Did you bring some herb plants home from the garden center this spring? Herbs are wonderful plants, hardy, fragrant and beautiful. Many of us, me included, often bring herbs home, plant them and then rarely use them in cooking. Why not?
It's thyme, (pun intended), to cook with herbs. As a rule, use twice the amount of fresh as you would dry herbs in a recipe. Add herbs toward the end of cooking time to ensure a bright flavor. You can cut back on the salt in a recipe by using herbs to enhance flavor.
Try lemon balm with asparagus, or chives with cooked beet greens. Mint is good with any fruit and it even pairs well with sweet peas. Snip some tarragon into cooked rice and next time you cook eggs try adding parsley, thyme or marjoram.
Lay bunches of fresh herbs directly on hot coals when grilling to give meat a boost of flavor. Don't be afraid to experiment!
Preserve herbs by chopping and freezing them in ice cube trays, pop out the frozen blocks and store in freezer bags. If you have used them in cooking and frozen all you will need for next winter, you can always make a fresh bouquet—it will make your house smell great!
Fresh Herb Butter
1 cup margarine or butter 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh green basil 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives Salt and pepper (optional)
Chop herbs fairly fine. Blend all herbs, garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper into margarine or butter with a spoon. Form into a roll and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate or freeze. Best prepared a day ahead to blend flavors. Use on baked potatoes, grilled or broiled steak, tossed with hot pasta, or spread on bread and enjoy.
Yield: 16 tablespoons.
Nutrient analysis per 1 tablespoon serving (approximately as analysis varies with type of low-fat margarine used): 51 calories, 0grams protein, trace carbohydrate, 6 grams fat, 0milligrams cholesterol, 120 milligrams sodium.
Lemon Balm Vinaigrette Dressing
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons wine vinegar
6-8 lemon balm leaves, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
Whisk together all ingredients. Stir or shake ingredients before serving. Store dressing in the refrigerator. Serve over lettuce salad, steamed vegetables, or use as a marinade for fish or chicken.
Vary dressing by choosing different oils, vinegars and herbs. Oils: Grapeseed, olive or peanut;
Vinegar: white, red wine or herb; Other herbs: tarragon, basil, thyme, marjoram.
Nutrient analysis per 1 Tablespoon Serving: 48 calories, 0 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams carbohydrates, 0 milligrams sodium