H is for Herbs: A Chef’s Secret Weapon!

This is the second week of the A to Z  Blog Challenge. Initially, I thought it might be a tad hard to procure material every day for publishing. Guess I was spot on when I labeled myself  ‘ obsessed with food’.  Each letter of the alphabet offers endless possibilities surrounding food and it is hard trying to pick just one topic a day. Of course, some days are easier than others since the inspiration pops instantly. Take today’s example H.

Ever tried to pinpoint what you ate that it tasted exotic exuding delicious aromas? Any exceptional chef/cook knows that fresh food is always the best and fresh herbs is the seasoning which takes it over the top. Any good cuisine can be simply prepared, but add a few sprigs of fresh herbs or a medley and you have created a masterpiece.  The fragrances alone will impress your family and guests. Culinary herbs are chef/cook’s essential tool which we use to tantalize our diner’s senses even before the first bite.

I still relish the ambiance of this particular restaurant in England which decorated each of their patio dining tables with small rosemary plants. Oh my! the wonderfully addictive aroma of rosemary in the air, tugged at my foodie heart each time I passed the restaurant, begging me to sit with the herbs and enjoy a fantastic meal. What a wonderful idea! It was both practical and aesthetic.

Herbs have been used for thousands of years across nations for medicinal purposes for curing and prevention of illness.  The basis of Ayurvedic, herbal, and traditional Chinese medicines essentially revolve around herbs. What I would like to share today are the culinary herbs we use in our daily lives, which literally make our dishes pop. Few herbs which I use on a daily basis are cilantro, basil, rosemary, thyme, and parsley. If you are familiar with Indian cuisine you know that every dish is practically garnished with cilantro, a staple in our diet. Paying homage to herbs, here are two recipes which in my humble opinion showcases the theme best.

Green Goddess Dip

Did you say dip, another dip? Oh well! what’s so unique about this one? The beauty of this dip is that all it takes is one bite to refresh your palate and wake up your senses. Don’t take my word for it, do me a favor and try it. It can’t get simpler than this in preparation and I am sure you have most of the ingredients already in your home.

it’s clean, light, and refreshing.  My family ends up using it as a sandwich spread if by any miracle, there are even a few drops left.

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs parsley
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 2 tbs mint
  • 1 juiced lemon
  • 1/2 cup scallions, white and green parts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 sour cream
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Serve with choice of vegetables and fruits

 

Orzo Salad with Herbs

Orzo is pasta in form of a large grain of rice.  Fresh herbs make this salad vibrant and refreshing. An easy do ahead dish which you can use for brunch, lunch, or dinner. I typically use the tri-color orzo for this dish. I am allergic to shell-fish hence I tend to roast shrimps and serve them on the side for lunch. In my personal opinion, it is a complete dish in itself bursting with flavors, and one place where the non-vegetarian won’t miss the meat.

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Good olive oil
  • 3/4 pound orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill/basil/mint
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion

Directions:

  1. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook as per box instructions, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.
  3. When the orzo has cooled down, add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Food Network.

Do you enjoy the aromas of herb? Is there one you in particular fancy? I would love to hear from you. Shoot me an email or post a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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