How to Teach a Person about Cooking with Herbs

While cooking, herbs provide one the ability to create layers of flavor.  These range from subtle hints all the way to high intensity flavors. Not only are herbs wonderful by providing different flavors, but they can be used in different forms with different methods of cooking.

There is a very wide variety of intensities of herbs that are available.  Herbs with powerful flavors such as rosemary, oregano and tarragon can provide a burst of flavor. While these and herbs like them have wonderful flavors, moderation is key.  Too much of a good thing can cause more harm than good to your dish and the flavor profiles being created. Thyme, mint and basil are very flavorful and considered mild. Chives, parsley, and thyme will provide delicate notes to any dish.  Adding a variety of herbs to one dish is a benefit, as it creates layers. Though one needs to be careful, by pairing herbs with like profiles together is the safest route.  If one would try and pair a strong herb with a delicate one, the stronger flavor would overpower the lightness of the other.  This is detrimental if done improperly because then you are taking away flavors instead of building upon them.  The best way to mix flavor intensities of herbs together is by the right combination.  Finishing dishes with a combination of 3 parts parsley, 2 parts thyme, and 1 part rosemary, if used in the right balance is a wonderful blend.  The best thing someone can do is be creative and experiment to find the combinations that are most flavorful.

Herbs also can be used in different forms, fresh and dried.  Dried herbs are noted to provide about three time as much flavor from the same volume as fresh.  Not only do dried herbs provide a bit more intensity per volume than fresh, but they should be used in different methods of cooking.  Dried herbs work best when making soups, stews, baking and sauces when they are added at the beginning of the cooking process.  Dried herbs require long cooking times, which allows them to rehydrate.  Where fresh herbs are best when added at the end of cooking or during short cooking methods such as sautéing.  Cooking fresh herbs for a short time allows them to keep their integrity and flavors vibrant.  Keeping fresh herbs natural and uncooked is another great way to utilize them.  The bright pop and sweetness of summer tomatoes pair so well with a little basil and olive oil.  Another option would be adding a fresh herb “salad” to a dish as a nice accompaniment that provides lightness.   

Like with anything one does, this will take time for perfection.  Do not become discouraged.  With care, consideration, and planning herbs can be a wonderful addition to compliment flavorful cooking.

Resources:

Dornenburg, A., & Page, K. (2008). The Flavor Bible. New York: Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Browning, S. & Henneman, A. Healthy Cooking with Fresh Herbs. University of Nebraska: Lincoln.