Fresh herbs have delighted the senses and tantalized the taste buds for centuries. In medieval times great bundles of herbs were strewn on castle floors as a natural air purifier. Brides often chose to wear delicate crowns of flowers interwoven with herbs upon their heads, and both Western and Eastern medical practitioners may employ herbal remedies for their patients.
Many cooks are quite passionate about utilizing herbs in their favorite recipes. Especially bountiful herbs, which perfume our summer and fall gardens with beautiful scents and enhance the plate with their wonderful array of flavors. Using fresh herbs allows cooks to cut back on unnecessary salt, fat, and sugars, while naturally elevating main ingredients.
Brimming with health benefits, each herb plays a special role in beautifying and fortifying the body. Rosemary, for example, may improve memory. Parsley is packed with apigenin, which could potentially reduce the chances of cancerous growths and tumors. Oregano, like all other herbs, has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce joint inflammation. Oregano is also particularly anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and can contribute to flawless skin and glossy hair. The calcium content in basil and parsley can help maintain healthy teeth. Mint is calming and soothing and can be a digestive aid. The heady aroma of fresh herbs may help relieve any effects of nausea, as well as soothing and reviving the senses.
Basil’s affinity with tomatoes is a most engaging taste combination. Serve sun warmed tomatoes sprinkled with shards of fresh basil leaves and drizzled with olive oil. The slightly sharp bite of chives enlivens potatoes, eggs and salad dressings. Cilantro is a must for Mexican and Asian dishes. Dill adds a light, lovely layer to fish, while the snappy tang of parsley is delightful in tabouli, potato salad, and pasta. Mint is essential for tall glasses of cold ices tea or lemonade and also for embellishing summer fruit platters. Transport your taste buds by making a salad with a bounty of vegetables and a large handful of freshly minced oregano, basil, parsley, and dill. Or scent your grill with the woody stalks of rosemary. They make great skewers, infusing meat, fish, and vegetables with bright, strong flavors.
Clean herbs by soaking in a bowl of cool water, changing the water several times, or until you no longer see any dirt in the bottom of the bowl. Spin dry in a salad spinner or on layers of paper towels. For hot dishes, add herbs at the end of cooking time to avoid diluting their essence.
“An herb is the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks.” – Charlemagne
“Work With What You Got!”
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Steak is perfect for the grill. A well marbled, cut thin and flat steak is made for searing over a bed of hot coals. A grilled steak is mouthwatering if it is brown and crisp on the outside and pink & juicy on the inside. There really isn’t an easier and less complicated dinner than a grilled steak with a green salad on the side. Plus, the cleanup is practically effortless. Most any cut of steak is great for grilling. The classics are rib eye, New York, filet, tenderloin and porterhouse. The lesser cuts are cheaper and usually every bit as tasty if they are marinated. A flatiron, chuck, skirt steak, hangar steak, top sirloin or tri-tip are lesser cuts of steak that I tend to marinate overnight. Steaks can be grilled as a single portion or larger steaks can be grilled whole and sliced for more than one. A steak is best cut 1 to 2 inches thick. If a steak is thinner, then the inside will be overdone before the outside is properly seared. If a steak is thicker then the outside, it will start to char before the inside is ready. Trim off all but a fourth of an inch layer of fat. The less dripping fat means fewer flare-ups.
Seasoning a steak is simple. All you really need is kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Some people like an herb crust. Chopping fresh herbs together in any combination is great. You can combine thyme, rosemary, oregano and/or oregano; however, you should always use rosemary. Mix the fresh herbs with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Rub onto the steak with some olive oil an hour or so before grilling. You should take the steaks out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before grilling to allow the steaks to come to room temperature.
Clean your grill with a wire brush and then prepare a hot fire. Oil the grill and put on the steaks. Your grill should be so hot that you shouldn’t be able to tolerate the heat for more than a couple seconds. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the steaks over and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes. If your steak has a border of fat then turn this onto the grill by holding the steak up with your tongs. Sear the fat for 1 to 2 minutes. After you flip your steaks you should start checking for doneness after about 2 minutes. Press the back of your tongs into the steak. If it is rare it will be soft. If it springs a bit then it is medium rare. If it is resilient then it is well done. Keep testing by using the “back of the tong” method. You can check by cutting into the steaks, but I really think that it is better not to cut into the steaks. Keep working on the “back of the tong” method and you will become a good judge pretty quickly. I think that it is a good idea to take the steaks off of the grill when they are a little less done than you want them to be. They will continue to cook while they rest. A 1 inch steak will be grilled rare in about 8 minutes and for medium it should take about 12 minutes. Check your fire while the steaks are cooking. Move the coals as needed to make the fire hotter or cooler. If your fire flares up then move the steaks out of the flames right away or the fire will burn up your steak. This will form a black and acrid crust. When you remove your steaks from the grill let them take a little rest for a few minutes before serving. Resting stabilizes the internal juices so that they don’t run out excessively when you cut into the steaks. If you are not going to serve right away, make sure to cover loosely with aluminum foil to help keep warm. Don’t seal tightly or they will continue to cook.