One Saturday afternoon recently while cleaning out the shed, my husband and I came across several Terra Cotta clay pots left behind by the previous dwellers of our new Savannah home. I’ve never been one to plant or garden, but I knew if I used them for anything, I would want to plant something I could cook with, something that would enhance the flavor of food. Buying individual packages of fresh herbs in the grocery store can be costly, and when compared with the cost of growing them yourself, the decision is a no-brainer! A visit to my local home and garden store revealed fresh herbs on sale and a weekend project was born.
Though I’m not an experienced green thumb, I have been cooking with fresh herbs for some time. Let’s talk about a few inspired ways to use them and how they can take meals from simple to Some Kinda Good!
My new herb “garden” includes basil (a must!), thyme, mint, flat leaf parsley, Italian oregano and cilantro. I chose these six herbs because I cook with them the most often. Basil is delicious on paninis (grilled sandwiches) and pizza; thyme when combined with melted butter makes a great splash for finishing seared steaks; mint is a must-have in a tall, cold glass of freshly-brewed sweet iced tea; parsley makes any casserole, seafood or sauce brighter with its pop of green color; oregano makes a fantastic pesto or flavor booster for roast chicken; and finally, cilantro is perfect for tacos, guacamole and Mexican casseroles.
In addition to these ideas, here are my top 3 practical applications for using fresh herbs in the kitchen.
1. Compound Butters
Fresh herbs are great for making flavorful compound butters, both sweet and savory. A compound butter is simply an ingredient added to softened butter that acts as an instant sauce for meats, vegetables and fish, or as a sweet topping on breads, pancakes or baked goods. Have you ever been to a restaurant where they served a variety of softened butters to slather on top of warm, freshly baked bread? Whipped honey butter with cinnamon or savory options, like this garlic-herb butter are my favorites.
2. Sachet d’Epices or Bouquet Garni
As many of you know, I’m a food columnist for the Statesboro Herald, a 6-day daily publication in Southeast Georgia. In one recent column, “4 Techniques for Boosting Flavor in Stocks, Sauces” I include the classical French techniques for Sachet d’Epices (Bag of Spices) and a Bouquet Garni (Garnished Bouquet)–aromatic preparations called for again and again in recipes. Meant to enhance and support the flavors of a dish, they add subtle undertones of earthiness to stocks, sauces and soups by gently infusing the liquid with their aroma. Fresh herbs are a key ingredient!
One of the most popular and practical uses for fresh herbs is garnishing gravy, sauces, desserts or casseroles. Take a look at how adding minced parsley to brown onion gravy makes it that much more appealing. The slideshow below also shows off beautifully finished plates. A proper garnish is like the perfect accessory to an outfit. We eat with our eyes first!
Wish me luck on growing my first potted plants! Since we planted them only a few days ago, I’ve been like a little kid, eager to see if they’ve grown any each morning. They are sure to keep me busy over the next few weeks. Be sure to share with me in the comments below all the ways you like to cook and bake with fresh herbs! What are your favorites?
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Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and host of the television program “Statesboro Cooks.” She appears regularly as Celebrity Chef at the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market and has written as a guest blogger for Visit Savannah, Savannah Taste Experience and The Local Palate. A public relations graduate of Georgia Southern University, Rebekah also attended Savannah Technical College’s Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, connect with Some Kinda Good on social media, or visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.