Summer is here and with it comes gardening season. At any time of year, fresh and dried herbs are a great way to add a lot of flavour and aroma to your foods, without relying on extra salt or fat when cooking.
Fresh herbs that you’ve grown yourself are versatile and a great addition to summertime meals. They are easy to grow, either inside or outdoors, and growing your own herbs is an economical way to have a constant supply of your favourite flavours on hand when you want them.
When cooking with herbs, add fresh at the end of cooking and dried at the beginning. You can swap fresh and dried in most recipes, keeping in mind that one teaspoon dried is the equivalent of one tablespoon fresh.
To keep your herbs fresh for longer, store them in the fridge in a glass with an inch of water, covered with a bag. You can also freeze herbs for longer storage. Here’s a look at some tasty ways to use three popular herbs in your cooking.
This pairs well with many different cuisines, especially Italian. You will find basil in many different recipes, such as homemade tomato marinara sauce or a bright green pesto.
What is pesto? It’s a combination of olive oil, pine nuts, fresh Parmesan cheese and lots of fresh basil that are traditionally ground together in a mortar and pestle (or a food processor). This versatile sauce can be spooned onto grilled chicken, spread on a sandwich or tossed into salads or pasta dishes. Pesto packs a flavour punch, so a little goes a long way.
This is a staple herb in Latin, Indian and Asian dishes. Due to its strong flavour — which some describe as soapy — people usually either love it or hate it.
The roots and stems of the cilantro plant can be used in curries, soups and stir-fries, as they are sturdier and can withstand more heat. The leaves are typically sprinkled over a finished dish just before serving.
Cilantro can be found in different types of salsa, like a fresh pico de gallo with tomato, onions and peppers. Cilantro also pairs really well with lime and avocado for a flavourful guacamole or can be a perfect topping on tacos.
This is widely used in Europe and Central Asia. Fresh and dried dill leaves are often referred to as dill weed to distinguish it from dill seed.
Dill, well-known for its use in dill pickles, is also commonly found in tzatziki (a yogurt dip), dressings, potato dishes, salads and used as a seasoning for fish and a topping on soups.
Tzatziki is a great option as a healthy dip for vegetables and pita bread or as a spread on sandwiches or wraps. Try making it at home by mixing plain, thick yogurt with grated cucumber, minced garlic, dill, olive oil, white vinegar and salt.
Another great way to incorporate loads of flavour into your meals is by marinating with fresh herbs. Make a simple marinade with olive oil and herbs and marinate your protein and vegetables before grilling them on the barbecue. Summer is the perfect time to experiment with fresh herbs.
Danielle Farrell is a registered dietitian with Dominion stores in St. John’s, Conception Bay South and Mount Pearl. Contact her by phone at 709-727-4446 or by email at [email protected] You can also book online at bookadietitian.ca.