Category Archives: Cooking with Herbs

Bouquet Garni and Fine Herbs

In a previous post,”Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen”, I mentioned herbs used in Bouquet Garni and Fine Herbs. What exactly is bouquet garni and fine herbs blend? I hope the following will answer the question.

Bouquet Garni is a small bunch of aromatic fresh herbs and spices tied together and used in stocks, soups, stews, and sauces.

The herbs are tied together to keep the herbs contained so the flavor not the bits of the herb  will infuse the food. Fresh herbs have a tendency to look bad in the dish if they have cooked for longer than 10 to 15 minutes. Plus all their flavor is gone after the long cooking time. Both dried and fresh herbs along with spices can be used. If using dried herbs use method two.

Method #1: Tie two or three sprigs of Italian parsley (flat leaf) with one or two sprigs of thyme, and a bay leaf. You can include marjoram, French tarragon, rosemary, or sage in one or two sprigs each depending on the flavor desired.

Try tucking the herbs between two stalks of celery before tying for additional flavor. Some bouquet garni contain peppercorns, whole allspice, and whole cloves. Once the dish is cooked, remove the bunch of herbs.

Method #2: The bouquet garni is place in a small square of cheesecloth or clean muslin. The herbs are chopped and usually dried with this method. Bring the corners together and tie with a string with a tail long enough to hang over the edge, (not too long, you don’t want it to catch on fire) or tie to the handle of the pot. This makes it easy to remove. The dried herbs can also be placed in a tea ball instead of cheesecloth.

The bouquet garni can be made ahead from either fresh or dried. The fresh can be frozen and added to the pot straight from the freezer. The dried can be place in an airtight container for future use.

Fine Herbs blend: are usually added to the dish in small quantities in vegetables, eggs, chicken, soup, salads, sauces and fish dishes. Add the last few minutes of cooking to retain their flavor.

Fine herbs include finely chopped in equal amounts of chervil, chives, tarragon, and parsley.

A jar of dried fine herbs make a wonderful gift to anyone who enjoys cooking.

To make the gift jar of Fine Herbs blend: Fine a pretty jar or container with a tight fitting lid and add the dry herbs in equal amounts listed above. Include a few of your favorite recipes to the jar. Tie with a pretty bow. Don’t forget a label for the jar with the date the herbs were dried. Herbs loose their flavor after a certain amount of time. Six months to a year.

Happy Cooking!


Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen part two

Oregano: Greek Oregano (best) has a hot, peppery flavor.

How to Use: Oregano enhances cheese dishes, eggs, frittatas, quiches, and savory flans.

It add dimension to yeast breads, marinated vegetables, roasted red sweet peppers, mushrooms, roasted and stewed beef, pork, poultry, onions, black beans, potatoes,  eggplants, zucchini, and most shellfish.

Oregano flavor combines well with garlic, thyme, parsley, and olive oil. It is good with pizza, Italian dishes, tomatoes, chili, and vinaigrette.

Oregano can be used in place of marjoram but use less, because oregano has a stronger flavor.

Harvest and Storage: Can be dried, in fact some dishes taste better if used dried. Pick young leaves anytime and gather just before flowers open. it can be frozen or used in flavored vinegars.

Parsley: Italian of flat leaf has stronger flavor than curly parsley and is the best variety for cooking. Curly is good added after dish has been cooked. It is a popular kitchen herb, and when Italian Parsly is cooked it enhances the flavor of other foods and herbs.

How to Use: Chop and stir into dips, herb butters, scramble eggs, pasta salads, soups, stews, and potato dishes.

Use as garnish, in tomato sauce, in mayonnaise, sandwiches, salads, with carrots, cucumbers, peas, and squash.

Parsley is known for containing vitamin A, B, C, calcium and phosphorus.

The whole leaves can be fried for a unique garnish or snack.

Harvest and Storage: Can be dried or frozen. Pick leaves during first year. Parsley is a bi-annual and goes to seed the second year.

Rosemary: Used as seasoning, rosemary’s flavor combines both strong and subtle qualities. It is pungent, somewhat piney mint like flavor. The leaf should be added sparingly to most meat dishes.

How to Use: Rosemary goes well with beef, lamb, and chicken. It will aid in the digestion of fats. 

Great in breads, cornbread, stuffing, jelly, vinegar, cauliflower, corn, onions, peas, butter, potatoes, squash, vinaigrette, marinades, cream sauces, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, eggs, lentils, and complements the herbs; chives, thyme, chervil, parsley, and bay in recipes.

Enhance the flavor and sweetness of fruit salads, and replace mint with rosemary in mint jelly recipes.

Harvest and Storage: Harvesting can be done throughout the summer. Do not remove more than 20 percent of the growth at one time. Pick small amounts all year long, and gather the main crop before it flowers. It can be dried or frozen. After it has dried, strip off the leaves from the stems. If the stems are large enough save and use as skewers on the barbecue grill. Always soak the skewers to prevent burning.

Sage: is a strongly flavored pungent herb which complements strongly flavored foods and aids in the digestion of fats. Sage lemony like camphor flavor is pleasantly bitter.

How to Use: Young leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, and cooked in omelets, fritters, soups, yeast breads, marinades, sausages, meat pies, and stuffing. Try dipping leaves in a batter and frying.

Good with artichokes, tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, squash, corn, potatoes, eggplant, snap beans, leeks, onions, brussels sprouts, cabbage, oranges, lemon, garlic, cheese, lentils and shell beans.

Flavored sage such as Pineapple and Clary can be used instead of garden sage.

Harvest and Storage: Pick leaves just before flowering. Sage should be dried slowly either by hanging or dry them in the refrigerator. Dried sage has a strong flavor and is different than fresh.

Tarragon: can be dominating and overshadow or fight with other flavors. Use in small amounts for a subtle, and desirable flavor, which quickly mixes with other flavors.

How to Use: Add to tartar sauce, avocado filling, mayonnaise, fish dishes, salad dressing, light soups, tomatoes, omelets, herb butters, yogurt, sour cream and is good as a garnish.

Great in mustard and add to preserved pickles.

Add the last 15 minutes to fish, pork, beef, and poultry. Good in dishes with chervil, garlic, chives, oranges, rice and grains.

Harvest and Storage: Cut tarragon in the first six to eight weeks after planting. A second harvest can be taken after growth as reoccurred. When harvesting, handle the leaves gently as they can bruise easily. Tarragon is best frozen or preserved in white wine vinegar, but can be dried at a low temperature, at or below 80 degrees F.

Thyme: Blends well with rosemary and sage and has a delicate faint clove after taste.

How to Use: Sprinkle on sauteed sliced summer squash and onions. Thyme works well with beef, chicken, fish, stuffing, sausages, stews, soups, stocks, bread, herb butter, lentils, herb mayonnaise, flavored vinegars, mustard and most beans.

It blends well with lemon, garlic and basil.

Try thyme in cookies, fruit salads, cakes, and jelly. In tomato sauce, salad dressings, pickle beets, carrots, eggplant, potato, and zucchini.

Harvest and Storage: Can be frozen or dried and can be cut back hard in the beginning but towards the end of summer the last cut should leave plenty of leaves for winter hardiness.

Just a note about most fresh herbs they should be added at the end of cooking time. Dried herbs  can be added earlier in the cooking time. Dried herbs are stronger in flavor and a good rule of thumb until you learn the flavor use about half dried to fresh.

Happy Herb Cooking!








Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen

Part one: Fresh Herbs in the Kitchen

When planning your herb garden think of the herbs you like to cook with. If you are not sure what herbs you would like to grow in your kitchen garden, try these. 

Following is a list of fresh herbs and their flavors: How to use and store. 

Basil: Great for fresh pesto, it is very aromatic when raw, sweet and mild when cooked. This versatile herb is used in Italian, French, and Asian dishes.Does not react well to long cooking time.

How to Use: Stir thinly sliced basil into pasta dishes, homemade mayonnaise, use on devil eggs, and for all kinds of salads. It should be chopped and added just before you remove it from the stove.  Basil should not be chopped too early, or with a dull knife, it will turn black. Top tomatoes and mozzarella slices with fresh basil leaves. Try adding sniped basil to pizza.

Storage: Place fresh basil in ice cubes trays and fill with water and freeze. The leaves can be frozen in a plastic bag but you take the chance it will turn black. I have been successful in freezing just the leaves.

Bay leaves are at their best when cooked for a long time. One or two leaves is all you need in almost any dish, and remove before serving. They do not get soft.

How to Use: Add to soup, beans, stews, pot roasts, stewed tomatoes, and rice. When added to beans they help with digestion as well as flavor. All parts of the plant are edible. Leaves and flowers. Place dried bay leaves in flour and rice to help deter bugs.

Storage: Should be dried and store in airtight container.

 Chervil is a relative to parsley and has a slight anise flavor. Found in French dishes and in some desert dishes.

How to Use: Add whole leaves to green salads, egg salad sandwiches or scramble eggs. Good to help flavor tofu if using instead of eggs in scramble eggs. Add a little turmeric to color the tofu to give it look of scramble eggs.

Storage: Can be dried and/or frozen for winter use.

Chives: A delicate member or the onion family, with a slight hint of garlic. Snip with kitchen scissors or slice thinly.

How to Use: Great in bread especially biscuits. Stir into cream cheese, butter, or sour cream. Great as a topping for potatoes, eggs, and soups. Use as a garnish for almost any dish with onions. The flowers are edible and are great in salad. Wow your friends by making toss green salad with Chives flowers.

Storage: Can be dried and/or frozen for winter use.

Cilantro: This is a herb that people seem to love or hate. No in between. It is also known as fresh coriander or Chinese parsley, this robust herb is used in Mexican cooking. It’s most often used raw.

How to Use: The leaves are used whole or finely chopped. Great in butters and to use on fish and vegetables. Add it to salsa, guacamole, tacos, bean dishes, soup and chilies.

Storage: This herb is better stored in canned salsa or frozen. It seem to looses flavor if dried.

Dill: The feathery leaf plant has a strong distinctive flavor. It can be chopped, snipped and is good with fish and salads.

How to Use: Add to fish dishes, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, cooked green peas, and carrots. Try in crab salad. One of my favorite ways of using dill is mixed in cornbread. And of course don’t forget the dill pickle.

Storage: Can be dried and/or frozen for winter use.

Marjoram: Similar to mild oregano. Can be used in most dishes that call for oregano.

How to Use: Mix in food process or blender with olives, garlic and olive oil to use as a spread on dark Italian bread or toss on pasta.

Storage: Can be dried and/or frozen for winter use.

Mint: Add to all kinds of tea, it’s taste and flavor will cool you on a hot summer day and settle your tummy as well. If your Asian dish is too hot, add mint to cool it down.

How to Use: Great in marinates for chicken or lamb. Stir into yogurt for a sauce for your lamb. Can be used in chocolate dishes for classic mint chocolate. Add to brownie mix for a cool interesting flavor. Chocolate mint is great use an infusion in apple juice to make mint apple jelly. Another way to use your mints is to add them to water for just a hint of flavor. It will refresh you on a hot day.

Storage: Mint can be frozen or dried.

Stay tuned for part 2

Happy Gardening!

Herb Butters

If you are new to cooking with herbs, try herb butters. They are easy to make and taste wonderful on most dishes and of course all types of bread. Start with bread and when you find a flavor you like, try the herb butters on green beans or other steamed vegetables.

When mixing these recipes, start with room temperature butter and use a wooden spoon for mixing. It does help for a smoother butter.

Following you find some of my favorite recipes. You can try these are mixed your own flavors. It is fun to mix and match your herbs.

Roasted Garlic Herb Butter

  • Roast bulb of garlic
  • Mix your roast garlic with 1 lb. of sweet butter.
  • 1/4 tsp. salt if using unsalted butter, which is my favorite
  • Your choice, add 1 tsp. dried rosemary, or sage or thyme.

Mix this together and use on your favorite bread. Optional: Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese with a little olive oil.

Chive Butter

Mash finely chopped chives with soften butter and chill. I use about 1 Tbsp. fresh chives to 2 sticks of butter. For a decorative touch placed in candy molds and allow to chill thoroughly before removing. When cooking with chive butter, add it to the last of the cooking time, because long cooking can destroy the flavor of the chives.

Rosemary Butter

  • 1/4 lb. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely mashed
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary finely minced

Cream the softened butter with garlic, lemon juice and rosemary. Chill and allow the flavors to meld. This butter can be refrigerated for up to one month. Try it on grill cheese sandwiches or grill meats.

Parsley Butter

  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2-3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Add parsley and lemon juice to softened butter. Mix well and served with any cooked vegetables. Try it on potatoes, green beans or carrots.

Dill Butter

  • 1 c. butter, soft
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh dill, or 3 tsp. dried
  • 1/3 c. minced fresh curly parsley
  • 2 -3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Add dill, parsley, green onions and lemon juice to softened butter. Mix well and chill.

Spiced Honey Butter

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground cardamom
  • 1 Tbsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. candied ginger root, finely minced

If you are new to cooking with herb, it is better to start with one herb add a little lemon juice before trying too many combinations. But once you find the herbs you like, then mix to your heart content. Well maybe not too much, after all there is a lot of fat in the these recipes.

Other herbs to try include:

  • Basil
  • French Tarragon
  • sweet marjoram
  • Greek oregano
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • Mexican Marigold Mint
  • summer savory

These are just a few ideas for butters. Have fun.

Happy mixing!