Superb Herbs

IMG_6212Looking out the window in Northern California, one wouldn’t know that spring is around the corner. That’s not to say that it isn’t the right time to add more fresh herbs to your dishes. Whether parsley, mint, basil, chives, dill, cilantro or mint, there are so many ways fresh herbs can be used to add some punch to a fresh green salad, perk up a soup or add more flavor to vegetables, meats and fish dishes. Make them a staple in your kitchen, too. Come and cook with us!

Whether you grow them in your garden, or buy them regularly at the farmers market or grocery store, fresh herbs can be a powerful addition to anything you cook and they are also packed with lots of antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin K. I usually have Italian parsley, cilantro, chives, mint and my favorite tarragon at hand and while they do require that extra step in washing, prepping and cutting, the little additional work goes a long way in making your food fresher, tastier and more flavorful.

Here is a list of herby hints to make sure that the herbs you buy will last longer:

  • Use a sharp knife, scissors or tear by hand to avoid bruising herbs when cutting them up.
  • Delicate spring herbs should be added at the end of cooking, or sprinkled over a finished dish to maintain optimum color and flavor. Interestingly, some of the nutrients are increased or decreased in their capacity due to heat. For example, parsley should be added during the last few minutes of cooking.
  • Delicate fresh herbs wilt quickly if not properly stored. Wash them in cold water to remove any dirt and remove any wilted leaves. Stand them upright in a jar filled with an inch or two of water, cover the top of the jar with a perforated plastic bag and store in the fridge.
  • For more sturdy fresh herbs, lay them on a damp paper towel, gently roll up and store in a ziplock bag in the fridge.
  • Some herbs, such as parsley, tarragon and mint, can be dried to preserve them. Hang small bunches of herbs upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place. Chopped chives can be preserved simply by freezing them but chervil and dill are nut suitable for drying as they will lose their flavor.
  • One thing to note is that while it’s best to pluck off parsley and basil leaves off their stems, cilantro stems taste just like the leaves, so you can include the more tender ones.

Of all the herbs, parsley and chives are probably the most versatile ones while thyme and rosemary easily overwhelm a dish and cilantro is the most contentious: you either love it or you don’t. This week’s recipe is a fresh salad made of herbs. It’s quite strong, so go easy on the dressing and be creative if one or the other herbs we chose is not to your liking. Wherever your taste buds take you herbwise, let them inspire you to bring some spring into your dishes! Come and cook with us!

Fresh Spring Herb Salad with Preserved Lemons

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