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Pick an herb, any herb

July 26, 2011

By Pamela Redwine

I have always used herbs in cooking, but usually in the dry form. Occasionally, I would go to the grocery store and buy fresh cut herbs, but I would use them in one recipe and then try to figure out what to do with the rest of them. So this year my husband and I decided to try our luck at growing herbs. I will have to say that of the several we planted, not all came up. But I can honestly say that I am proud of what did and we have been using them more and more in our cooking. Now, whether you decide to try your hand at growing herbs or purchasing them from the grocery store on an “as need basis”, fresh herbs are essential to good cooks. There’s just no substitute for the flavor and aroma they can bring to your cooking. In addition, they enhance the taste when you’re reducing the fat and sodium in your meals. You can chop, mince, or slice these beauties into practically any recipe whenever you want added flavor. To help with your selection, here are some popular herbs and a few tips on how to make the most of them:

BASIL – Large, aromatic leaves; perfrect for pesto sauce, tomato sauces, tomato dishes, and many Mediterranean-style recipes.
CILANTRO – Similar to flat-leaf or Italian parsley, but with rounded leaves, and a crisp, piquant flavor and fragrance; perfect in almost any Mexican-style dish and in salads.
DILL – Feathery green leaves; best used in cold or uncooked dishes like appetizers, dips and salads, or as a last-minute sprinkle or garnish on cooked fish (great on salmon).
MARJORAM - A wild variety or oregano but sweeter, mellower flavor and long, slender leaves; good for tomato sauces, bean dishes, vegetables, and meat and poultry marinades.
MINT - Resembling basil, only smaller leaves with bright, strong, often sweet flavor; works well in deserts, salads, soups and hot and cold drinks.
OREGANO- Strongly flavored small leaves; popular in Greek and Italian offerings like tomato sauce and pizza, also complements chicken and meats.
ROSEMARY – Very aromatic long, small sturdy leaves; delicious with roasted or broiled chicken, pork, beef, or lamb and with potatoes.
SAGE- Thin to broad flat leaves, aromatic with strong, semi-sweet flavor; often paired with turkey and stuffing, but also delicious with mushrooms, in soups, stews, pastas, and salads.
TARRAGON – Thin, pointed, dark-green leaves; a licorice-like flavor especially nice with chicken, egg dishes, and fish.
THYME – Tiny leaves and edible stems; good for many dishes, especially chicken, fish and soups.

Article Source: Adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook.

Pamela Redwine's Recipe of the Week

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Serves: 4

ÂĽ cup lite mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (19 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (19 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup quartered grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped red onion
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
½ tablespoon fresh cilantro

Combine mayonnaise, lime juice, and cumin in a medium bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serving suggestions: Serve as a dip with chips or with flour tortillas as a rollup

Pamela Redwine is a nutrition and food safety agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. Provided by the Oktibbeha County Extension Service; for more information please call (662) 323-5916.

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