Nothing says ‘Spring’ like fresh herbs. This month, we’re taking a closer look at how to best use herbs in all of your spring meals. This content was created in partnership with Food52.
If you’ve made or eaten roast chicken (or vegetables, or fish…), chances are you’re on a first name basis with herb rubs. Fresh or dried, they enhance just about anything with aromatics and flavor straight from the garden. While dried spice rubs are easy to find in the grocery store, fresh, pre-made herb blends are much harder to track down -- we like to think that’s because they are just better made at home, with your own hands.
If you’ve ever chopped herbs for a dish, or chosen a group of dried herbs to pump up a soup, you’re three-quarters of the way to your own herb rub or blend. Measure herbs according to your taste — but a good place to begin is with equal parts of each herb and, if going the fresh route, a bit more olive oil than you think you’ll need. And if you're interested in tackling fresh herb rubs, we think you’ll be a pro at making dried versions, too (just remember to scale back on dried since they are more pungent).
Here’s how to build a better herb rub, fresh or dried, in four steps:
1. Choose your herbs.
There are endless combinations with fresh herbs, and these are just a few to start with:
- Together oregano, marjoram and sage give depth to pasta, stews, and gravy.
- Cilantro, if you like it, is versatile and used in many cuisines -- it is strong and citrusy and lends well to spreads and salads.
- Fresh basil is a great starting point for brightness.
- Parsley has been a staple of herb blends since the Roman Empire. It's lovely with mint, as well as rosemary.
- Shiso works equally as well in savory or sweeter blends
- Chives offer bite to earthy blends (they are part of the alium family).
- Dried thyme ties za'atar together.
2. Make a paste of fresh herbs.
Using a food processor, a knife, or a mortar and pestle (we commend you), you can make just about anything into a paste:
- Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are a classic rub for a small roasted chicken or potatoes. For a dried version, start with a teaspoon of each and work from there.
- Combine a handful of cilantro leaves, a clove (or two) of garlic, and lime juice. If such a thing as avocado rub exists, this is it.
- Shiso, chives, ginger, and garlic go well with chicken breasts or sweet potatoes. Add in a splash of apple cider vinegar and chili oil for a kick.
- Combine the juice of half a lemon, some chopped fresh basil, a glug of olive oil, a dash of salt, and a splash of wine vinegar. Stir it into this already flavorful dip.
- A few sprigs of dill, some fennel fronds, and a handful of tarragon makes a great rub for salmon.
If you are working with fresh herbs, it’s always wise to add a slow stream of olive oil at the end to bind everything together, but not so much that your herbs are swimming in it. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Go the dried route.
Here are some options to jump-start your blend.
Work with what you’ve got. Glean your drawers for existing herbs to build a rub, add some salt and pepper to taste, and your work is done. If you’re thinking ahead, dry any leftover sprigs that you already have using one of these techniques. Here are three blends that can be used in a variety of recipes:
- Use a combination of French herbs -- basil, chervil, dill, fennel, lavender, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme -- to make roast chicken
- Italian herbs like basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme add a flavor punch to tomato sauce.
- Herbs such as dill, thyme, parsley, marjoram, oregano, and mint are wonderful in Greek-inspired dishes with lamb, hummus, or yogurt.
Beware of old herbs, though -- don't use anything you've had lying around for more then six months. Can't remember when you bought it? It's probably too old to be cooking with. Buying small amounts is better to make sure you aren't left with an overabundance.
4. Use it, store it, freeze it.
Rub your herb blend on a whole chicken, stir a spoonful of it into soups or stews, sprinkle it onto sauces and dips, or add a dollop of a fresh blend to roasted vegetables prior to serving.
Use a fresh blend the day you make it or — if you want to prepare it in advance of a weekend roast — chill it. It will keep stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days. If your extras are plentiful, freeze them in a few small containers (or ice trays for single servings) for use at a later date.
Dried blends, if not used immediately, can be stored in airtight containers to preserve their flavors.
Live.Love.Lux Tip: Get an even, golden brown roast every time with Perfect Taste™ Convection on your Electrolux Wall Oven.
Photo by Mark Weinberg