If you start cooking with herbs regularly you will not only boost flavor, you’ll also boost nutrition. I am so big into cooking with fresh herbs that I always keep a fresh pot on my kitchen counter (see photo above) and several more outside on our grill.
Historically, herbs have been used for adding flavor to foods but research now proves herbs pack a powerful phytonutrient-punch that can slow aging, lower inflammation, assist with detoxification and improve health. Read more about the tremendous health-boosting benefits of phytonutrient-rich herbs.
Cooking with Herbs
Although many chefs will insist a good cook uses herbs the way a painter uses color—in that less is often more, I generally find myself veering off from the “less is more” traditional cooking model. I actually use herbs, both fresh and dried, rather liberally in my Clean Cuisine recipes.
Fresh herbs carry the purest flavors, with all their aromatic essential oils intact. Dried herbs are also totally fine, you just want to make sure you clean out your dried herb/ spice rack at least once a year since neither herbs nor spices last forever (green herbs should not be brown and dried herbs should have a scent!)
Also, just a quick rule of thumb when cooking with herbs, if a recipe says you need 1 teaspoon of dried herbs and you want to use fresh then all you have to do is triple the amount and use the ratio 1:3, 1 tablespoon fresh herbs to 1 teaspoon dried (although I often find myself using way more!) Here is an Herb Roasted Farro Salad Recipe that uses three whole cups of fresh herbs.
If you are creative you can find so many different ways to weave herbs into your clean eating recipes. Here are just a few ideas to whet your appetite and get you excited about cooking with herbs:
I almost always have an herb-infused jar of some sort of sensational dressing in my fridge at all times to jazz up my daily salad. You can search online for a wide number of herb-based dressings but here is one I particularly like…Print
Mixed Herb Dressing
This mixed herb dressing is incredibly flavorful and packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients.
- Prep Time:5 mins
- Total Time:5 mins
- Category:Salad Dressing
- Cuisine:Clean Eating
- Clean Cuisine Mixed Herb Dressing:
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped mixed herbs (basil, chervil, chives, parsley & mint)
- ½ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (or unrefined avocado oil)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Unrefined sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Beat the chopped herbs into the olive oil. Beat in the vinegar and mustard. Season to taste, then add the garlic. Store in the fridge in a covered container for 3 days
I eat a large fresh salad every single day and I almost always add at least ½ cup of chopped herbs, usually basil, parsley or cilantro but depending on the flavors of the salad I might also use mint or chives too.
Bean, Corn, Whole Grain Salads & Pilafs:
Finely chopped herbs find their way into just about every bean, corn, whole grain salad and pilaf recipe of mine too. The secret to using herbs with these dishes is to make sure they are chopped ultra-fine. I like to use my mini food processor to do this job.
Salsas and Toppings:
Herbs are perfect for forming the flavor base of salsas and toppings for fish, chicken, meats or grilled tofu.
The salsa verde recipe below is on of my favorite standbys….Print
This salsa verde recipe is made with lots of fresh herbs. It’s the perfect healthy condiment for grilled chicken, shrimp or meat.
- Prep Time:10 mins
- Total Time:10 mins
- Cuisine:Clean Eating
- ¾ cup parsley leaves
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- 1/3 cup mint
- 1/3 cup basil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 7 green olives, pitted
- 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
- 2 anchovy filets, rinsed and chopped
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ½ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, flax oil or macadamia nut oil
- Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Put all the ingredients, except the oil, in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste. Gradually blend in the oil to form a sauce, then add the salt and pepper to taste.
Green Fruity Smoothies:
Believe it or not, I also use herbs, mostly basil, cilantro, parsley and mint, in my daily green fruit smoothies too.
Here’s one of my favorite green fruity smoothie recipes…Print
Thai Style Pineapple-Cilantro Smoothie
This Thai Style Pineapple Cilantro Smoothie is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up!
- Prep Time:5 mins
- Total Time:5 mins
- Category:green smoothie recipe
- Cuisine:clean eating
- 3 cups ice cold water
- 1 handful cilantro
- 1 handful parsley
- 1 cup frozen pineapple
- 1-inch fresh ginger
- 1 or 2 medjool dates
- 1/2 cup ice
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- Add the water, cilantro, parsley, pineapple, ginger, dates and ice to a high-speed blender (such as a VitaMix) and process until smooth and creamy. Stir in the chia seeds. Drink cold.
Name Dropping … 3 of My Favorite Clean Cuisine Herbs & Tasty Tips for Cooking With Herbs
Oregano contains numerous phytonutrients, including thymol and rosmarinic acid, that have also been shown to function as potent anti-aging phytonutrients. According to a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, oregano has forty-two times more antioxidant activity than apples, thirty times more than potatoes, twelve times more than oranges and…most surprising of all…four times more than blueberries! The warm, aromatic flavor of oregano is particularly delicious for boosting flavors of Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine. I like to whisk minced oregano into vinaigrettes or mix with olive oil, lemon slices, olives and capers to make a marinade for fish.
There are actually over 30 varieties of parsley, but the one I use most is the peppery Italian (or flat-leaf) variety. Parsley is best known for its detoxification properties and it’s the world’s most popular herb. I actually routinely put a big handful of parsley in my daily green smoothies (it’s delicious when blended with frozen pineapple, frozen mango and coconut water). In addition to its detoxifying properties parsley is also rich in phytonutrients as well as vitamin K, calcium and a mega amount of vitamin A. And, did you know the ergosterols found in parsley are Vitamin D precursors? So eating more parsley can actually help boost your vitamin D levels…something most of us could certainly use! P.S. I often shred parsley in my food processor and sprinkle it on top of salads, soups and whole grain pilafs. DELISH!
Rosemary is chock full of a wide variety of specific phytonutrients called flavonoids. It’s also rich in antioxidants like vitamin E. Rosemary has particularly strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to be helpful for people with inflammatory conditions like asthma and even heart disease. The phytonutrients in rosemary also aid in detoxification by enhancing the action of liver enzymes responsible for metabolizing and detoxifying chemicals. One of my favorite ways to eat rosemary is to dip sprouted whole grain bread (I like Food for Life brand) in a mixture of chopped fresh rosemary, flax oil (I like Barlean’s brand), salt and freshly ground pepper. It’s also great for sprinkling on just about any vegetable just before roasting.
Hopefully I have excited you just a wee bit and enticed you to start cooking with herbs more regularly! The one drawback to using fresh herbs is that they can be costly. If you have the outdoor space, I highly recommend you consider planting a little culinary herb garden. You can read more about how to save money growing your own herbs in our upcoming article (April 19th).