay are actually easier to use than dried. Aside from bouquet garni use, bay leaves can be added whole and then removed before serving, or diced and cooked right in. Harvest small stems of rosemary, remove the leaves and chop moderately fine before cooking. Both are excellent in a variety of sauces and meat dishes. Also, as the weather warms consider adding either directly to the coals of your barbeque to carry their flavor to the meats and veggies on the grill above.