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5 herbs every cook should use

Elizabeth Hall, Community Contributor • Feb 20, 2019 at 4:30 PM

There are many delicious, fresh foods that require little tinkering with flavor, but when it comes to lightening up recipes, it is important to understand how to keep flavor when reducing fat, sugar or sodium. One way is through the addition of spices, herbs or other flavorings like citrus and lemon or lime juice.

Here are five herbs to add to your cooking repertoire:

Basil: Used in Italian cuisines along with oregano and thyme. Fresh leaves can be chopped and added to dishes after cooking as well.

Rosemary: One of the most aromatic of all herbs, so use sparingly. This herb pairs well with garlic and olive oil in Mediterranean dishes.

Cilantro: Can often be mistaken for parsley, so read the tag at the grocery store. Cilantro adds flavor to Mexican dishes such as salsas and guacamole.

Parsley: Has a mild flavor that helps sharpen the flavors of other ingredients and can go with pretty much anything. Flat-leaf parsley is preferred over curly because it stands up better to heat.

Chives: Add chopped chives to your dish at the last minute because, like most herbs, heat destroys their delicate flavor. Chives are great in dips, soups or on top of baked potatoes.

When ready to use, wash herbs and pat dry before chopping. To store, loosely wrap in a damp paper towel, then seal in a plastic bag. Herbs that come in a bunch can be stored bouquet-style in a jar of water and then enclosed in the plastic bag. They can be refrigerated for up to five days before drying in the oven or freezing for later use. An easy way to freeze is to chop herbs, place in ice cube trays, and top with water or oil.

When using dried herbs, substitute one part dry for three parts fresh in recipes. Remember that dry herbs also have a shelf life. Most should not be kept for more than a few years, especially after they have been opened. Store dried herbs and spices in airtight containers and in a cool, dark cupboard or pantry.

Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Food City Registered Dietitian

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