Celebrate with Flavor

By DeDe Hausmann

The folks at Wellcat.com are at it again.  They must love to celebrate for they’ve created many special days for our calendars.  On August 29th, they want us to really look at foods we prepare with salt (sodium) and substitute herbs for that spice.  We all need to reduce our sodium intakes for better health!!

Late August is the perfect time to recognize the roll that herbs play in cooking for herb gardens should be at their peak.  But for those of us that enjoy cooking with fresh herbs, we grow them year ‘round!!   I bring my small basil pot in the house during cooler weather and nurture it along.  And my rosemary made it thru the winter of 2011-’12 because it was so mild.  It’s still blooming gloriously, and I’ve encouraged neighbors to enjoy it too!!  Some forecasters say we probably will have a much colder winter, so I’ll harvest my Rosemary before the first frost, dry some and freeze the rest so I won’t lose it.

Cooking with herbs makes a dish complete!!!   There are LOADS of herbs and one needs to take the time to get to know what respective foods they benefit.  I found a website that offers easy-to-understand uses of herbs.  They do have 3 suggestions for an intro to fresh herbs:

1)     Take a clean herb leaf and chew it BUT DON’T SWALLOW.  This will help you decide if it fits a meat or other foods.

2)    Add a small amount of a fresh, chopped herb to a dish you make that could use a little more flavor.  OR better yet, add it to butter, plain yogurt, sour cream or potatoes to see how the flavor can stand alone.

3)    Have fun: add a little Rosemary or Tarragon to potatoes or chicken. Or sprinkle some Oregano on pizza or pasta. Then keep notes as to how much you added, what worked and what didn’t.

Herbs have two growth stages: the leaf and flower (reproductive) stages.   The leaf stage is when you want to harvest the herb for when it flowers, the herbs become bitter, grassy, or yellowed and won’t be good for cooking. PLEASE NOTE: dried herbs are great—just know the flavor is enhanced and you don’t need as much as if you were using fresh herbs.

Here’s some common herbs with suggested uses:

  • Rosemary (leaves): beef, lamb, fish, poultry, stuffings, soups, stews, veggies, etc.
  • English Thyme (leaves or flowers): game, beef, soft cheeses, fish, chowders, pate, veggies and tomato sauce.
  • Greek Oregano (leaves): sauces (white and tomato), stews, soups, fish, lamb, pork, veggies, butters and vinegars.
  • Sage (leaves or flowers): stuffings, pate, eggs, poultry, pork, beef, lamb, pasta, cheeses, sauces, stews, and veggies.

Herbs can make a boring dish come alive and can replace salt in the recipe. And when in doubt of a herb’s use, Google it.  I do that often!

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