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We need herbs — eh, wrong kind mate!

Suzette – www.suzette.nu from Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Many home wannabe cooks, myself included, don’t have an extensive understanding of kitchen herbs their use makes it easy to vary the flavor and therefore the overall essence of any dish.

But my friends tell me that by simply adding a few herbs you can take your meal from ordinary to extraordinary. So some research was needed and a list created.

These 7 herbs should be in everyone’s kitchen cabinet. While not all encompassing or exotic, they will heal the culinary blahs and brighten your dinnertime adventures.

Basil

Basil comes in several varieties but the most common is sweet basil. Basil is used in Italian Pesto’s along with Parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. If you don’t have Pesto on hand or pine nuts in your cupboard, you can make any pasta glow with just a little basil and olive oil.
In France, a similar sauce is called Pistou. Pistou is made the same way without the nuts and sometimes other cheeses are substituted for the Parmesan. Pistou is often used to flavor soups. You can find a hundred recipes for Pistou soup online.

Dill

You are probably familiar with dill pickles but dill has been used to flavor dishes since ancient times. It goes nicely with vegetables,including cucumbers. Traditionally, many fish dishes, especially salmon, include dill in their seasonings. Herbed cheeses and cold savory yogurt sauces are improved dramatically by the inclusion of dill. Add a pinch to your omelets or potato salad for a refreshing change.

Sage

A Mediterranean native, sage is usually found in pork breakfast sausage, and stuffed in Turkey along with the bread cubes and choice vegetables. Sage can be overwhelming when over used but a light sprinkle over brown rice creates a savory side that is delightful with fish, chicken or pork.

Rosemary

Rosemary, another Mediterranean herb- has a woodsy, pungent fragrance and flavor that is distinct and uplifting. Rosemary works well in marinades, tomato based sauces and in glazes for all sorts of meats and vegetables.

Summer Savory

As the name suggests, summer savory is filled with savory flavor. Savory can be used in any number of dishes with much success, it combines well with other herbs and stands alone

Thyme

Thyme is irreplaceable as a winter herb. It warms the body and compliments many cool weather dishes. It is especially fine in soups stews and poultry dishes. Try adding a little thyme with butter to your side of corn next time. You won’t regret it
Bay

I have seen a lot of debate lately about whether Bay leaves are even worth keeping in the pantry. It seems that a lot of cooks don’t know what the point when it comes to bay. It is true that if used correctly, the flavor is not over powering and blends into the dish as if it were there all along.
The point, however is that it was not there all along. The complex flavors imparted by Bay leaves can make or break a dish. Adding bay to your pot roast or slidding a couple of leaves in the skin of your holiday turkey will add that something special you always knew you were missing but couldn’t quite put your finger.

The trick is to use only a couple of leaves for a whole pot of food and only use bay when the dish requires at least a half an hour simmer time. It takes that long for the flavor to infuse. The leaves will never break down, remove them before serving your meal.

The use of herbs as flavorings for food is an ancient tradition. When humans weren’t eating them raw or making medicines out of them, they were tossing them in the cook pot to see what happened to the stew. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new combinations. Ou never know when you might stumble on your new favorite recipe.

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