“An herb is the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks.” — Charlemagne
There is something quite magical about meandering through a thriving herb garden. Kitchen inspiration will surely be aroused by the many types of herbs to be found there. Tiny thyme plants tucked among the spaces of a flagstone path release their sensuous scent when trod upon, their perfume intermingling with the powerful fragrance of tall rosemary spikes.
Bees busily nestle themselves in the petite pink petals of rose hyssop, while slender lavender waves its delicate pale purple plumes in the breeze. Fat, shiny basil leaves, dark green parsley and a cascading cloud of oregano all await the creative efforts of an industrious, conscious cook.
Since ancient times, civilizations have respected, honored and utilized herbs for their magnificent ability to heal, beautify and nourish the body.
Herbs are highly concentrated with healing powers. Fresh oregano, dill, thyme, parsley, rosemary and peppermint all contain intense levels of antioxidants, which can help fight cancer and heart disease. These herbs offer a wide range of restorative capabilities, from relieving congestion, colic, gas and indigestion to increasing circulation and stimulating the immune system.
Fresh herbs add such delicious flavor to dishes that the need for excess sodium, fat and sugar can be eliminated. With the ebullient encouragement of fresh herbs, the real flavor of food can shine through.
Be creative with herbs to find your favorite combination. Mix it up a bit, try a little mint added to your basil on a fresh tomato salad. Enjoy classic combinations such as dill with fish or carrot dishes; that mint will also enliven tabouleh and iced tea; sage is a perfect component for holiday stuffing recipes; and rosemary will bring astonishing flavor boosts to lamb, beef or eggplant.
Herbs get their flavor and aroma from essential oils found within the leaves. These oils dissipate over time, so it is imperative to use the freshest herbs possible when cooking. Choose herbs that have vivacious, bright coloring with no yellowing, bruising or brown spots. Wash herbs by rinsing in cool water and draining thoroughly on paper towels, then let dry for a bit.
When preparing hot dishes, incorporate your herbs at the very end, as the heat will cause the flavor to fade a bit.
Using fresh herbs is easy and the ultimate way to elevate meals with luscious layers of flavor. Experiment with fresh herbs and discover the magic of preparing a delicious life.
1 stick good quality butter, softened
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, any combination (chives, parsley, tarragon and basil are pleasant)
grated peel from one washed, organic lemon
1 crushed garlic clove
Mix all ingredients together. Wrap in plastic wrap and roll into a sausage-like shape, twisting each end of the plastic wrap to tighten. Chill in refrigerator for several hours. Unwrap and slice off pieces as needed. Delicious on grilled beef, fish, vegetables, bread or potatoes.
Herbed Chicken Salad
1 pound bone-in, skinless organic chicken breast halves
1 cup chopped celery
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cup dried cranberries, cherries or golden raisins
1/2 cup toasted chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken breasts in a greased baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear when pricked with a knife. When cooked, remove chicken to a plate to cool and then shred the meat.
In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients, add chicken meat and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve with large romaine lettuce leaves for wrapping or with a good hearty bread.
Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP is certified in holistic health counseling by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. A passionate food and wellness professional, Robin teaches healthy cooking classes to students of all ages, emphasizing delicious, natural, healthy ingredients and super simple, tasty recipes. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net