From the Spice Cupboard: Thyme

Fresh or dried, thyme is definitely one of our spice cupboard work horses. It's a seasoning we can use without really thinking about it, and so we often reach for it when making quick weeknight pasta sauces and stir-fries. How do you use thyme in your cooking?

Thyme is a low shrub native to the Mediterranean and a member of the mint family. It grows in long, thin sprigs with tiny spear-shaped green leaves. We primarily use these leaves in cooking, though the stems can be used for seasoning a soup or braise if removed before serving.

A teaspoon or so of these leaves adds a pungent, woodsy flavor to dishes. Depending on the specific variety you use (and there are over 100 of them!), we might also get flavors of lemon, mint, caraway, or even orange. Thyme is an aromatic, meaning we use it as much for its aroma as for the flavor it gives our dishes, and is one of the herbs used in a classic bouquet garni.

Thyme is a great choice for adding layers of flavor without being overwhelming. We use it most commonly to season soups, sauces, and braises. It's also a good choice for potatoes, rice dishes, and even fresh bread. It pairs well with other Mediterranean herbs like oregano and marjoram, and is used throughout Italian, French, and of course, Mediterranean cooking.

Here are a few thyme-centric recipes to try!

Sautéed Zucchini and Squash with Thyme and Feta
Individual Pot Roasts with Thyme-Glazed Carrots
Creamy Black-Eyed Pea Soup with Cumin and Thyme
Garlic and Thyme Roasted Chicken
Peach and Thyme Polenta Tart

Related: How To Make a One-Pot Indoor Herb Garden

(Image: Flickr member Kalle Svensson licensed under Creative Commons)