Today, the use of culinary herbs in cooking has become a revival of the the culinary arts and various ethnic cuisine has prompted worldwide new interest. Those who are health conscious have found culinary herbs to containe no fat or calories as well as being able to enhace flavour without add sodium content in salt-restricted diets.
It is important to know that herbs and spices should be used sparingly when using them to season foods as they should be used to enhance the food's natural flavors rather than dominating them. The only exception are the very heavily spiced and exotic dishes which requires a large amounts of flavourings.
Most parts of the herbs can be used in food recipes - the leaves, flowers and even the stems of the plants. Each herb has its own distinctive taste with their very own specific relationships to individual foods. They can really enhance the foods natural flavour towards the creation of a tastier and livelier meal.
Usually fresh herbs are preferred however dried ones are good replacements when fresh ones are not available. Whole herbs or spices should be grinded in a grinder or using a stone mortar & pestle just prior to using for enhanced flavour. Dry roasting or toasting whole herbs or spices in a dry skillet over medium heat before grinding can help bring out an even more enhanced flavour. But how do you know how much to substitute dry herbs with fresh herbs? A good guide is to substitute 1 teaspoon of crumbled or 1/4 teaspoon of powdered, dried culinary herbs for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs.
Ensure fresh herbs are at room temperature if you intend to use them in cold dishes. There are various ways of using fresh herbs in cooking:
- Use a small, tied bunch of fresh herb sprigs when preparing for a dish that requires a lengthy cooking period. This bundle is often known as a bouquet gami and usually contains thyme, bay leaves or parsley.
- Combine a few fresh herbs, mince them then add to a meal immediately upon completion of cooking or just simply use as garnishes before serving. Herbs commonly used are chopped fresh parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon. This herbal blend is suitable for mild flavoured cuisine like salads, scrambled eggs and dishes containing fishe and poultry.
- Avoid mixing 2 very strong herbs together. Mixing 1 strong and 1 or more milder flavored herbs will help complement the stronger herb and the food.
- For hot sauces, salsa and picante, just add finely chopped fresh or dried herbs directly to it.
- For herbal butters and cream cheeses, mix 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs to 1/2 cup butter, margarine, cottage cheese, low fat yogurt or cream cheese. Set aside for 1 hour to allow for blending of the flavour.