Blogs > Cooking from Scratch

Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Culinary Herbs

Soon our local farmer’s markets will be springing up in communities all over Michigan with fruits, vegetables, farm-fresh eggs, chickens, and many other things that spark a curious cook’s imagination. Culinary herbs can also be found amongst the roses, ferns and other foliage available. Cooking with herbs is a terrific way to add flavor and nuance to your food without adding extra calories and fat.

Basil, parsley, thyme & rosemary are perhaps the most common herbs that people grow in their pots and window boxes, but there are many other herbs that will flourish in your culinary garden. Consider adding oregano or lemon thyme verbena as well.

As a general rule, I tell people to use fresh herbs whenever possible – even when it isn’t growing season. I can’t think of an instance when I ever use dried herbs. The flavor of fresh herbs is far superior to anything that is dried.

If your thumb isn’t green, you can always buy herbs in bunches at the grocery store. Most of the time, the herbs are sold in very large bundles that many people end up throwing away. To add life to your store bought herbs, simply fill a vase or a tall container with cold water and store your herbs, stem-end down in the refrigerator. Doing this will keep your herbs crisp and fresh.

To learn more about using herbs & spices, check out our class schedule at Our upcoming class, “Marinades & Rubs” will feature recipes that will use a multiplicity of herbs to enhance your recipes. To get you started, here is our favorite Basic Pesto recipe. Remember – a recipe is only a guideline! Feel free to make changes to suit your tastes!

Basic Pesto –
4 cups loosely packed basil leaves
*do not use stems

3 cloves garlic, smashed
¾ cup pine nuts, toasted
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
*DO NOT use any other type of Parmesan cheese!

2 teaspoons Academia Barilla balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste
1 cup Academia Barilla olive oil

Place basil, garlic, and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth. While the machine is running, drizzle in oil, using enough to make a paste. Add cheese and just pulse briefly to combine. Season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. Store up to a week in an air-tight container or freeze up to three months.

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Blogger Bill Bresler said...

I've substituted toasted walnuts. They have a strong flavor that stands up to the basil and really works with a good pasta.

May 2, 2010 at 5:50 PM 

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