While visiting a little village in France, I enjoyed a simple salad that was just… better. I couldn’t quite place it. I use fresh greens and a light and simple homemade vinaigrette at home, much as I saw on my plate. But this salad had a little something extra. That’s when I saw them – tiny specks of purple peeking in and out of my salad greens. There was lavender in my salad! Then I noticed that some of the flecks of green herbs I assumed were incorporated into the dressing were in fact dry. These had clearly been sprinkled on top as a finishing touch. What was this stuff?
Herbes de Provence, I was told with the same stare of obviousness as if I had inquired about the clear liquid in my water glass. I quickly learned that this dried herb blend is ubiquitous to French cuisine as a flavor enhancer and final detail. It’s absolutely delicious, and incredibly versatile. It’s also pretty expensive in US spice shops, because herbes de provence is still considered a bit exotic here. The economical solution is to simply blend your own. It’s super easy, makes a fantastic gift in a pretty little jar, and if you blend it yourself, you can tweak the ratios to make the blend your own. For example, I like a little more lavender than I found in a store brand I sampled. You might like a little more tarragon, or a little less rosemary, or something else altogether. That’s part of the fun! I’ve found that food co-ops such as Outpost Natural Foods and markets favoring organic and health foods such as Whole Foods are great places to buy herbs in bulk. Remember, “bulk” doesn’t mean “big” – it means you can often buy a teaspoon or two of your favorite herbs for mere pennies. So, go pick up a few herbs and bring a little French into your cooking! Over the next two weeks on Crowded Earth Kitchen, I’ll make a point of showing a few of the many uses for this wonderful herb blend. Blend together and store in a jar: 2 tablespoons dried rosemary 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds (more than is typical, but I love it) 2 teaspoons dried fennel (should say “cracked fennel” – if not, crush with a rolling pin before using) 1 teaspoon of each of the following (dried): marjoram, basil, thyme, tarragon, oregano, and chervil 1/2 teaspoon dried dill (I like dill, but too much overwhelms the lavender) That’s all there is to it! When you use this in something delicious, please post a comment and tell me all about it!