Fresh herbs contribute mouth-watering flavor to dishes without adding salt. But their usefulness doesn’t stop in the kitchen. Since ancient times, herbal remedies have been used to treat all sorts of ailments. Herbs contain antioxidants, substances with disease fighting properties. Antioxidants protect our bodies from cell damage caused by free radicals, which contribute to heart disease and cancer. In addition, certain herbs may soothe muscle spasms, reduce inflammation and fight infections.
With so many potential benefits, why wouldn’t we want to incorporate them into our diet. Start by adding fresh herbs to your favorite recipes. From salads to entrees, adding fresh herbs can make an ordinary dish extraordinary. Experiment with fresh herbs in homemade marinades and rubs. Basic marinades are comprised of herbs, spices, condiments, oils and an acid such as citrus fruit juice, vinegar or wine. Rubs can either be wet or dry and are a great way to infuse meat, poultry or fish with flavor. Try various combos of fresh herbs. Create flavors that excite the taste buds, but don’t overpower the other ingredients. An added bonus, homemade marinades and rubs do not contain the high levels of sodium, sugar and preservatives found in packaged products.
Use fresh herbs when making dressings, dips and sauces as well. Pesto is one of my all time favorites. This is my personal pesto recipe, so feel free to adjust it to your taste. Combine the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until it reaches a paste consistency. Freeze some in an ice cube tray for later use (freezes better without the parmesan). Pop out a cube, heat it up and add it to any dish for a quick, preservative free meal.
2 cups fresh basil
1/2 cup parsley
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 handful of pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
This Italian salsa verde recipe was a staple in my house growing up. It pairs well with meat, poultry, fish or vegetables. Use it as a dipping sauce or condiment. I suggest trying it with salmon.
(Adapted from Bon Apetite)
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped scallion tops (AKA: The green part)
1/4 cup drained and rinsed capers
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbs minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp chopped fresh sage
Whether home grown or store bought, fresh herbs are not to be missed. Start taking your dining experience to the next level today. Your taste buds and body will thank you.
Lori Rosenthal, MS, RD, CDN
Department of Surgery
Montefiore Medical Center
Follow Lori on Twitter via @LoRoRD