Basil, peppermint, and dill — oh my!
Let’s face it, there are only so many skinless grilled chicken breasts, brown rice, and broccoli dinners a girl can eat until she’s bored to tears. But before you reach for those fattening, salty meals to get excited about food again, try this easy trick: just add herbs.
In addition to adding depth and flavor to healthy dishes, herbs are also chock full of antioxidants — which protect our cells from oxidative damage, as well as reduce our risk of chronic- and age-related diseases and certain cancers. The herbs with the highest concentration of antioxidants include oregano, sage, peppermint, clove, cinnamon, dill, and thyme.
Fresh herbs are generally more potent in taste and richer in antioxidants than their processed counterparts, but depending on your locale and budget, they can be substituted for one another in recipes. Just note: One tablespoon of fresh herbs is the equivalent of a single teaspoon of crumbled dry leaf herbs, or 1/4 teaspoon of ground dried herbs.
How to pick out and store fresh herbs:
• Choose herbs that are aromatic and bright in color.
• Remove all packaging and cut off the lower portion of the stems.
• Wrap unwashed herbs in damp paper towels and seal in a Ziploc bag; place on the top shelf in the refrigerator.
• Use herbs within one week and wash right before adding to food.
Now, what herbs should you use and when? As a general rule of thumb, many herbs can be swapped in and out of recipes and substituted for one another, which is great if you have a less-than-fully-stocked pantry. But for those of us who aren’t as adventurous in our cooking, here’s a quick guide of tried-and-true pairings.
Beef: Cilantro, Dill, Thyme
Desserts/Drinks/Fruits: Cinnamon, Cloves, Lavender, Peppermint
Legumes: Cayenne, Pepper, Sorrel
Pasta: Chives, Oregano, Parsley
Pizza: Basil, Garlic, Oregano
Pork: Dill, Sage, Marjoram
Poultry: Mint, Rosemary, Tarragon, Thyme
Seafood: Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Parsley
Soup/Curries: Bay Leaves, Chili Powder, Lemongrass
Veggies: Basil, Dill, Rosemary