Tips & Techniques Cooking Creative Herb Ideas

Cooks around the world use fresh herbs to add heart and soul to a variety of dishes. Whether simmered in a simple broth, stirred into a sauce or sprinkled over fruit, herbs enliven foods with their aroma and infuse them with their distinct flavors. Here are some creative ways to perk up meals with fresh herbs.

Herb Pesto
In Italian, pesto means “pounded.” Purists make pesto by hand with a mortar and pestle, but this method takes a lot of time and patience. For a faster alternative, prepare Basil Pesto in a food processor.

Compound Butter
Compound butter is a mixture chopped fresh herb and softened butter. A small pat of this flavored butter adds inimitable flavor and moisture as it melts on beef, chicken, pork and fish. Try our favorite recipe on your next grilled steak or on steamed vegetables.

A savory condiment of Argentina, chimichurri plays a culinary role similar to that of ketchup in the United States. There are many versions of chimichurri, but the primary ingredients are always fresh herbs, spicy chili, oil and vinegar, with a texture ranging from smooth to salsalike. This piquant sauce is delicious paired with grilled steak.

A simple herb and citrus relish called gremolata provides a welcome counterpoint to rich and hearty dishes like braised meats. Traditionally made with chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic, gremolata can be prepared with almost any fresh herb and citrus. Serve it atop Osso Buco, Veal Cutlets or even White Bean Soup

Brush on Flavor
When you want just a hint of herbal flavor, use fresh sprigs as a basting brush. A sturdy herb like rosemary is excellent for slathering a tangy sauce onto Barbecued Chicken.

Simple Syrups
Infusing simple syrup with fresh herbs is a great way to add a new dimension to beverages. Combine equal parts sugar and water and heat just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in a handful of your favorite herbs, then let steep for 2 hours before straining. Try rosemary syrup in fresh lemonade or lavender syrup in a glass of Champagne.

Bouquet Garni
A bouquet garni imparts subtle herbal flavor to soups and stews. Rinse and wring out a 10-inch square of cheesecloth. Spread out the damp cheesecloth on a work surface and place the herbs or spices in the middle. Bring the four corners of the cheesecloth together and tie them with a length of kitchen string, forming a secure bundle with no gaps. Use the bouquet garni as directed in your recipe.

Toss in Salads
Fresh herbs are used as primary salad ingredients in many Mediterranean countries, where they are appreciated for their complex flavor and refreshing taste. Subtly flavored herbs like parsley, chervil and cilantro take center stage in this bright Green Herb Salad. Or toss stronger herbs, like oregano and basil, into your favorite salads.

Add Fresh Herbs Last
The flavor of fresh herbs fades quickly when heated, so add them to the pan at the last minute. Alternatively, sprinkle them on top of the finished dish at the end of cooking.