The art of cuisine is the understanding of how ingredients enhance technique.  Take herbs for instance, we use a lot of herbs in our kitchen, both fresh and dried.  The important thing is knowing when to use them and why.  But what may come to a surprise, is how nutritionally beneficial these decisions are.

Cooking with Dried Herbs

The best application of dried herbs is during cooking.  Use them in a stew, a slow braise or a slow cooking sauce to allow them to infuse flavour into the whole dish.  Adding dried herbs too late in the process, not only will your meal lack flavour, it may smack of an unattractive ‘dusty’ taste.

Woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, marjoram and oregano hold their flavour nicely when dried.  While fleshy, soft herbs like basil, chives and tarragon loose much of the flavour makes them so special.

Mixed Grain Pilaf -Epicuria, Ottawa

Cooking with Fresh Herbs

When we’re using fresh herbs we tend to add them at the very end of the cooking process where we get the most flavour bang for our buck.  This makes the most sense in the off-season, when the price of fresh produce is high.

Sometimes we’ll roast chicken thighs, let them cool slightly,  then toss them with coriander and spices to liberally coat the outside before packaging.  When we head out with trays of cooked pork tenderloin for a catered plated dinner, we often brush the top of the meat with an herb infused oil before serving.   Or we may add handfuls of fresh chive to a potato puree, adding colour and fresh punchy flavour.   We often finish the entire plate with herbs too; Italian parsley, cilantro or basil to give it a hint of green and accent flavour notes.

Adding fresh herbs to the end of a cooked dish also ensures they don’t oxidize and turn black.  Call us crazy, but bits of black soggy herbs just don’t say “wow” to us.

More and more common in the Epicura kitchen is the use of fresh herbs, raw in condiments and uncooked sauces.  Chimichurri, a South American green sauce made with huge amounts of parsley, garlic, onions, lemon and a dash of red wine vinegar, is a great example.  Chimichirri (found as a standard condiment in our Flank Steak Protein Salad) is processed raw for maximum flavour and bright green colour.  The side benefit to that (the thing most people forget about herbs), is how much nutrition is packed into those fleshy, woody or spiky leaves.

Cilantro has a whopping Vitamin A content, 225% of Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and is rich in B complex vitamins and Vitamin C.  Parsley, yes lowly parsley, packs a punch with both A (281% RDA) & C (220% RDA) plus a whole range of others.  Rosemary brings a considerable amount of Vitamin A (97% RDA) to the table and it’s loaded with iron (93% RDA).  

As a general rule, leafy green herbs carry more vitamins, while woody stemmed herbs like thyme and rosemary contribute more trace minerals and iron to the foodstuffs they enhance. (Here’s a handy resource if you want to know a little more about the nutrition in your favorite herbs.  www.nutritionandyou.com)

We’re not just making food taste good, we’re making food that’s good for you.  Feeding you is serious business.

Moraccan Chicken - Epicuria, Ottawa

Words & Photos By:

Cori (Corinna) Horton is a Food Marketing Specialist, freelance writer/ photographer and the voice behind the blog Food Gypsy. Based in Canada’s National Capital Region she takes great joy in exploring all things DELICIOUS!

Cori Horton