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5 Superb Herbs

DCI

If you're like us, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen scratching your head over which herbs will best complement your dish. There are so many different ones to choose from that it can be overwhelming, to say the least. 

While we're all for experimentation, we decided to make it a bit easier for you.  Read up on these five superb herbs and then check out some of the recipes by Curtis that utilizes them.  We guarantee they'll put a little spice in your life (or at least in your meals). 

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DCI

Thanks to the growing percentage of pesto lovers, basil has recently enjoyed a sprout in popularity — quickly becoming one of the most used herbs in the kitchen. Not only is basil versatile, it is considered by many enthusiasts as tops among the herb family. The next time you want to impress someone with a zesty dish — like Curtis' Linguini with Turkey Meatballs — consider using basil!

Origins and Folklore

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Although basil is most commonly associated with Italian or Thai foods, it originated in India.

According to folklore, basil was a symbol of love and fertility in Italy. As time passed, it became a custom in Romania for suitors to wear a sprig of basil once engaged to be married.

How to Grow

Basil is an excellent growing herb. Purchase some small basil plants from a garden shop and plant in rich, well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine and water. 

Be sure to remove flowers for increased growth all summer. Basil does not tolerate frost, so bring your plants indoors before your first cold spell.

When cooking with fresh basil leaves, layer in damp paper towels and place inside a plastic bag for up to four days in the refrigerator.

Usage

Basil is a tomato's best friend. Almost any dish that has tomatoes in it will benefit from a dash of basil. According to the Herb Companion Cooks cookbook, basil's flavor can be described as tasting like "orange peel and sage."  This herb complements a wide assortment of dishes, including meat, poultry, fish, soups and salads, and is the shining star in pesto!

Basil is also a versatile herb and has many uses outside the kitchen. Try adding a few fresh leaves to your bath for an invigorating soak. To handle those pesky mosquitoes, burn sprigs of basil on the grill at your next outdoor party. A pot of basil by the kitchen window will deter flies.

Chef Stone's Recipes

Now that you've got a greater appreciation for this superb herb, pick up a bunch during your next shopping trip and try these delicious recipes from Curtis for your next meal.

Marinated and Grilled Bison Rib Eye With Pasilla Salsa

Linguini With Turkey Meatballs and Ragu of Tomatoes and Roasted Peppers

Deep Fried Eggplant and Mozzarella with Basil

Risotto of Wild Mushrooms, Parmesan and Basil

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DCI

The Italians may love their oregano, but its cousin marjoram is preferred by the French. Curtis makes exceptional use of this sweet pine and citrus flavored herb in his recipe for  Grilled Pork Chops.  Read on to learn what makes this herb so superb.

Origins and Folklore

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Marjoram enjoys a long and favorable history. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans would crown bridal couples with wreaths of marjoram to symbolize love, honor and happiness. To ancient Egyptians, marjoram was considered a symbol of happiness.

How to Grow

Marjoram prospers in dry regions and grows 2 to 4 feet in height. Don't let the height fool you; marjoram can be grown as a houseplant while still small. 

Placed in a sunny windowsill, you can enjoy this aromatic herb during the cold months and move it outdoors once the danger of frost has passed. If you have limited gardening space, try planting marjoram in a container on your patio or deck.

Usage

Marjoram is considered "the heart and soul" of Mediterranean cuisine.  Best used fresh, this herb is a great addition to many dishes, including soups, stews, vegetables, stuffing, and salads. Marjoram is also a signature ingredient to poultry stuffing.

If you want to use dried marjoram, it is best used to flavor sauces and a good option for slow-cooking stews and sauces.

Marjoram is also used in perfumes and makes a fragrant bath.

Chef Stone's Recipe

Try these delicious recipes to experiment with Marjoram.

Oven-Roasted Organic Chicken With Garlic Marjoram Butter

Grilled Pork Chops With Roasted Yams and Marjoram

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DCI

Mint is a sweet-smelling, hardy herb that can be used in many beverages, sauces, vegetable dishes and desserts.  Curtis uses mint in many of his dishes, but it would be a sin to pass on the Sautéed Baby Bananas With Sour Cream, Spearmint, Chili and Lime.  Read on to learn more about this herb's sordid past and then get cooking!

Origins and Folklore

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Mint plays a big part in Greek mythology. According to legend, Menthe — a Greek nymph and Pluto's lover — angered Pluto's wife, Persephone, who in a fit of rage cast a spell turning Menthe into a plant that could be walked upon. 

The myth goes on to state that Pluto was unable to reverse the spell.  However, he was able to soften it by giving Menthe a sweet scent that would perfume the air when her leaves were stepped on — thus giving us the aromatic herb mint. 

Whether you believe the myth or not, there's no denying the sweet-smelling scent of mint and its value in cooking.

In later times, mint was seen as a symbol of hospitality. Southern ladies and gentlemen created a popular summer cocktail with this fragrant herb. They can often still be found sipping mint juleps on a hot, summer afternoon.

How to Grow

Mint is not conducive to growing indoors, because it can quickly outgrow any pot or container. Growing mint in your garden is easy, as mint practically grows itself. In fact, if you're not careful, mint can take over your whole garden. 

Mint prefers partial shade and moist, moderately rich soil, but it will also prosper in any light from full sun to full shade. To encourage regrowth, pinch off the stem ends each spring.

Usage

Spearmint is best for sauces. Spearmint or peppermint sprigs can be added to drinks and fruit dishes as a garnish. 

It also makes a refreshing tea. Peppermint makes an excellent flavoring for ice cream, chocolates and other desserts.

Chef Stone's Recipes

Try these unique recipes and see for yourself how mint really adds to a dish!

Artichokes Filled With Pork, Mint and Pine Nuts

Sautéed Baby Bananas With Sour Cream, Spearmint, Chili and Lime

Melon Salad with Honey and Mint Dressing

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DCI

In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, the character Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."  With dishes like Leg of Lamb With Honey and a Rosemary Crust, you can rest assured Curtis hasn't forgotten about this favorable herb.  Read more to refresh your memory about rosemary and why it makes any dish delicious!

Origins and Folklore

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Rosemary is a member of the mint family and typically grows naturally on the Mediterranean coast. It is also grown in other areas in France, Spain and Portugal.

Rosemary has just about as many tales and myths as it does useful purposes. To name a few, rosemary is a symbol of remembrance and friendship, and is still often carried by wedding couples as a sign of love and fidelity.

In the Middle Ages, rosemary was believed to protect against evil spirits and nightmares. Rosemary was burned, consumed or carried to avoid foul odors and witchcraft.

How to Grow

Rosemary is considered a perennial and grows well in warm climates. It is vulnerable to frost and can be grown as an annual in other parts of the country.

Plants can be grown indoors until they get big. Rosemary grows to an average of 5 feet tall. Move your plants outside during warmer months. They will look and grow well in your garden, along the house or in big containers.

Usage

Rosemary's flavor is best described as having a pine taste. It lends itself easily to meats, potatoes, and breads. It is a common ingredient in marinades and soups. Rosemary also makes a refreshing addition to a summer drink, like tea or lemonade.

Dried rosemary is available in several forms at most local grocery stores. When using fresh sprigs of rosemary, remove the leaves from the stem and chop them into smaller pieces before adding to your recipe.

Rosemary is used in other household products, including potpourris, disinfectants and shampoos. It has also been used as a moth repellent.

Chef Stone's Recipes

Leg of Lamb With Honey and a Rosemary Crust

Grilled Organic Whole Wheat Bread With Garlic and Rosemary-Infused Oil

Grilled Lamb Chops With Rosemary and Garlic

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DCI

According to folklore, thyme is a symbol of courage.  Curtis cooks up daring dishes like  — Standing Roast Rib of Beef With Dijon and Garlic and Yorkshire Puddings  — with this herb.  The next time you want to be adventurous in your kitchen, be brave and experiment with this herb.

Origins and Folklore

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Thyme dates back to ancient Greece, where it symbolized courage. Roman soldiers bathed in water infused with thyme to gain vigor, courage and strength. 

In the Middle Ages, ladies embroidered a sprig of thyme on the scarves of knights for bravery.

How to Grow

Thyme is indigenous to southern Europe and therefore grows best in a hot, dry climate. Even though it's accustomed to hot surroundings, it can still thrive in a backyard garden. 

Try planting several thyme varieties in a window box for an easy growing experiment. Since thyme is such a hardy herb, it doesn't need much water or fertilizer.

If you want to try growing thyme indoors, use a pot with good drainage — like a strawberry pot — and place it in the kitchen window.

Usage

Thyme is considered an essential ingredient in clam chowder, bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock and various stews), and herbes de Provence (a mix of aromatic plants, typically but not always dried). 

This herb is frequently used dried, but its fresh form adds more flavors to a recipe and also makes for an attractive garnish. Before using fresh thyme, remove the grayish leaves from the stem.

Chef Stone's Recipes

Thyme is a versatile accompaniment to many dishes. Try one of Curtis' recipes below to get started using thyme. 

Standing Roast Rib of Beef With Dijon and Garlic and Yorkshire Puddings

Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup

Risotto of Lobster With Green Peas

Thyme-Roasted Acorn Squash

Salad of Baby Beets With Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar

Coq Au Vin

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