Thursday, April 30, 2020

On Adapting Herbs in Recipes

Herbs are such a personal preference.  If you ask someone with a sensitive palate many things will be "too spicy," and if you ask someone like me, many things will be "too bland" or as I often say flat.  We often equate "spicey" with hot, but some equate it with too much going on in a dish.


In Tuesday's article, On Ingredient Adaptations, I touched briefly on the easy part of herb adaptation, exchanging fresh for dried and vice versa - 1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried.  But what if you don't like a certain herb and the flavor it lends to a dish?  The easiest option is to leave it out.  The trouble with leaving it out could be that your dish will fall flat or taste like it's missing something.  Now for those with a sensitive palate, that might be ok, but for someone who likes bold flavors, disappointment will be on the horizon.

Thyme:
I dislike the flavor of this herb intensely.  To me, it tastes like dirt, and not in the earthy good way like sprouts do.  I won't have it in my kitchen and I don't like dishes cooked with it.  Thyme can be swapped for marjoram, rosemary, oregano, or sage.  My swap is almost always oregano.

Cilantro:
I for one love cilantro, and feel there is no sub, but there are those that think it tastes like soap.  Did you know that's actually genetic?  Yep.  It's true.  If you think cilantro tastes like soap it's in your genes and you can learn more about that here.  If you really must you can try swapping it for mint, parsley, basil.

Basil:
This is another favorite in our house.  I'm a sucker for a good Caprese salad and I don't feel homemade pizza is complete without a good shake of dried basil.  My mom, on the other hand, isn't a fan.  She will often leave it out or swap it for Italian seasoning, which still has basil in it but it's less potent in a seasoning mix.  You can also swap this for oregano, thyme, or parsley.

Oregano:
I'm a bit of an oregano snob, I prefer Mexican oregano over the Italian version.  Mexican oregano has a much stronger flavor, but for those looking to move away from it, this isn't the swap you're looking for.  Oregano can be swapped for Marjoram, thyme, basil, and in some dishes sage.

Rosemary:
For some, this one is a bit of an acquired taste because of the more "piney" than they care for.  I don't use a lot of rosemary, but it's amazing with chicken and pork.  If you don't want to bring the woods into your food you can swap it for sage, thyme, or savory.

Available from Amazon
I've only selected some of the more common herbs called for in recipes.  The reference books used for today's article are as follows.

Food Lover's Companion.  This is quite possibly the most used book in my kitchen library.  I have the First Edition, and really should upgrade to the faith edition, as it's grown from 3000 terms to 7200.  This book lives by our kitchen table for ease of access.

The Food Substitution Bible, Second Edition.  As I mentioned in Tuesday's article, this book is a great resource to add to your kitchen library.  Great information substitutions for ingredients, equipment, and techniques.

Available from Amazon
The Spice and Herb Bible.  Great book for learning about all those amazing herbs and spices.  This book includes information on origin and history, processing, buying and storage, and use.  There are also lists for each herb that include flavor compliments, what it combines well with, and dishes it's used in.  This book also includes recipes.

If you have a specific swap you're looking for please let me know in the comments below.

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