Herbs 101: Flavor profiles and favorite uses

 

How would you describe the taste of an herb and what it brings to a dish?
Knowing the true flavor profile of an herb is critical in developing good cooking instincts, weaning yourself from compulsive recipe glancing, and will allow you to make the most out of your herb garden. The following includes some flavor clues and suggestions adapted from Tootie's most trusted county cook book for everyday cooking herbs. As a general rule of thumb most herbs will lose their flavor once they meet heat and will cook down, so consider incorporating your herbs at the last possible moment. 

 

ROSEMARY

FLAVOR: Strong and piney with a tea-like aroma. What does piney taste like? Think mint and pepper. 
USES: Goes very well with garlic and butter. Rosemary is an important seasoning in stuffing for duck, pork or turkey. We add a full sprig or two to roasted red potatoes. 

 

THYME

FLAVOR: Woodsy and mint flavor but much softer than Rosemary. 
USES: Salt+Pepper and a big pinch of chopped thyme goes well in roasted carrots and honey. This herb is great used as a rub over poultry and fish.

 

CILANTRO

FLAVOR: Fresh grassy flavor with a hint of citrus. 
USES: We cover most fresh summer vegetables in lime, salt, cumin and cilantro. Heaps of cilantro will also go into your favorite guacamole or salsa. With that said, cilantro is a staple in many ethnic dishes from Mexican to Indian to Asian. 

Warning: Ask before dousing your next dinner party in cilantro. Most people either love or hate this herb. According to internet legend there are some genetic variants linked to the perception of this herb having a soapy taste. We say quit your whining and embrace the fresh, citrus amazingness of cilantro! 

 

BASIL

FLAVOR: Cinnamon or licorice flavor with a peppery sweet hint. There are different types of basil plants that produce strong nuances in flavor from sweet basil to spicy basil. 
USES: If your recipe calls for tomatoes or tomato sauce, add a touch of basil to bring out the rich tomato flavor. 
Basil has a huge range in flavor so it works in a variety of ethnic dishes from Thai to Italian.

 

PARSLEY

FLAVOR: Savory and fresh flavor, soft pepper and mint but very mild. 
USES: Parsley, sage, rosemary are thyme are no joke, they go well together in just about anything. BUT, we urge you to mash them into some soft salted butter alongside some warm crusty bread. Traditionally a key ingredient in meatballs of any kind. 

 

SAGE

FLAVOR: Warm and savory with a earthy mint flavor. 
USES: Stuffing would not be the same with out a handful of dried sage. We associate sage with autumn flavors and cooking. Goes well with just about any squash dish or in a rub for pork.