giovedì 31 gennaio 2008

Common Italian Herbs

When cooking authentic Italian cuisine, it’s important to know your herbs. Some of the more commonly used herbs in an Italian kitchen include rosemary, basil, sage, parsley, oregano, and thyme. You will see these ingredients in many recipes in The Italian Kitchen, which will soon be available for purchase here and at Following is a brief discussion of each of these common herbs, including their most common uses.

Many people don’t realize that rosemary is probably the most commonly used herb in Italian cooking, next to the obvious choice of parsley. It has a tea-like aroma and an appearance like that of a sprig of some types of pine trees. It is used most often with potatoes and meat.

Basil’s most common use in the Italian kitchen is for pesto, but is also paired quite frequently with tomatoes and in tomato sauce. Basil has quite a wide variety of uses, used commonly with fish, poultry, pasta, marinades, soups and vegetables. Oregano is one herb that seems to hold up well in the dried variety, so it can be used without concern in both the fresh and dried varieties. It is great paired with basil, so you will often see these two ingredients in the same recipe. Oregano is often used in marinades.

Sage can also be used fresh or dried. It is used most commonly for fish and poultry, as well as some pasta sauces. It is excellent used in salads and dressings, and a delicious addition to meat. Parsley is used in a variety of dishes in Italian cooking. The best way to use parsley is to finely chop fresh leaves and add it to sauces, fish, salad, or meat. You will also see parsley used frequently with vegetable dishes. Thyme is used in all types of foods, from soups and sauces to salads, fish, and meat. It is a strong herb with intense flavor so it doesn’t take much to achieve the desired effect.

Whenever possible, use fresh herbs instead of dried. If you buy fresh herbs at the supermarket, they will typically keep for a couple of days. If you must use dried herbs, use about half as much as you would fresh herbs, because the flavor tends to be quite strong in dried herbs. It is becoming increasingly popular for cooks to grow their own fresh herb gardens, which is pretty simple to do and can even be done indoors for those who live in regions with distinct seasons, making it impossible to keep an outdoor garden year-round.

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