Cooking With Fresh Herbs

Enhance your cooking with the flavors of fresh, fragrant herbs.

Fresh herbs add brightness and flavor to almost any dish. Here's a cheat sheet on 10 basic herbs and how to use them to your best advantage.

Bought too much of one fresh herb? Try freezing the leftovers—first spread out on a cookie sheet so the leaves won't stick together, then transfer to an air-tight container. Grab a few sprigs from the freezer when you're ready to use again. Frozen herbs will retain their flavor for several months.

A key ingredient in Mediterranean food, basil is a summer herb that can be grown year-round in a sunny window. It has a wonderfully pungent flavor and perfumy aroma. Wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel, fresh basil can be stored in the refrigerator for four days. Or preserve a bunch of fresh basil by placing it stems down in a glass of water with the leaves covered by a plastic bag (try this with any leafy herb). Use it in Summer Tomato Soup, classic Pesto or Grilled Fish with Lemon, Mint and Basil.

Cilantro is a "controversial" herb—some love its distinctive flavor, others describe it as "soapy." Cilantro is called coriander in Europe, as it is the same plant that produces coriander seeds. The leaves are widely used in Asian, Caribbean and Latin American cuisines. It can be found year-round in the produce section of supermarkets, sold in bunches. Look for those with even-colored leaves and no sign of wilting, and store it in a plastic bag for up to one week in the refrigerator. Try it in Seared Prawns with Mint-Cilantro Chutney, Cilantro-Tequila Grilled Chicken or Mahi Mahi with Cilantro Pesto.

A member of the green onion (scallion) family, this herb has slender hollow stems that should be bright green. They have a mild onion flavor and can be used in a variety of dishes, but make sure to add them at the end for optimal flavor. Store chives in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Chive blossoms are lavender flowers that can be used as a pretty, edible addition to salads. Chopped finely, they are always a great addition to Mashed Potatoes, adding a burst of color and flavor. Or spruce up seafood with a Meyer Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette.

Peppermint and spearmint are the two most widely available species of this bright-flavored, sweet-smelling herb. Peppermint leaves have purple-tinged stems and a peppery flavor; spearmint is milder and more frequently used in cooking. Mint is plentiful during the summer but available in grocery stores year-round. Don't limit your use of mint to drinks and dessert garnishes; it is delicious in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Lamb with mint is a classic pairing—try Grilled Marinated Lamb with Mache and Mint—and mint also tastes great in Pesto.