Summer Living: Cooking With Fresh Herbs

updated May 11, 2022
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

One of our favorite parts of summer is the abundance of fresh herbs–often in our own back yards!

We find ourselves throwing herbs into everything we cook, relishing in their fresh green flavors. Since these herbs are so fresh, it doesn’t take a lot of persuasion to bring out their best flavor. We need to give them a little more TLC than their dried counter parts! Here’s how…

In a quick stirfry or sauce, add fresh herbs after you have sautéed the vegetables and before you add any “finishing” ingredients like wine, broth, or tomato sauce. Sauté the veggies and herbs just until you can smell the aroma of the fresh herbs–about 30 seconds.

When to add fresh herbs to a longer-cooking stew or braise can cause a bit of controversy. We feel that the various herbs react differently to longer cooking times and so we add them at different points.

Thyme, oregano, and marjoram stand up well over time, gently infusing meats and vegetables with their flavors. We usually add these toward the beginning of cooking.

However, we find that rosemary can get bitter if cooked too long. We tend to add it in the last 30 minutes of cooking. Alternatively, we add it as part of a bouquet garnis at the beginning of cooking and then remove the bouquet partway through cooking once the flavors have reached their peak.

Basil is another kind of herb altogether. It is so delicate that it only needs the barest amount of cooking–if that! Whether for a sauce or a longer cooked dish, we literally add it in the last few seconds of cooking. The residual heat from the dish is enough to bring out the aromas and flavors of the basil, which are lost if basil is cooked too long.

How do you use fresh herbs in your cooking?

(Image Credit: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)