Rivercities Garden Club

Meeting 4/11/10

Program - Cooking With Herbs

Chef  John Strand did much more than give the club the lecture on the use of herbs in cooking. He brought before items to demonstrate many of the flavor dimensions that herbs can add to cooking.

He brought a saute of acorn squash having fresh garlic and teregon butter; a herb encrusted pork Scarbouro fair tenderloin tenderloin (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme; sun dried tomato basal bread; and a puff pastry topped with Swiss cheese and herbs sage, rosemary dill, carroway seeds.

Questions and answers -

Should we use fresh or dry herbs?

Chef Strand says "yes".  Use both. It depends upon the herb and its intended use.  Bay leaf when it is fresh is very bitter and when dry mellow with an excellent flavors.  Some dried herbs have no flavor at all.  Fresh parsley has a huge impact on flavor.  It is nutritionally powerful having many antioxidants and other health benefits.

Rosemary has decent amount of  usage and function.  This herb is very potent when used fresh. Take time to bruise the leaves as this releases the oils contained in the leaves.  Basal requires bruise or fine chopping.

What is the proper ratio for substituting dry vs. fresh herbs?

There is no definite ratio.   It depends on herb itself.  Herbs rich in natural oils will require more dried herb for substitution.  Others like  tarragon the dry form has significant amount flavor almost 1:1 with the fresh variety.  Thyme however is much more potent fresh than than it is dry.

What is the difference between a herb and a spice?

Herbs consist of the leafy parts of a plant.  Spices are made from the seeds, bark, or stems.

Cillantro for example is a herb using the leaves of the plant.  Coriander can be both, the herb from the leaves and the spice from the stems & bark.

How do you store herbs?

Generally storing herbs  will preserve the flavors for about 30-60 days.  Dry herbs have a longer shelf life.

To dry herbs -  get two corrugated airconditioning filters.  Put herbs in the groves then cover with second filter to hold them in place.  Put the filters in front of window or fan. The filter prevents contamination.  Don't use a warm oven as it will deplete the oils.

To store in oil -  use olive oil not virgin as this has floral aspect which may diminish impact of your herb.  Canola oil can also be used as a substitute.

To freeze - use when look pretty when looks not important.  Freeze in a block of ice which will preserve flavor.  Of course, the frozen herbs cannot be used as a garnish.

When should I use ground vs whole herbs and spices?

Don't by ground.  Buy whole and ground up what you will be immediately using.  The flavors will be protected much longer.

How can I figure out how to use the herbs I am growing?

Use the Internet and find an herb table which will provide you the information you want.   Go to Google and search images for "herb chart"  One such chart from Emeril is: http://www.emerilsproduce.com/inseason/index.php?id=19&outSeason=Fresh+Herbs




Rose Germanium Pound Cake Recipe

Lavender Shortbread Cookies Recipe

This famous cake freezes well and is equally delectable served with fresh  fruit 01· vanilla sauce in place of the Lemon Curd.


  • 10-12 rose geranium leaves, stems removed

  • 1 1/2 cups butter 

  • 3 cups vanilla sugar (or add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if using  plain sugar)

  • 5 eggs 

  • 3 cups sifted flour 

  • 6 ounces lemon-lime soda (do not use diet soda) 

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

  • Lemon Curd (below) 

  • Additional rose geranium leaf for garnish 


Grease and flour a l O-inch Bundt or  tube cake pan. Place geranium leaves face down on bottom of pan, tearing some leaves apart to fill in completely. Preheat oven to 325°.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one a!i;a time, beating well between each addition. Add flour alternately with soda, beating well. Stir in lemon juice.

Pour batter into prepared cake pan, smoothing top. Bake 1-1\4 hours. If necessary to prevent over- browning (ovens vary), place a piece of aluminum foil lightly over the cake toward end of baking. After cake is removed from oven, cool for 10 minutes; invert carefully on plate.

Slice cake and serve wilh warm Lemon Curd. Garnish with fresh rose geranium leaf. Yields

15-20 slices.

These buttery shortbread cookies can be adjusted to how much you like lavender and mint.


  • 1 1/2 cups softened butter 

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar 

  • 1/4 cup sifted confectioner's sugar 

  • 2 Tbsp lavender flowers, chopped fine 

  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint 

  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon peel 

  • 2 1/2 cups flour 

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch 

  • 1/4 tsp salt 

Directions .. 

Cream butter and add next 5 ingredients.  Mix with electric mixer on low until light and fluffy. Add the last 3 ingredients and mix well.  Divide dough in half, flatten, cover and chill until firm.  Preheat oven to 325°.

Roll out to 1/2" thickness on floured surface and cut into 1 1/2" circles; press designs on top. (Or, you can use cookie cutters.) Bake 18 to 20 minutes on parchment covered cookie sheets.

Cool slightly and transfer to wire rack. Approximately 2 dozen, depending on size of cookie. Optional: When cool, dust lightly with powdered sugar flavored with lavender flowers.





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