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Fresh Herbs

Everyday Food, July/August 2003

They are available in your grocery store year-round, but these five basic herbs are at their fragrant peak during summer. Their distinctive flavors will brighten up just about any dish.

Cilantro
Also known as coriander, this herb has a pronounced flavor that stands up to spicy foods. It is a key ingredient in Asian and Latin American cuisines.

Dill
Commonly known as the pickling herb, dill has a grassy flavor that works well in salads, soups, and sauces, as well as savory baked goods. It pairs especially well with fish.

Basil
Widely used in Mediterranean cooking, basil is aromatic and slightly pungent. Basil's delicate leaves are best used raw or added at the end of the cooking process.

Thyme
A common ingredient in French cuisine, thyme can be used to season sauces, stocks, and vegetables; it also goes with poultry and shellfish.

Mint
Used in both sweet and savory dishes, mint has a mild scent and a peppery flavor. Look for leaves that are bright green with no signs of bruising.

Basic Techniques
Stripping
To remove leaves from herbs such as thyme and oregano, grasp a sprig at top and sweep stem from top to bottom with your fingers.

Chiffonading
Stack several leaves of mint or basil; roll tightly lengthwise. Using a sharp knife to avoid bruising, slice crosswise thinly.

Shaving
When working with parsley or cilantro, scrape the tough stems with the blade of a sharp knife to easily remove the leaves.

Storing
Place herbs in resealable plastic bags, and refrigerate for two to four days. Herbs should be rinsed and dried just before using them.