Cooking with Herbs
Here in Louisiana, we know that culinary herbs can liven up any dish and the right combination can really make them stand out. Fresh herbs, organically grown, are the best. These can also be dried and preserved for the winter.
Through the years we have collected some delicious recipes for herb blends, Herbed vinegar, butter and sauces. We hope you enjoy these easy recipes that are sure to please.
A sprig of this and a pinch of that. That's how we cook with herbs in Louisiana.
Mother of Thyme
My French father introduced us to many culinary delights that were not common to north Louisiana. One of these was the use of herbs in cooking. Our cupboard contained many herbs including basil, oregano, thyme and sage. We grew parsley and mint in our garden. Since both my parents lived in New Orleans for a time, both learned about some of the delicious seasonings in the food down there and being good parents, passed on the information to us.
Growing your own herbs will insure a continuous supply of fresh and dried herbs. Fresh herbs have the best flavor and many good cooks will only use fresh.
Jeanne Rose's Herbal Guide to Food
This guide is filled with healthy, delicious recipes featuring both culinary and medicinal herbs. All aspects of herbal preparations are covered. Cooking tips and high vitamin, nutritious food remedies are also provided.
I suggest purchasing a pair of all purpose scissors to be used just to chop herbs. Place the fresh herbs in a small glass and use the scissors to chop the herbs inside the glass. Then just dump them into the dish that you are preparing. This method is much quicker and more efficient than using a cutting board and a knife.
Herb blends are a good way to have seasoning readily available during any season. I like to dry some of the herbs we grow and then mix them into various blends. Herbs can also be used as salt substitutes for those who are on low salt diets.
My Favorite Blend
1 part each:
1 part each:
All-Purpose Salt Substitute
1 part each of:
Celery tops or Lovage
to 1/2 part each of:
References: Jeanne Rose's Herbal Guide to Inner Health and Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
Herbed Vinegar is easy to make. Just gather several hand fulls of fresh herbs and either some apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, white vinegar or white wine vinegar. Heat the vinegar, but do not boil it. Stuff the clean, fresh herbs into a sterilized jar. Use at least (3) 2-inch springs for each cup of vinegar, but I like to have more flavor, so I just fill up about 3/4 of the jar with herbs. Garlic, shallots or chilies can also be used. Add one for each cup of vinegar. Pour the heated vinegar into the jars.
My favorite Herbed Vinegars
I use apple cider vinegar with:
- Garlic Chives and Garlic
- Basil (Use purple basil for a great red wine color)
- Rosemary, Oregano and Thyme
- Basil, Oregano and Thyme
Other combinations that you may enjoy are:
- sage, parsley, shallots and red wine vinegar
- chilies, garlic, oregano and cider vinegar
- savory, chive blossoms and cider vinegar
- fennel leaf, garlic parsley and white wine vinegar
Herb Sauces and Butters
Basil is a warm weather herb that is an ingredient in many Italian and French dishes.
We enjoy pesto sauce and various herb butters. Pesto sauce can be prepared during summer when basil is abundant. It can be frozen in ice cube trays and then the pesto cubes can be stored in a ziploc bag for use in dishes during the cold months of the year.
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh Parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
Olive oil, enough to moisten, start with 1/4 cup
1/2 cup or more grated Parmesan cheese (fresh is best)
2 or 4 cloves of garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste
Chop the Basil and combine it with the pine nuts or walnuts, Garlic, Olive oil and half the Parmesan in a blender. Blend just a few seconds. Stop the blender, push down the herbs. Add more oil and cheese if desired, and blend a few more seconds. Salt and Pepper to taste. Serve with freshly prepared pasta. Toss it with a bit of butter and Olive oil. Put the pasta in a serving dish and cover with the Pesto sauce. Toss and serve. Serve with extra Parmesan or Romano cheese. Also can be used with pasta rice, fish, vegetables or in soup.
Herbed butters are made with finely chopped fresh herbs that are blended into sweet butter and mixed thoroughly, then refrigerating it. Herbed butters are delicious on vegetables or as a spread for toast or crackers.
To make herbed butter, use good sweet butter and cream it with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon. Either chop fresh herbs very finely or powder dried herbs. Fresh herbs are better. With a fork mash the herbs into the creamed butter (2 Tablespoons or more for each quarter-pound stick). Add just a touch of Lemon juice or white wine vinegar to bring up the flavor of the herbs and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
Mix 1/2 cup of pesto with a stick of softened butter, or Smart Balance (only if you are on a serious low cholesterol diet).
This makes a great spread for homemade bread.
Other Herb Butters
Good breakfast butters:
- mint and dill
- beebalm and lovage
- lemon verbena and a dash of grated orange peel
- basil and minced, roasted sweet pepper, oregano, thyme and pureed shrimp
- marjoran and garlic
- garlic and chives
- Sage for chicken
- Tarragon goes well with meat or fish
- Fennel Leaf for fish
- Oregano butter for green noodles
- Garlic for crusty French bread
Bee Pollinating Basil Flowers
Herbed ChickenClick thumbnail to view full-size
- 1 lb boneless chicken breast
- cut into 1X3 strips
- 1 sweet onion (sliced & quartered)
- 1 clove garlic (chopped)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 -2 teaspoons of your favorite dried herb mix (We like basil
- celery) or 1-2 Tablespoons of fresh.
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 boil in the bag brown rice (or regular brown rice if you have the time)
- 1 can of Cream of mushroom
- celery or chicken soup (optional)
- Follow directions to cook rice. (If you use regular brown rice, cook it 1 hour ahead of time.)
- In a large frying pan, add 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and heat on medium. Add sliced and quartered onion and cook until almost wilted. Add chicken slices (salted and peppered) strips and chopped garlic. Cover and cook on medium for about 5 minutes. Turn chicken over and sprinkle with herbs. Cover and cook for about 5 to 8 more minutes or until chicken is white inside.
- If you want a creamy sauce add the "cream of" soup and about 1/4 cup of water and blend. Simmer for about 5 more minutes. Serve with brown rice.
Garden Sage, Salvia officalis
Besides being a tasty herb for poultry and in herb blends, Common Garden Sage (Salvia officialis) is a lovely plant. Like the other Salvias, it has square stems and tall spires of beautiful flowers. The gray green foliage and sky blue flowers add color to the herb garden.
Purple Basil makes delicious and colorful pinkish-red vinegar. I like to warm some apple cider vinegar and pour it over fresh purple basil sprigs that I have stuffed into a sterilized jar. Garlic can also be added to make another flavor sensation. I put a cap on the jar and let it "brew" for at least a couple of weeks. The longer you leave it, the stronger the flavor.
It can be used alone with olive oil as a dressing for salad or mixed with other herbs and spices. A quick and easy way to make good tasting dressing is to use herb vinegar when mixing up one of the powdered varieties such as Good Seasons Italian.
© 2009 Yvonne L. B.