Last week we wrote about the 10 spices we consider essential in our pantry. We got tons of wonderful responses and comments from you guys! You told us your own must-haves for your spice rack. You commiserated with us about having too many spices on hand.
Mostly, though, you asked: what about herbs?
It's really interesting, actually. A lot of people think of herbs and spices as interchangable things. And it makes total sense. After all, spices are clearly just dried, powdered plants and herbs.
For whatever reason, though, we just think of herbs and spices and completely different things. Herbs are fresh plants you crush or chop yourself. Spices are dry powders in little jars. What we mean is, if we want to cook with, say, thyme, we'll either purchase fresh sprigs or do without. It just doesn't even usually occur to us to pick up dried thyme in the spice aisle. Shockingly, to us, we don't have any of the major dried herbs on hand.
Does that make us herb snobs? We hope not! All we're saying is that if we want basil, for example, we're going to find fresh basil or use no basil at all. Perhaps it's a sympton of growing a lot of herbs from spring to fall.
Anyway, the upshot is that we've been thinking over the past week about the 10 herbs we would consider essential in our kitchen. Now, obviously, since we're talking about fresh herbs, it wouldn't make much sense to keep all of these on hand all the time. They'd go bad.
But we think this list of 10 essential herbs would supply anyone with a great arsenal for cooking at home.
Parsley. If you're still thinking of parsley as a garnish, you're missing out. Parlsey is our favorite herb -- it's great for adding fresh flavor to dishes and livening them up. Parsley should launch a defamation suit against whoever made it a sad little sidekick on way too many plates.
A recipe to highlight parsley: Israeli Couscous with Parsley and Shallots
Basil. In the summer months, we use basil more than any other herb. It's incredibly versatile. Mix with tomatoes and it's spicy and herbal. Pair with lemons and sugar (as in a sorbet or a granita) and it becomes licorice-y. We use it so much that we freeze fresh basil by the trayful.
A recipe to highlight basil: Walnut Basil Pesto with Flank Steak
Thyme. Thyme is right up there with basil in our kitchen. We use it on everything. While basil and other herbs have a strong flavor profile, thyme, in our experience, just makes everything taste better.
A recipe to highlight thyme: Thyme-Rubbed Lamb Loin Chops
Rosemary. Another workhorse. Does anything go better with a pork roast? We don't think so.
A recipe to highlight rosemary: Potato Gratin with Rosemary Crust
Mint. It's easy to think of mint as only something to pair with sweet dishes -- and believe us, we love the combination of mint and fruit, or mint and chocolate. But it's a great herb for savory dishes, too.
A recipe to highlight mint: Leg of Lamb with Fresh Mint Sauce
Cilantro. The most divisive herb on the block! People love it! People hate it! We're squarely in the "love" camp. Cilantro adds a wonderful refreshing zingy note to anything you put it on.
A recipe to highlight cilantro: Dijon Cilantro Tuna Salad on Whole Grain Bread
Chives. We always have a box of chives growing just outside out kitchen door. (Sometimes, they're very popular with others in the neighborhood.) Chives are a wonderful finishing touch on a host of dishes. But we most often use them to augment scrambled eggs and omelets.
A recipe to highlight chives: Perfect French Omelets
Oregano. We don't actually use oregano as often as we bet a lot of you do. It's just not something we think about in our regular repertoire of dishes. But when a recipe does call for it, there's no substitute. Nothing says "Italian" quite the way oregano does.
A recipe to highlight oregano: Escarole, Kale, White Bean and Tomato Lasagna
Ginger. We know this isn't an herb, but it didn't fit with last week's list of spices, and we feel the need to mention it somewhere. We use fresh ginger all the time. Whether we're building a base for a stir-fry, throwing a salad dressing together or roasting a chicken, ginger is definitely an essential part of our kitchen.
A recipe to highlight ginger: Cabbage Beet Slaw with Ginger Vinaigrette
Garlic. As with ginger, we know garlic isn't an herb. But it may be the single food item we used most often in the kitchen. We use garlic in everything. It's almost to the point where we treat minced garlic like salt: A little of it gets thrown into everything we make.
A recipe to highlight garlic: Bagna Cauda Dip with Assorted Vegetables
What about you? What are your go-to herbs?