December 22, 2014

The allure of fresh herbs

Fresh herbs are the basis for a fine salad.

Fresh herbs are the basis for a fine salad.Fresh herbs are the basis for a fine salad.Using fresh herbs elevates cooking to a higher art form, turning good cooks into great cooks. Herbs are tantalizing temptresses, marrying with other ingredients to create a magical mélange of marvelous tastes and aromas.

Herbs are highly valued for their medicinal, therapeutic, culinary and beauty purposes, bringing  a bevy of positive influence into our daily lives. 

An essential herb for Italian dishes, as well as Asian dishes, basil is available in a range of flavors and colors. Genovese basil is preferred for pesto and marinara sauce, but try branching out and experimenting with lemon, Thai, purple oval, or cinnamon basil. 

One of many herbs in the mint family, basil is a good source of vitamins C, A and K and may help with blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms.

Parsley is packed with crisp flavor and vibrant green color. Both curly and Italian parsley are rich sources of vitamins A, C, and K, and contain iron and calcium as well. Parsley may help alleviate digestive problems, arthritis, bladder issues and offers excellent antioxidant protection. Cultivated for more than 2,300 years, parsley is also appreciated for its very effective breath freshening capability.

Chives add a slight bite to salads, egg and potato dishes. A member of the onion family, chives supply essential minerals such as potassium, calcium and folic acid, as well as also being a digestive aid and appetite stimulant.

Fresh herbs contain up to 80% water, therefore it is usually best to add your fresh herbs towards the end of cooking time, so the flavor will not be diminished by the heat. Look for intensely colored herbs when purchasing, avoiding bunches that have yellowed or have brown spots. 

Do not wash your herbs until ready to use. Swish them around in a bowl of cool water, draining water and repeating until all dirt is dislodged, then dry gently with paper towels.

Enjoy this spectacular salad, generously dressed with fresh herbs, and taste the magic of preparing a delicious life.

Fresh Herb Salad

Serves 6

6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2 tbsp. each minced fresh parsley, basil, oregano, thyme and chives

zest of 2 lemons

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp. capers, drained

1/2 cup sliced olives

2-3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced

1 jar roasted peppers

Combine first 6 ingredients in a jar and shake well to blend. On a platter arrange tomato slices, roasted pepper slices, olives and capers. Drizzle dressing all over and season with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and parsley.

 Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP is certified in holistic health counseling by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College.

Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes for students of all ages, emphasizing the use of natural, local ingredients and easy to prepare recipes. 

For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net.