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5 Ways to Cook with Fresh Herbs

Use fresh herbs, like mint, basil, and oregano, to elevate the flavors in your summer meals. Get started with these easy-to-follow recipes.

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Cooking with fresh herbs is a balancing act. Use too much of something and you’ll torment your taste buds, use too little and your food will taste blah. So, what are the secrets to a perfectly seasoned dish? We’ll clue you into a few:

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• Start by adding a small amount of the herb to a dish and gradually build up to a desired flavor.
• Unlike dried herbs, fresh herbs should be added at the end of cooking in order to maximize flavor.
• When buying herbs, look for strong smelling, brightly colored leaves that are free of brown spots. Skip plants that are drooping or limp.
• To keep herbs fresh longer, wrap them in a damp paper towel and place in a bag or airtight container in the refrigerator and store for 3–4 days.
• If a recipe calls for a dried herb, use 1 tbsp of fresh for each tsp of dried herbs.

Now, put these tips into action. Try these five herb-infused recipes.

Mint

The two most available types of mint are peppermint and spearmint. While the plants look similar, peppermint has a stronger taste compared to lighter and somewhat sweeter spearmint.

Make This: Mojitos
Place 3-4 lime slices and 4-5 mint leaves in a glass and muddle. Top with ice and club soda. For a sweeter drink, muddle lime with 2–3 strawberries or blackberries.

Oregano

The combination of sweet and spicy that oregano delivers makes it the perfect flavor booster for chili and Italian dishes.

Make This: Chicken Marinade
Combine: 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup white vinegar, 3 cloves minced garlic, 2 tbsp fresh minced parsley, 2 tbsp fresh minced basil, 1 tbsp fresh minced oregano, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp ground sea salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Cube 1 lb of chicken breast and marinate overnight. Remove from marinade and grill.

Basil

The popular herb comes in two varieties: sweet, or Italian, basil and purple basil, both of which have a peppery flavor.

Make This: Pesto Sauce
In a food processor, combine 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 2–3 cloves garlic. Pulse. Use as a vegetable dip, pasta sauce, or grilled chicken topping.

Parsley

The two most common varieties of parsley are curly parsley, which is best for garnishes, and flat-leafed Italian parsley, which is best for adding a peppery flavor to food. 

Make This: Chimichurri Sauce
In a food processor, combine: 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp extra-virgin virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp low-sodium vegetable broth, 20 sprigs of fresh parsley, 5 oregano leaves, and 4 cloves of garlic. Pulse. Serve on top of grilled chicken or steak.

Rosemary

This hearty, strongly flavored herb grows more like a tree. Remove the needles from the “branches” before cooking. 

Make This: Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes
Cube 6 red potatoes and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle lightly with 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil. Roast in a 425-degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes, then add 2 tsp of minced rosemary. Return to oven and roast for 5 more minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.

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