Herb Help

By Sidra Forman, Best Life chef

If you use fresh herbs in your cooking, then you already know how valuable they are: They add a lot of flavor to dishes without adding any calories or fat. Plus, when you use herbs, you don’t need to use as much salt, so it’s easy to keep your sodium intake in check.

If you’re not big on herbs, it may be because you’re not sure how much to use or which herbs work with different types of foods. We’re here to help! Below, I’ve listed several different herbs, and offered some suggestions on what foods they work best with. I;ve even included a tasty and easy salad recipe so you can put your new knowledge to use right away.

• Basil – It goes wonderfully with all summer vegetables, including squash, tomatoes or eggplant. It also works well in salads. To use, remove the stem and either chop or break into large pieces. You can cook veggies with a little basil or add some after the veggies have cooked. You can also add basil raw to salads. Most basil is mild and fresh-tasting, so feel free to use it generously.

• Chives – This herb has a mellow, fresh onion flavor. You can use it in any dish or recipe that calls for onion. Finely chop or break chives into large pieces, and use as a garnish or mix right into dishes like a bean salad or brown rice. As a rough guide, add 1 teaspoon of chives to ½ cup of food.

• Italian parsley – This herb has an earthy but fresh taste. Remove whole leaves from the stem and either leave whole or chop. Add approximately 1 tablespoon raw to every ½ cup of food just before serving. Italian parsley enhances the flavor of vegetables, fish, beans or whole grains.

• Lavender – It has a strong and distinct flavor, so make sure to use it sparingly: A little goes a long way. Remove lavender from the stem and chop finely, then add a small pinch to season ½ cup of sliced peaches. To make a soothing cup of herbal tea, add 1 teaspoon of fresh lavendar to a cup of hot water and let it seep for a couple of minutes before drinking.

• Lemon verbena – This herb is commonly used to make a delicious after-dinner tea in France. It has a pleasant, fresh and subtle lemon flavor. To make a cup of your own, add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon verbena to a cup of hot water and let it seep for a couple of minutes before drinking.

• Mint – It’s a refreshing addition to savory foods like tomatoes, cucumbers or whole grains. To use, remove leaves from stem and chop. Add 1 teaspoon (or more if desired) before serving to 1 cup of food

• Oregano-  This herb has a unique earthy taste and can be cooked with your food for a subtle flavor or added fresh just before serving for a bolder flavor. Use ¼ teaspoon for every ½ cup of food before cooking, or a pinch of raw finely chopped oregano to ½ cup of food just before serving. It goes great with winter and summer veggies, and can also punch up your poultry dishes.

• Rosemary – With its intense woody taste, rosemary is a great complement to root veggies, chicken or red meat. Remove from stem and chop finely. Add a large pinch to ½ cup of food before cooking.

• Sorrell – Add this herb, which has a fresh lemony flavor, to fish, such as cod or striped bass. To use, remove center stem and julienne and add to foods just before serving. As a general guide, use 1 tablespoon of julienned sorrel for a serving of fish. Sorrel also adds zest to salads and raw or room-temperature vegetable dishes.

• Thyme – This goes great with cucumbers, summer squash or any fish. There are many varieties of thyme, but nearly all are mild, earthy and delicious. To use, remove from stem, and use 1 teaspoon for every ½ cup of food before cooking, or a large pinch raw to uncooked or cooked foods.

Quick Chopped Summer Salad
Makes 4 servings

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 5 minutes

2 large summer tomatoes, diced
2 large cucumbers, chopped
1 densely packed tablespoon diced chives
1 densely packed tablespoon diced mint
1 densely packed tablespoon diced Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/16 teaspoon salt

Mix together all ingredients, season with pepper to taste and serve.

1 serving

3.4 g
8.1 g
Dietary Fiber:
1.6 g
Total Fat: 0.9 g
Saturated Fat:
0.2 g
0 mg
Calcium: 37 mg
Sodium: 43 mg