I've had several discussions with people lately about fresh herbs. I LOVE them. Love them, love them, love them. So when Amy dear told me today that she never knows what to do with herbs, I realized I needed to do a blog post about fresh herbs. (I also realized, Amy, that we never did have our herb discussion. So here you go.)
Fresh herbs are used differently than dried herbs in terms of cooking time, but they are used in the same types of dishes. Take spaghetti, for instance. I can whip up a pot of spaghetti sauce and, instead of throwing in a bunch of dried oregano and basil at the beginning of the simmer, I can add fresh oregano and basil towards the end of the cooking time. Herein lies the biggest difference between dried and fresh, and the biggest mistake that people make. Most fresh herbs do not hold up like dried herbs do to longer cook times. It's often a good idea to add dried herbs close to the beginning of cooking time because they need longer to cook so that their flavors will develop more. Some fresh herbs will fall apart and either A) the flavor will disappear or B) they'll turn bitter. Both bad. Very bad. Rosemary is often the exception to this rule.
Cilantro, for example, is a fresh herb that I never cook. Ever. If you talk to someone who says that they hated the taste of cilantro the only time they've ever tried it, 9 times out of 10 they ate fresh cilantro that had been cooked. When cooked, fresh cilantro starts to taste like soap. Yuck. There are, of course, people who don't like cilantro at all, cooked or not. It's a very strong herb and you either love it or hate it. Guess which one I am? YUM. Cilantro is excellent with Mexican or Thai inspired dishes.
Basil is another one that I rarely cook. I like to add basil at the very very end - tonight I made a pot of PW's Pasta with Eggplant. Delicious with eggplant from the farmer's market! I stirred in fresh basil at the very end, after removing the pot from heat. The flavor was delicious! Perfect. Basil is also good on top of a homemade pizza. Chiffonade the basil and sprinkle on top of a cooked and ready to eat pizza. Amazing.
I do like to add certain fresh herbs to roasting meats, like Our Best Bites Fauxtisserie Chicken. Fresh rosemary is excellent in this instance. It's also great folded into French bread or roll dough before baking for a nice herbed bread.
Fresh herbs also require more of the herb to get a good strong flavor than dried herbs. A half a teaspoon of dried oregano may equal 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano. Often, a jar of dried herbs will tell you what it is equivalent to in fresh. My jar of refrigerated minced garlic says that 1/2 tsp of it equals one clove of garlic. But garlic is another post...
Ok, so here are some recipes that utilize fresh herbs:
Penne a la Betsy
Gnocchi with Goat Cheese
Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta
Creamy Tortellini Bake - oh my gosh amazing. Add fresh basil when serving to each individual bowl.
Pesto - possibly the best use for fresh basil. ever.
Pico de Gallo and Guacamole
Asian Noodle Salad
Migas - a.maz.ing.
Beef with Peppers - totally making this on Monday
BBQ Chicken Pizza - cilantro MAKES bbq chicken pizza. i don't care if you use this recipe or not. oh man.
Thai Peanut Noodle Salad
Southwest Pasta Salad - I LOVE THIS!!!!
Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing - I LOVE THIS EVEN MORE!!!
Thai Peanut Noodles
Rosemary and others:
Mushroom Herb Mac and Cheese
Buttered Rosemary Rolls
Beef Stew with Mushrooms
Cheesy Garlic Herb Bread
Focaccia Bread with Rosemary
How to Store Fresh Herbs
All About Herbs (this is the site for the company that my fresh herbs came from, lots of info there)
I hope this helps! Remember, don't be scared of the fresh herbs. They make life fun and tasty. :)