Whether it’s a spoonful or a sprinkle, herbs add personality to all sorts of dishes, from appetizers to main dishes, and even desserts. Here’s how to prep and chop herbs, plus tips for using them.
How to Choose and Store Fresh Herbs
- Choose herbs that have fresh-looking leaves without brown spots. Since most herbs are highly perishable, purchase them as you need them. Or consider keeping a few pots of herbs on a sunny windowsill or growing them in your garden.
- To store fresh herbs, cut 1/2 inch from the bottoms of the stems. Stand the herbs in a jar of water. The fresh cut allows the herbs to drink up more of the water. Loosely cover the leaves with a plastic bag. Store the herbs in the refrigerator, with the exception of basil, which fares better when stored at room temperature since it tends to blacken when chilled. Pull off and discard wilted leaves as they appear.
Wash Herbs Before Using
- Thoroughly rinse fresh herbs under cool water and pat dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner to wash, drain, and dry them.
To remove the leaves from an herb stem, hold onto the stem with one hand and strip the leaves into a bowl using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand. This works especially well for thyme and rosemary.
- An easy way to cut larger fresh herbs is to place the leaves in a measuring cup or bowl and snip them withkitchen scissors, using short, quick strokes. For herbs with tough stems, such as rosemary, strip the leaves from the stems first as directed above.
- You can also chop fresh herbs with achef’s knife. Place the herbs on a cutting surface. Using a rocking motion from the tip to the heel of the knife, chop the herbs to the desired size.
This method creates thin strips or shreds. For a chiffonade of herbs, roll up larger leaves and cut across the roll with a large knife. This works especially well with basil leaves.
- Crushing dried herbs helps to release their aromatic oils and bring out the flavor. This is easy to do. Just before using, place the dried herb in a mortar and gently grind briefly with a pestle. Or place the herb in the palm of your hand and press and rub it with the thumb of your other hand. You can also rub the herb between the thumb and two fingers of one hand.
- To substitute a dried herb for fresh, use about one-third the amount of dried herb for the fresh herb called for in the recipe (for example, substitute 1 teaspoon dried herb for 1 tablespoon snipped fresh herb).
- Add dried herb to a recipe at the beginning of the cooking time to allow the flavors to seep into the dish.
5 Quick Ways to Use Chopped Fresh Herbs
- Sprinkle snipped cilantro atop tortilla soup, chili, or tacos before serving.
- Toss steamed broccoli or asparagus with melted butter seasoned with snipped fresh thyme leaves.
- Combine snipped fresh rosemary, minced garlic, salt, ground black pepper, and olive oil; brush atop steaks before grilling or onto chicken before roasting.
- Garnish omelets, pasta dishes, or vegetable soup with snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley just before serving.
- Toss sliced strawberries with a chiffonade of mint leaves and a spoonful of sugar for a light dessert.