The Power of Herbs & A Frittata Recipe
I’m back here today to talk about herbs. Over the past couple years they have become indispensable in my kitchen from my everyday salads where I love getting a bite of a torn basil or mint leaf to a sprinkle of parsley over almost any dish as it brightens everything to sprigs of thyme which are a year round favourite of mine for braising meats or sautéing with mushrooms and cream.
Growing up herbs were never an item we had in our fridge, the only herbs that I knew were dried and kept in the cupboard, like dehydrated parsley which was for my Mom’s homemade garlic butter and dried powdered sage which was added to my Grandmother P’s turkey dressing recipe. Only when I started to get interested in cooking as a teenager from watching cooking shows like Rachel Ray did I start to cook with herbs, but I didn’t understand how to use them effectively and understand the influence they can have on a dish. I remember making chicken in a tarragon ream sauce recipe and hating the flavour of fresh tarragon, only to rediscovering it again a couple years ago as an adult at a restaurant I worked at where the chef had an obsession with this liquorice flavoured herb (tarragon is still not a very common herb used, as it’s flavour is powerful and often uncomplimentary to other seasonings).
Once you begin to start using herbs you instantly feel frustrated as often recipes call for a sprinkling or at most a tablespoon but the only options at stores are whole large bunches of parsley, etc. While herbs are not necessarily expensive, you too often feel wasteful for buying a bunch when you know the majority of it will go wasted. Having a garden completely eliminates this issue and gives you herbs that actually taste fresh and as well gives you the option to get to know the many of varieties that are within in each herb. For example basil which there are over 100 varities, some I have grown in the past are cinnamon, thai, purple and lime. Herbs are something that you don’t even need a garden plot for, just a few pots on your balcony or in a sunny place will do the job too.
Sometimes I try to think of what is my favourite herb but it flip flops depending on the season really but who needs to have a favourite herb I love them all for all different reasons and dishes. Below is a little small guide to my favourite herbs, and a small description on some of their characteristics and ways to utilize them in your kitchen.
Before I understood I thought of parsley as a bland and outdated,ugly garnish, while now it is one of my top favourite herbs, as it goes with countless dishes. Parsley provides utter freshness and I think is totally capable of really bringing dishes to life. It is the one of the essentials in making stocks and green sauces like chimichurri or salsa verde, its a cleanliness and greenness to all dishes. A tabouleh type dish has been high on my rotation this summer of boiled cracked wheat served with almost equal amounts of chopped parsley and I add fresh garden tomatoes and cucumber and occasionally throw in some mint, basil or whatever other herbs are in my garden. You can use either use curly leaf or Italian flat-leaf which is what I prefer, as it not only easier to cut but I find it has a cleaner taste profile.
Cilantro is certainly the herb you either love or hate and there absolutely being nothing in between. While it is a essential ingredient in my cuisines all over the world like Mexican, Moroccan and more, in places like Italy where it is often even hard to find, the people are not accustomed to it’s flavour and often say it tastes soapy. I am definitely on the love side of cilantro and I love using the stems if they are young, not bothering to pick off the leaves but serving it on the stem or running my knife through a whole bunch.
Thyme is my favourite roasting herb, while I do enjoy rosemary, I do find it to be a bit overpowering while thyme is much more gentle, I always add it to my potatoes, mushrooms and any kind of braise I am making. I also love it in desserts as well adding a small touch of savoury to poached fruit or simple pannacottas.
Mint is cooling, and is perfect with zucchini carpaccio, seabream crudo with lemon and of course desserts and iced tea. One of my favourite sights from Morocco were the overflowing piles of mint that cost less than 10 cents each and were used to make tea, the drink of choice in Morocco.
Sage is what I think more of as a winter herb as it feels like fall and gives you that warm cozy feeling. While I love a cup of fresh sage tea while cooking I most often use it with winter squash, caramelized onions and brown butter. One of my favourite discoveries in Sicily was fried sage leaves, in which the leaves were coated in a light batter than fried, so simple yet so delicious.
Lastly let’s talk about basil, while I don’t find it as versatile as the four other herbs I mentioned above, one cannot enjoy tomatoes without basils from caprese salads to margherita pizza and more. This really was a match married in heaven. Of course I can’t forgot either about the classic pesto of fresh basil, pine nuts, and parmigiano reggiano.
Now that I’ve filled you in on some of my favourite herbs I have a recipe to share below that celebrates summer and the herb garden.
All the Herbs and Flowers Frittata
This recipe calls for you to use all the flowers and herbs you have available to you from your garden. It is about making the most of your garden in all ways. The flowers and herbs mentioned below are really just suggestions, feel free to add any other edible flowers or herbs you may be growing in your garden.
1/2 cup cream
Nasturtium flowers and leaves
Handful of cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Whisk eggs and cream together, add herbs and flowers with the exception of the zucchini blossoms. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon of butter, once melted add your egg mixture and place zucchini blossoms in pan on top of egg mixture. Once eggs start to bubble, place pan in preheated oven and bake until just set, 7-9 minutes. Slide the frittata onto a platter. Cut into wedges; serve hot or at room temperature. Serve alongside a fresh garden salad with roast potatoes or some good rustic sourdough bread.