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            Fresh herbs are a delightful part of light summer cooking. And with an ever- increasing focus on a healthy eating style, fresh herbs compliment and enrich taste without adding salt or fat. In addition, researchers are finding that many herbs are packed with antioxidants that help protect against cancer and heart disease. 

 In a study conducted at Beltsville Agricultural Research Center Shiow Y. Wang found that a tablespoon of fresh oregano contained more antioxidant punch than an apple.  Gram for gram, Wang found that herbs rank higher than fruits and vegetables known to be high in antioxidant activity. Herbs in the oregano family rank highest. Oregano had 42 times more antioxidant activity than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, and 12 times more than oranges.    

When Wang compared the antioxidant activity of herbs to spices, including paprika, garlic, curry, chili, and black pepper, fresh herbs came out on top.  

            Using fresh herbs in our cooking not only pleases our palate it is also a healthy way to flavor our food. Here is a dish that uses a variety of fresh herbs. I first ate herbed grilled salmon at Scot's in San Francisco. It was heavenly so I asked the chef how he prepared it.  This is my version of Scot's Herbed Grilled Salmon.  If you have a cedar plank, it works nicely with this recipe.  

Herbed Grilled Salmon
Serves 4

            8 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
            4 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
            2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
            1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
            4 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
            4 tablespoons butter, divided
            4 salmon steaks, cut ¾ to 1-inch thick 

In a small bowl, combine parsley, chives, basil, rosemary, and dill.  In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Brush one side of salmon steaks with half the melted butter and press herb mixture tightly into meat. Place salmon steaks, herb side down, on a hot grill. While steaks cook, brush the other side of salmon steaks with the remaining butter and press the herb mixture tightly into meat. Grill steaks about 5 minutes per side, or until salmon is opaque throughout or flakes easily when pierced with a fork.  

Shopping: Purchase herbs close to the time you plan to use them. Look for ones with even green color and no signs of wilting, yellowing, or insect damage.  Fresh herbs should be hearty and full and smell sweet and fresh. 

Storing: Fresh herbs should be stored in an open or perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator.  If you don't have a perforated bag, punch a few holes in a regular plastic bag with a sharp knife.  To help prolong the life of some herbs, place them in a glass of water, stems down, cover with a plastic bag, secure the glass with a rubber band and refrigerate.  Change the water every 2 days.  This works nicely with basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley.  

Washing:  Wash herbs just before using them.  Rinse them thoroughly under running water.  Shake off any moisture or spin them dry in a salad spinner.  Pat off any remaining moisture with clean paper towels.  

Preparing Herbs for Cooking: Most recipes call for minced herbs. You can either chop them with a chef's knife on a cutting board or snip them with kitchen scissors. If a recipe asks you to sliver large leaves like basil, stack several leaves together, roll them into a tight roll, then cut them into thin strips with your kitchen scissors.  

Substituting Dried for Fresh:  A general rule of thumb to follow when substituting dried for fresh is:  ¼ teaspoon powdered herb = 1 teaspoon dried = 1 tablespoon fresh.  

Carol Ann Kates is the author of award-winning Secret Recipes from the Corner Market, selected as one of the top ten favorite cookbooks of the Denver Post Food Staff. For more information, see www.secretrecipesfromthecornermarket.com.

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