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Salmon steaks brushed with dill and garlic and broiled; pot roast marinated with vinegar, marjoram and basil; lightly steamed vegetables tossed with a fragrant herb butter; pan fried fish, drizzled with tarragon infused oil; these are the substance of life!
Herb flavourings and sauces can lift the most plain of dishes to heights unheard of, and the availability of most every herb imaginable at almost any time makes each and every one of us a gourmet-class chef!
All it takes are some simple, basic truths and then . . . the sky's the limit! Print out the following chart and keep it handy in your kitchen. The judicious use of herbs and other flavourings can even help you reduce your reliance on salt or sugar!
Balm Melissa Officinalis
A combination of spice, honey and lemon
Can be used to replace grated lemon rind with fish, rub leaves over poultry before roasting, add two or three leaves to green salads.
Basil Ocimum Basilicum
Pungent, sweet and slightly spicy
Use with mackerel or shellfish, use it fresh in tomato sauces and other tomato dishes, add chopped leaves of several varieties to salads.
Bay Laurus Nobilis
A slightly bitter, savoury flavour
Good with all game dishes, and most soups benefit from its addition.
Borage Borago Officinalis
A slightly cucumberlike flavour
Sprinkle flowers and petals on salads.
Chervil Chaerophyllum Sativum
Flavour contains a hint of licorice
Great as an addition to consommes, vegetables such as beans and peas, combine with lemon balm and add to fish dishes or chop into omelettes and quiches.
Chives Allium Schoenoprasum
Mild onion flavour
Chop into salads, as a garnish and very traditional stirred into sour cream for baked potatoes.
Cilantro/Coriander Coriandrum Sativum
A very pungent, distinct flavour
Use the leaves to enhance Oriental or Southwestern cuisine. Use the ground seeds in rich meaty soups and stews. The leaves can also be added to salads.
Dill Anethum Graveolens
Very rich flavour
Add chopped greens to white fish and salmon dishes, egg and cheese dishes. Use the seeds in hearty vegetable and legume based soups, cook whole with carrots or parsnips, and use in pickling.
Fennel Foeniculum Vulgare
Reminiscent of aniseed
The greens can be used almost interchangeably with dill and the seeds can be used ground in lentil soups, whole in boiling water for rice, brussel sprouts, and to flavour bread.
Garlic Allium Sativum
Savoury, pungent flavour
Combine with lavender for baking a young lamb, add it to baked potato dishes, actually a good addition to just about any food!
Lovage Levisticum Officinale
Reminiscent of hot, spicy celery
The stems can be used to replace celery in any cooked dish. Also used as a thickener.
Marjoram, Sweet Origanum Marjorana
A sweet-savoury flavour
Use in stews and casseroles, stuffings, sauces and roasts, broccoli and pasta dishes.
Oregano / Wild Marjoram Origanum Vulgare
Similar to Sweet Marjoram, but slightly spicier
Use it to add a Meditteranean flavour to vegetable dishes, cheeses, pastas, Greek salads and sauces.
Parsley Petroselinum Sativum
Mild, savoury flavour
This is another all-round herb. I add chopped Italian parsley to just about every savoury dish I make!
Rosemary Rosmarinus Officinalis
Strong and Pungent
Has a special affinity for lamb and poultry. I like to add it to my water when boiling potatoes to mash.
Sage Salvia Officinalis
Slightly spicy and savoury
Good in pork and rabbit dishes, stuffings, root vegetables and cheese dishes.
Use in lamb dishes, with cold cuts, cheese, peas, can also be added to fruit salads, stewed pears/apples.
Tarragon Artemisia Dracunculus
Warming, spicy, slightly sweet flavour
Use with fish, clear soups, cream sauces, baked chicken and strong flavoured fish.
Thyme Thymus Vulgaris
Good with strong flavoured fish, beef, pork and egg dishes. Also good added boiled or steamed cabbage.
Aromatic Herb Butter
Beat 7 tbsp of butter with one clove chopped garlic, 4 tbsp chopped parsley and 1 tbsp chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add 1 tsp lemon juice and a few drops of tabasco sauce. This can be used as a dressing for broiled meats or fish, tossed with fresh pasta or drizzled over lightly steamed vegetables. You can vary this by replacing the parsley and chives with your favourite herbs.
Herbal Tisanes and their Uses
Flatulence, Nausea (avoid during pregnancy)
Insomnia, Digestive disorders
Mucus on chest
Headache, Insomnia, Depression
Indigestion, Gall bladder problems
Flatulence, Nausea, Asthmatic complaints
Acidity in the stomach, Feverish chills
Indigestion (avoid if pregnant)
Nausea, Flatulence, Colic
Indigestion, Poor circulation, nervousness
Coughs, Sore throats, Indigestion (avoid if pregnant)
Colds, Indigestion, Asthmatic complaints
Making a Tisane (the refresher)
Make your tisane in a glass or ceramic pot which you keep only for brewing tisanes. Allow two level teaspoons of dried herb or two tablespoonfuls of fresh herbs, for each cup. Place in a warmed pot, pour the required amount of boiling water on top, and cover. Allow to steep for no longer than 10 to 15 minutes, then strain. It's not a good idea to increase infusion time since over exposure to heat can reduce the effects of the volatile oils. Herbal tisanes have a very short shelf life. If you wish to serve it chilled, do so no more than 24 hours after making it.
Okay guys! The ball is in your court. Put your herbs to work this month and dream up some great dishes. And don't forget to let me know what you create.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Editor's Note: To print out a hard copy of this article as a reference for your kitchen, access the printable version and choose the print option on your web browser. This will help you avoid problems associated with printing multiple pages.