Spring is around the corner and the garden will be in full bloom again. I grow my own herbs in my backyard. There is rosemary, lavender, mint, thyme, chive, parsley, cilantro and sage always at my disposal! It is a wonderful experience to cook with fresh herbs that have been plucked within a few minutes. The other great quality of herbs is that they are so diverse. Every country has it own herb of choice that is incorporated in the local cuisine. Like people, places, and cultures, herbs are also international.
Last year I was invited to speak at a garden party. I demonstrated how one can cook with fresh herbs and which herbs paired well with which recipes. We played a “guess the herb” game where you had to identify the name of the herb by seeing and smelling it. The person with the most right answers won a gift bag of gourmet goodies.
Basically, there are three ways in which you can use your herbs:
1. Cooking – If your recipe calls for a herb, chances are it needs to be added towards the end of cooking. You don’t want the herb to wilt and cook for too long or else it’s flavor would be lost. If you are using dry herb instead, the quantity used will be a lot less than if you were to use fresh sprigs.
2. Presentation – I like to take a few sprigs or leaves of fresh herbs for presentation. A parsley leaf adds color to a risotto or pasta marinara. A few sprigs of rosemary can be plated under a roast chicken. Fresh chives can be chopped and sprinkles over mashed or baked potatoes. Think mojitos!
3. Ambience – When I have too much fresh herbs and don’t know what to do with them, I put them in a vase with a little water. It gives the room a nice herby fragrance and makes a cheap arrangement.
Can you think of any other ways to use fresh herbs?
Here is a recipe for Salmon Satay. It is one of my favorite grilling recipes. The marinade is made entirely of herbs. Even if you don’t have these exact ones, you can mix and match whatever is available.
- 2 teaspoons ginger , peeled and minced
- 3 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
- 1/2 jalapeno chile , seeded and coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup lightly packed cilantro
- 1/4 cup lightly packed mint
- 1/4 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless center-cut wild salmon fillet
- Vegetable oil cooking spray
Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or blender; blend until smooth.
Lay salmon fillet on a cutting surface with a short end facing you. Cut fillet in half from top to bottom. Make 6 equal cuts across fillet, creating 12 pieces. Insert an 8-inch bamboo (or other wooden) skewer through the short ends of each piece. Arrange salmon in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides evenly with pesto. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Spray a nonstick griddle or large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high flame. Lightly coat salmon with cooking spray. Cook until browned on each side and just cooked through, carefully turning with spatula, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side.