Herbs are an easy and low calorie way to seriously impact the flavor of a meal. These potent plants can be used as a quick afterthought, a centerpiece flavor, or even as a strong base for meals cooked in your favorite slow cooker! Learning which herbs can offer the easiest and most flavorful addition to your meals can help round out your cooking repertoire.
Best Herbs for Cooking
Many of us grow up strongly connected to the flavors found in the foods we eat. Rosemary, thyme, celery powder, garlic, cumin—even saffron all play a huge role in shaping the subtle tastes of any meal. There are more edible herbs in the world that one could catalog in a lifetime, but there are several that belong in any kitchen. These herbs can be used as garnishes, foundational flavoring, or just quick ways to add some flavor into otherwise bland meals. To get a better idea of the types of herbs you should familiarize yourself with, consider what CoookingLight has to say on the subject:
How to Use Fresh Herbs
What would pesto be without basil, or salsa sans cilantro? Whether used by the pinch or by the bunch, fresh herbs pull a recipe together by infusing the dish with unparalleled aromas and flavors. For example, basil’s faint licorice flavor brightens lemon sorbet, while rosemary’s piney zing complements chicken-zucchini skewers. Sometimes, when the effect you seek is subtle, refined, and delicate, a hint of herbs is enough; other times, handfuls are required.
Basil is one of the most important culinary herbs. Sweet basil, the most common type, is redolent of licorice and cloves. Basil is used in the south of France to make pistou; its Italian cousin, pesto, is made just over the border. Used in sauces, sandwiches, soups, and salads, basil is in top form when married to tomatoes, as in the famous salad from the island of Capri—Insalata Caprese, made with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and fruity olive oil.
Mint isn’t just a little sprig that garnishes your dessert plate. It is extremely versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. In the Mediterranean, mint is treasured as a companion to lamb, and is often used in fruit and vegetable salads. Though there are many varieties, spearmint is preferred for cooking. You can add it to a bevy of dishes and drinks—lamb, peas, carrots, ice cream, tea, mint juleps, and mojitos. Spearmint’s bright green leaves are fuzzy, very different from the darker stemmed, rounded leaves of peppermint.
In Latin, rosemary means “dew of the sea”—appropriate since it is indigenous to the Mediterranean. Rosemary is one of the most aromatic and pungent of all the herbs. Its needlelike leaves have pronounced lemon-pine flavor that pairs well with roasted lamb, garlic, and olive oil. Rosemary is also a nice addition to focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza, and pork, but because its flavor is strong, use a light hand.
Oregano grows wild in the mountains of Italy and Greece; its Greek name means “joy of the mountain.” The Greeks love oregano sprinkled on salads, while the Italians shower it on pizza and slip it into tomato sauces. Add chopped oregano to vinaigrette, or use it in poultry, game, or seafood dishes when you want to take them in a Greek or Italian direction. Oregano and marjoram are so similar in looks and flavor that they are often confused. Oregano, however, has a more potent taste and aroma; marjoram is sweeter and more delicate.