There’s a reason why Fairway is famous for being the tastemaker of the food industry — why we’re in newspapers and magazines all the time, why foodies consider Fairway not just rock ‘n’ roll but symphonically orchestral. It’s because we cook. Constantly. We think we probably cook better than you — a lot better. But it’s not because we’re naturally better cooks. We’re going to let you in on a secret: Our food tastes better because of fresh herbs, and your food can taste just as good. Fresh herbs augment and amplify flavors lurking silently within meats and poultry, fish, crustaceans (like shrimp) and cephalopods (like octopus), and all vegetables. They even amp up the taste of starches like pasta, rice, potatoes, and polenta.
A fresh herb wakes up food, and the reason has nothing to do with power or intensity. A dried herb is usually more powerful than a fresh herb, with exceptions like basil and parsley. The difference is about clarity, brightness, nuance, and a certain baffling ineffability. “Ineffable” means an inability to define or describe with words, and fresh herbs do just that. They make food taste bigger, brighter, more complex and ultimately more memorable. You won’t forget the red snapper you pan-fried with chiffonades (thin ribbons) of fresh tarragon. You won’t forget the Bolognese sauce you made with ground veal and chopped sirloin, fresh thyme and fresh sage. You won’t forget that chicken you roasted stuffed with preserved lemons, whole cloves of garlic, fresh savory and fresh rosemary. That garlicky mayonnaise you hand-made as a sauce for your fresh chervil and fresh marjoram-poached salmon was earth-shakingly scrumptious because at the last moment you whipped minced fresh dill and fresh parsley into it, which not only made it taste ethereal, but also gave it an alluring herbal hue.
Always experiment. Read the great food books by the great food writers, and absorb their advice. Be aware of which foods have an affinity for specific herbs. Handle them expertly, and they will reveal their robust flavor. Never chop fresh basil — always tear it. Fresh rosemary must be bruised (carefully swatted with the side of a knife) to release its magic. You’ll see and taste what I’m talking about, and you’ll get it. Soon, fresh herbs will be your secret friends.
Is there an herb you love? How do you use it to create delicious dishes? Don’t keep those pearls of wisdom to yourself — post a comment, below.