Look what you get
when you pick up a handful of herbs:
the fat. Away with those creamy, buttery sauces! All your taste-buds need
is a squeeze of lemon, a dash of pepper and a sprinkling of chives. Theyre
fail-safe taste-enhancers, your fresh mint sprigs and spry cilantro.
Those aromas fill up your senses, making you feel like you are indulging,
even when you are not. Allspice and peppercorns, for instance, lend sharpness
and pep to fat-free marinades.
What you dont
get from your herbs is equally important.
makes you retain water, tipping the bathroom scales and undermining your
efforts to lose weight.
and thyme, parsely and marjoram
high on flavor, zero in calories
So fall in love with
the bountiful world of herbs and spicesyouve got nothing to
Here, 25 vibrant
ideas to start you off:
- Spike tomato juice
with a pinch of caraway seeds and a few mint leaves. Add three ice-cubes.
Excellent for non-drinkers at cocktail parties.
- When boiling rice,
throw in a few sprigs of mint or cilantro just before the rice is done.
Squirt half a lemon too at this timeit lends tang and fluffs out
- Quarter a firm tomato
and blend with cilantro, cumin and a pinch of sea salt. Toss with corn
niblets, and lay the colorful paste on a bed of crisp whole-wheat toast.
Butter? Whats that?
- Warm some olive
oil in a pan. Throw in a teaspoon of oregano seeds. Wait for the aroma
to rise, then pitch in some mashed potatoes and fry on high heat for three
minutes. Flavor with fresh chopped fenugreek leaves--and lemon to balance
out the slightly bitter flavor.
- Wheatgrass grows
quick, looks cute on your kitchen window and fills you with vitamins.
Grab a handful every morning--chop it up and sprinkle the power grass
on salads and in lentils.
- Fry crushed red
chilli flakes and minced garlic in olive oil. Add to soup pot for instant
pep. Ayurveda recommends chillies for "kapha" or phlegmatic
- Dish up some colorful,
soft-flavored rice tonight. Bring home the Indian basmati variety. Stir
three strands of saffron into half a cup of warm oil, and add to the water
in which you cook rice. Add crushed seeds of one green cardamom when done.
yellow spice, lends that distinct golden colour to Indian curries. Ayurveda
also considers it an anitbiotic and a terrific digestive.
- Roast a tablespoon
each of whole coriander seeds with cumin, and pound together. Mix this
with boiled garbanzo beans, and moisten with lemon juice. No salt required
for this healthy snack.
- Boil potatoes and
scoop out the centres. Fill the hollows with a paste of mint , rock salt
and olive oil. Bake on high for fifteen minutes and you have hot, minty
potatoes, bursting with flavor.
- Try this sense-gratifying
marinade: blend ginger with garlic, sesame oil, mustard and green chillies.
Dunk vegetables in this for a good hour or so, then grill. Luscious.
- Cook tofu with kidney
beans, olive oil, chile powder, turmeric and tomatoes. Toss in yoghurt,
chopped onion and minced coriander.
- Plain white steamed
rice is great on its own, but one bay leaf helps release the aroma. Max
the impact with two cloves. A pinch of turmeric will make it look nice
- Bake acorn or butternut
squash with a cracked cinnamon stick. Spike with black pepper and cilantro
- Microwave cumin
seeds till they release their unique aromabe careful not to burn
them. Then pound with onion, cilantro leaves and roasted peanuts for an
instant, flavorful chutney.
- Pick up the freshest
green beans you can find. Chop and steam for five to ten minutes, then
mix with cooked yellow split lentils. Flavor with slices of raw tomato,
crushed garlic and black peppercorns.
- Do a home-made platter
of roasted vegetables like bell peppers, squash, eggplant. When just about
done, drizzle some hot ghee on the veggies and top with dried basil or
- Take away the salt
and pepper shakers from your table. Substitute with one each for grated
nutmeg, dried and crushed fenugreek leaves, and powdered cinnamon.
- Fines Herbs is a
traditional French mixture of four fresh or dried herbs including parsley,
chervil, chives and tarragon. Sprinkle over fresh salads or gravies just
at the end of their cooking.
- Try a herbal pasta
sauce. Just take half a teaspoon each of fresh rosemary, thyme and basil,
and toss in garlic.
- Cilantro cuts the
hotness of foods, so its a good idea to sprinkle it as a garnish
- Fry green tomatoes
with basil leaves. Tenderise tomatoes on slow flame, cover bread with
basil leaves and sandwich.
- Soak sun-dried tomatoes
in hot stock until soft. Puree with basil and herb vinegar. Use as an
alternative to oil-based dressing.
- Shred one cucumber
with a small sprig of mint. Add aroma with roasted and ground cumin seeds,
and color with a pinch of paprika.
- Make sun-oil. Spike
a cupful of sunflower oil with vegetable salt, your favourite herbs or
fresh garlic. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
Touring The Kitchen
Basil: The Indian
variety of basil, called "tulsi", is the protective spirit of
the Hindu family. For ages, vaidyas have used it as a disinfecting and air-purifying
herb. Water boiled with basil leaves is considered extremely beneficial
in boosting immunity.
grassy member of the onion family grows well outdoors or in window-sill
pots. Just clip it regularly, and it will flourish. Use fresh in salads
and with mildly spiced vegetable dishes.
Dill: The word
"dill" comes from the Old Norse "dilla", which means
to lull or soothe. Dill is is a natural preservative. Combined with fennel,
dill has been found to ease colic and prevent flatulence. Snip dill fresh
over salads, sauces and spreads. Dill-icious! with potato salads and fresh
Fennel: Fed up
of flatulence? Feast on fennel! Yes, traditional Ayurvedic medicine uses
fennel to cure flatulence, dyspepsia, and colic. Fennel is also believed
to stimulate appetite. Use this classic herb for stuffings, stews and sauces.
"hot" properties make it ideal for the "kapha" or phlegmatic
body types. Crushed ginger root briefly boiled with tea is an Indian grandmas
remedy for the common cold. Fresh ginger root is said to be great for keeping
the immune system on track. Though Ayurveda warns that ginger, a thermogenic
or heat-generating herb, may not be suitable for "pitta" or fiery
Caribbeans have long used lemongrass as a remedy for fever, and natives
of the Amazon believe it is an effective contraceptive. Ayurveda believes
the scent of lemongrass can sweep away stress. Peel the thicker, lower stems
and bundle the tender cores to be steamed or chopped. That sweet, lemony
flavor is a great hit with tea and of course, lemongrass juice.
Greek called it "joy of the mountains". This aromatic herb is
also a mild-antiseptic. It can be used fresh in the summer and dried in
the winter. Wild marjoram has a stronger flavor that it's Italian cousin
Mint: You have
a great variety of mint to choose from: applemint to cologne and refreshing
lemon mint. Mint tea is very cooling in summer.Ayurveda considers it an
excellent digestive. In the summer months, youll find mint-flavored
drinks complementing hot Indian curries.
peppery oregano are considered anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic and anti-septic.
Chopped oregano enhances tomato sauce and pizza. Oregano combines well with
lemon, garlic and olive oil.
vaidyas use the dried root, essential oil, and fluid extract of parsley
as a carminative, diuretic, and expectorant . German healers use parsley
to keep away ailments of the lower urinary tract. Try parsley in pesto sauce
and in rice and pasta dishes. Parsley is best used fresh.
uses rosemary leaves to cure dyspeptic flatulence, tension and migraine.
Add rosemary to bread dough, cream sauces and soups. It also goes well with
potatoes, beans and tomato-base sauces.
recommends sage tea to treat sore throats, stomach disorders and even gingivitis.
It enhances tomato and cheese-based dishes. Unlike many herbs, it has a
stronger flavor when dried. Use sparingly.
medicine finds thyme useful as an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, astringent
expectorant. Try it in stews, chowders and stuffings. Thyme enhances mustard,
olive and vinegar. Strongest when used fresh.
Krishan is a journalist from India, specialising in writing about health.
For ten years, she was on-air news correspondent for India's largest television
channel, Doordarshan. While in India, she also scripted and edited 104 episodes
of "Feeling Fine", a popular weekly TV show that focused on healing with Ayurveda.
She then moved to print journalism, when Cosmopolitan (India)hired her as
Features Writer. Shubhra also worked as Senior Editor with India's leading
women's magazine, Femina. She now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado and
freelances for American magazines and for several websites.