Martha Stewart Living, March 2006
Fresh herbs stimulate the senses. There's nothing quite like the aroma of freshly torn basil to mark summer's arrival or sage's velvety soft leaves to recall Thanksgivings past.
An integral part of most cuisines year-round, culinary herbs enliven a dish. Just picked and scattered onto homemade pizza or rubbed over roast chicken, they transform the familiar into the wonderful. With herbs, as with most produce, the fresher the better. Pick fresh, soft leafy or woody ones from a container on your windowsill (or from the market) and put them to use.
Select vibrant, strong-scented herbs. Most can be refrigerated in resealable plastic bags (though basil smells sublime kept in water on the counter). But for the best flavor, harvest herbs as you need them, from tender plants outdoors early in the day, when the oils are strongest (from a windowsill pot, snip them just before using). Rinse and dry gently; crushed leaves lose flavor. Strip woody herbs of leaves and pick over the pile to ensure no tough stems have sneaked in. When chopping soft herbs, use a sharp knife; make several cuts in one direction over them and then in the opposite direction. Being methodical prevents bruising the herbs and losing their essence to the cutting board.
Note an herb's character—some, like tarragon, are assertive; others, like chervil, are more mild. Go heavy on the rosemary and all will taste medicinal; too little thyme and its flavor will underwhelm. Experiment, and you'll learn how much is right. Embrace an herb on its own, layer several for complexity, or add as a flourish at the end of a recipe to please the palate and the eye.
Try planting an herb plot in the garden or a handful of pots on a terrace—many will grow well on a south-facing windowsill throughout the year. Soon you'll be tossing chopped tarragon into a morning omelet. And before you know it, on those sultry summer nights, mojito in hand, you'll be grateful for your own bumper crop of mint.
Green Goddess Dressing
Rosemary and Olive Oil Flatbread