Aromatic, flavorful and Good for You
Rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon – these herbs can be found at home in most spice racks, but they are all potent allies for health. This idea can be summarized by the wonderful saying, “Let thy food be thy medicine;” or, to put it bluntly, “You are what you eat.”
Traditionally, herbs were used in cooking to help us digest our food and to absorb and assimilate its nutrients. We stuff chickens with rosemary and garlic, add turmeric to our curry and oregano to our spaghetti for extra flavor, without even realizing the powerful health benefits contained therein. Rosemary is a carminative herb, which means that it may prevent gas from forming in the GI tract. It’s warming and stimulating to the circulatory system, and tonic to the nervous system. It is antiviral and antibacterial, and combines wonderfully with garlic, a powerful antioxidant. Oregano and thyme are both antimicrobial (antiviral and antibacterial) and are helpful in preventing sickness and infection. Turmeric, which hails from the ginger family and is native to Asia, has been used in Indian cuisine for thousands of years. It is also carminative and antimicrobial, and is used to reduce inflammation in the GI tract and the liver. It tones the cardiovascular system and is said to inhibit tumor growth. It’s warming and mild which makes it a great meal addition. Cinnamon and cayenne are also carminative herbs that aid in the digestive process.
These are just a few of the medicinal herbs that can be found in the kitchen. Below are a few healthy and delicious winter recipes using herbs:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, finely chopped
6 whole cloves
2 (2 inch) sticks cinnamon, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 (15 ounce) cans garbanzo beans
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Pinch of salt
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add onions, frying until tender. Add garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne and turmeric. Cook for one minute over medium heat and mix in the garbanzo beans (with their juice). Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients are blended together and evenly cooked. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro just before serving.
Feel Better Herbal Soup
1 cup steamed vegetables of your choice
1 cup water
2 tsp. miso paste
2-4 cloves garlic
1 tsp. fresh ginger
Several sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tbsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. umeboshi plum paste or sauerkraut (optional)
Put miso paste, garlic, ginger, rosemary plum paste and water in blender. Blend while slowly adding steamed vegetables. Add more water if necessary. Garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro. This soup is strong and potent and great for kicking out a winter cold.
Herbes de Provence
3 tbsp. dried marjoram
3 tbsp. dried thyme
3 tbsp. dried savory
1 tsp. dried rosemary
½ tsp. dried sage
½ tsp. fennel seeds
Combine ingredients, mix well and store in a tightly sealed jar for up to one year. Herbes de Provence are a blend of aromatic herbs that traditionally grow in the South of France. They can be used to season meat, fish and sauces.
Herbes de Provence Chicken
1 lb. boneless chicken breast
1/8 cup flour
½ tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup wine
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
Fresh rosemary, basil or parsley (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste
Mix flour and paprika and role the chicken breast in it. Heat oil in a large pot and brown the chicken. Remove chicken and sauté the garlic over low-medium heat.
Add wine, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan, and cook on high until a sauce begins to form. Turn heat back down to low and add the chicken. Sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and bake at 300 for one hour, or until chicken is fully cooked, but tender.
A note about fresh vs. dried herbs: Fresh herbs are lovely and easy to grow, while dried herbs are great for convenience, and during the winter months. Dried can always be substituted for fresh. To dry your own herbs, simply tie a string around a bunch of sprigs and hang in a dark, dry place at room temperature for about a week. Then remove leaves from stem and store in an airtight container in a dry, dark place. Dried herbs usually maintain optimal freshness for about a year. Wishing you aromatic cooking!