The delicious and distinctive aroma of fresh herbs is unmistakable, especially when you sniff your fingers after rubbing the leaves between them. To me, fresh herbs have the aroma, appearance and flavor of summer.
When it comes to food preparation, there are two types of fresh herbs -- fine and rustic. Examples of fine herbs are dill, tarragon, parsley, cilantro and basil. Rustic herbs include oregano, rosemary, thyme, and sage. Fine herbs are used uncooked and usually chopped. Chopping the herbs releases their natural oils, releasing an intoxicating smell.
At Arts & Eats, we use fine herbs for Green Goddess herb dressing, herb butter, condiments, fine herb chicken salad (recipe below), and as garnishes. We use rustic herbs cooked into stews, roasts and soups.
One of the reasons I love to cook with herbs is for good health and nutrition. Herbs infuse tremendous flavor into foods, enabling you to use less fat and oil. My fresh herb chicken salad is rich in flavor with a relatively small amount of mayonnaise.
At Arts & Eats our herbs are delivered weekly from the Easter Seals VIP Academy Farm in Sarasota. The academy is an alternative high school for people between 14 and 22 years old who have a wide range of developmental and/or physical disabilities. The students deliver the herbs along with their teacher, Pam Luersen. If you own a restaurant in the area, you can contact them at 941-355-7637 for the freshest, locally grown herbs around. It's a great way to contribute to the community and provide vocational training for these students. Find out more at easterseals-swfl.org.
Arts & Eats Fine Herb Chicken Salad
6 poached skinless and boneless chicken breasts, chilled and cubed
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 small finely diced red onion
1 finely diced apple
1 juiced lemon
3 bunches finely chopped fine herbs of your choice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Salad greens (arugula, mesclun, spinach or romaine lettuce)
To poach the chicken breasts, use enough broth or water to cover the meat. Simmer about 20 minutes, until interior reaches 160 degrees or fully cooked. Chill chicken and cut into 1-inch cubes. You can also use leftover chicken for this recipe. Add remaining ingredients and combine. Use about 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise to start. Then add as desired for taste and texture.
At Arts & Eats we serve each portion topped with cashews, over romaine lettuce with a drizzle of olive oil garnished with a fresh herb. We also serve a few pieces of heirloom tomato and avocado on the plate. Makes 6 portions.
Chef Jim Copening, of Arts & Eats, can be reached at email@example.com. The restaurant is at 1114 12th St. W., Bradenton, in the Village of the Arts. Information: 941-201-6647 or firstname.lastname@example.org.