The use of aromatic herbs is lost in the mists of time and until not so long ago they had a markedly regional use. The globalization of gastronomy has introduced us to previously unknown herbs.
The most common aromatic herbs are parsley, laurel, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Others have recently become popular in other cuisines although they were also used, such as basil, tarragon, coriander, fennel, dill, and chives.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is the queen of aromatic herbs in the kitchen. It is used in meats, fish, vegetables, stews, very often chopped with garlic. It comes from the eastern European Mediterranean and was already used by the Greeks and Romans as a flavoring for different stews. It is also very common as a final decoration of dishes.
Laurel (Laurus nobilis) has lost some prominence but is still essential for meat and potato stews and for cooking seafood. The laurel is a beautiful tree very common in gardens. Its whole dried leaves are used to concentrate the flavor.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) are the most rural and wild herbs and have been used in popular cooking for centuries. They are used - very often together - to season meats and fish, in legumes, salads, and particularly in hunting cuisine.
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) is native to Cyprus and Turkey and is common to all the Mediterranean and its cuisines, inescapable in pizza and Bolognese sauce, goes very well with tomato salads and is part of other notable sauces such as Canary Island mojos and Argentine chimichurri.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) also comes from Asia, although it is used all over the world. The Mediterranean varieties are milder than the Asian ones. It is the base of Genovese pesto and is abundant in salads, soups, and stews. It has a slight citrus flavor and in many places is considered a mosquito repellent.
Other herbs with less tradition in cooking
Dill (Anethum graveolens) also from the eastern Mediterranean has arrived with the Nordic salmon and herring, which is widely used in northern Europe for fish and shellfish as well as for pickled gherkins.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant with a pronounced aniseed flavor of which stems and leaves are used as aromatics and the bulbs are eaten in salads. A good friend of fish, in some areas they put a sprig of fennel in the guts of a grilled fish with a tasty result.
Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) has come to us mainly from France, although its origin is in Central Asia. In the neighboring country, it flavors vinegar and is the base of Béarnaise sauce. It is also used in mustards. It has a sweet, spicy, and slightly aniseed flavor.
Chive (Allium schoenoprasum) is a distant cousin of garlic, although it has a milder flavor. It is usually sprinkled chopped on salads and fish and has entered the most innovative modern cuisine.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) has a peculiar, somewhat citric flavor. It is considered the parsley of America and is omnipresent, especially in Mexican cuisine. In the Canary Islands, it is used for mojos and stews.
Many other herbs are cultivated but have less incidence in the kitchen, such as mint and mint - common in some stews and soups and fruit desserts - or sage and savory.
Sea bass with fennel recipe
The original recipe is for sea bass but sea bream, red snapper, sea bass or similar fish can be used.
1 sea bass of 1kg or 1,2 Kg
4 round potatoes
1 sprig of fennel
100 cc extra virgin olive oil
The sea bass, gutted and skinned, is seasoned with salt and pepper on the outside and inside and is well coated with olive oil. Boil the four peeled and halved potatoes (eight pieces) in water with a bay leaf and a few grains of black pepper.
In a preheated oven at 180º, place the sea bass on a baking tray with the fennel branch inside the fish for 30 minutes. After this time, add the cooked potatoes to the tray (discarding the bay leaf and pepper balls) and grill for 5 minutes.
Open the sea bass, remove the fennel branch and divide the fish into four portions, accompanying them with two potatoes and sprinkling everything with a drizzle of olive oil. To accompany a light white wine.
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