Chef Tip #1: Fresh Herbs
Flavor is a beautiful combination of two senses: Taste and Smell. Taste is composed of the sensory impression of something on your tongue, broken down into five tastes: Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Sour, and Umami. Smell is composed of odorant molecules binding to specific sites on olfactory receptors.
The crazy thing is, Scent is the majority component of your ability to experience flavor. Try holding your nose and tasting any food...doesn't taste like much, right? When you have a stuffy nose, do you recognize that you have a hard time experiencing flavor in food?
Fresh herbs provide flavor depth through their odorant qualities. Using fresh herbs, as opposed to your five-year-old spice rack herbs, can significantly increase the flavor of your dishes. If that's not reason enough for you, fresh herbs also have awesome health benefits: did you know that parsley boosts antioxidant enzymes in your blood? Or that cilantro can help reduce your cholesterol? Or that Rosemary can increase your brain's speed and accuracy? Or that oregano can fight inflammation? The answer is yes, they can.
Now, you may need guidance on how to implement fresh herbs into foods. Here is my Chef Tip: Just like wine pairing where specific varietals pair well with specific foods, specific herbs pair well with specific foods, dishes, or cuisine-types. Below is my beginners' guide to fresh herb pairing with common herbs. Their strength is based on their ability to take over the flavor of dishes. Weaker herbs can be used more often in higher quantities, and strong herbs should be used with care, as their potency is higher. Weaker herbs pair well with the likes of vegetables, fish, etc. while strong herbs pair well with dark meats, roasted items, etc.
The application of herbs also depends on the cooking technique (saute, fry, roast, grill, braise, stew, bake, etc.) you apply to the food, but we'll save that for another Chef Tip post.
- Parsley, Chives, Chervil, Dill
Pair well with vegetables, poached fish, salads, dressings, soups, pastas, fresh sauces
- Mint, Basil, Tarragon, Bay Leaf, Lavender, Marjoram
- Pair well with poultry, seared fish, stews, stir fry, soups, pastas, desserts (mint and lavender), fresh sauces
- Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregano
- Pair well with roasts, meats, braises, soups, pastas, stocks/broths
Now you should be ready to incorporate fresh herbs in your foods. Remember that they have a significant impact on your dish's flavor, but also give you many health benefits. Contact me with questions! Happy Cooking.