Herbs add flavor and "curb appeal" to any meal. Here is a quick guide to choosing which herb to add to your dish!
Thyme has an earthiness that pairs well with pork, lamb, or chicken. It is often used in Cajun, Creole, or Caribbean seasonings. The leaves are small and often don't require chopping.
Rosemary is one of the most aromatic, pungent herbs. The needle like leaves have a lemon-pine flavor that pairs well with garlic and olive oil. It is a nice addition to focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza, pork or roast potatoes. Chop finely and use a light hand because of the strong flavor.
Mint lightens and brightens any dish or beverage to which it is added. Mint is great in tea, mint juleps and mojitos as well as ice cream, fruit salads, and yogurt sauces to top meats. Chop mint leaves lightly when adding into a dish or leave whole for a garnish.
Basil is one of the most common herbs used in savory sauces. Always add to sauces at the last minute; never simmer it- that kills the flavor. To preserve bulk crops of basil from your garden, put in food processor with olive oil. This can then be frozen for later.
Parsley's mild, grassy flavor allows the flavors of other ingredients to come through. Chop finely and add at the last moment to seafood or meat sauces. Curly parsley is less assertive than its brother, flat-leaf parsley (often called Italian parsley). Flat-leaf parsley is preferred for cooking, as it stands up better to heat and has more flavor, while the more decorative curly parsley is used mostly for garnishing. Reach for either when a dish needs a little burst of color.
Chives impart a light onion flavor to a dish. Cut chives by grouping them together tightly and slice finely with kitchen shears or knife. Toss chives into a dish at the last minute, because heat destroys their delicate flavor. Chives are great in dips and quesadillas, on baked potatoes, added to a fried egg, or sprinkled over soups and dips.
Cilantro is often found in Mexican dishes because it has a cooling effect when paired with spicy foods. Add a few leaves to tacos, salsas, anything with curry, or in pad thai. Cilantro adds distinctive flavor to salsas, soups, stews, curries, salads, vegetables, fish, and chicken dishes.
Dill has feathery fern-like leaves best used fresh to flavor creamy dips, fish, and pickles. Dill leaves lend a fresh, sharp flavor to all kinds of foods: cream cheese, omelets, seafood (especially salmon), cold yogurt soups, potato salads, and all kinds of cucumber dishes (including, of course, pickles).
Sage is a potent herb that imparts a flavor of cedar, lemon, and mint. Use sage leaves whole. Lay leaves over a pork roast or simmer in soups. Remove leaves prior to eating. Italians love it with veal, while the French add it to stuffing, cured meats, sausages, and pork dishes. Americans, of course, associate it with turkey and dressing. Use it with discretion; it can overwhelm a dish.
Oregano is often used in tomato sauces but can be chopped and added to vinaigrette, poultry, or seafood dishes when you want to take your dish in a Greek or Italian direction. Oregano can also be sprinkled on top of a garden salad for a delicious burst of flavor.
Tarragon has a licorice or anise flavor that pairs with tomatoes, chicken, fish, omelets, and items cooked with mustard. Fresh tarragon isn't always easy to find, but when you get it, you'll love the bittersweet, peppery taste it imparts. Heat diminishes its flavor, so add tarragon toward the end of cooking, or use it as a garnish. A little goes a long way.