When cooking with fresh and dry herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you'll need less -- typically three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, you need only 1 teaspoon of dried, since 3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon.
Fresh-cut herbs can be wrapped in a paper towel, stored in resealable plastic bags, and then put into the refrigerator. Dried herbs should be stored out of the light and in a cool, dry place. Keep an eye on how long your herbs have been open -- if they've been open for too long, they'll smell and taste less potent.
Common Herbs and How They're Used
The sprigs of this Mediterannean herb are known for thier woody fragrance and are great when used on meats -- especially barbecued meats. In fact, their fragrance is so appealing that you can hold rosemary sprigs over burning coals on your barbecue to infuse your meats with their distinct flavor. In addition to being a tasty addition to a meal, rosemary also has antifungal, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, so they can be natural healers, too. And, of course, because they grow in a very structural way, they can be pruned into decorative rosemary topiaries. Some of our favorite recipes that include rosemary are Rosemary Meatballs, Rosemary Potatoes, and Rosemary Bread.
Another herb that goes well with red meats -- and fish -- oregano is often used in Italian recipes. Though often used in the dry form, oregano can (and should) be used in fresh form too, and is readily available. The flavor is gentle but the fragrance is distinct. Like rosemary, oregano has antiviral, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. Some of our favorite recipes that use oregano are Snapper with Oregano, Pizza with Anchovies, Red Onion, and Oregano, and Clams Casino Crostini.
Bay leaves are often used whole in soups, stews, and sauces. They have a dark, floral scent and should be used sparingly, as their flavor goes a long way. For this reason they're often used in curries, too. Another great use for bay leaves? To ward off bugs in your pantry. Dried bay leaves wil keep pests at bay. Some of our favorite recipes using bay leaves are Prime Rib and Oven-Roasted Potatoes with Bay Leaves and Sage, Herb-Infused Potatoes, and in an Herb Sachet for cooking soups and stews.
Fresh basil is known for its aromatic appeal. Basil is the main ingredient in pesto, and is often used to add fresh flavor to dishes ranging from sauces to fish. This member of the mint family is available year-round but at its peak in summer. When choosing basil, make sure the leaves are uniform and don't have black spots. Wrapped loosely in paper towels and a plastic bag, fresh basil will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Some of our favorite recipes using fresh basil are Almond-Herb Pesto, Beet Gazpacho with Shrimp, and Provencal Stuffed Tomatoes.