Fresh herbs. Most people use them only as a garnish. But I think we should be using them much more generously. I consider herbs as their own category in a meal and encourage my clients to do the same. Did you know fresh herbs can help regulate different systems in the body? Here's the rundown on a few of the most common herbs.
Mint has a cooling effect, so it's a great herb for the summer. It also supports the respiratory system and digestion.
Cilantro is cooling as well. It also contains chelating agents which means it binds to toxins and heavy metals in the body to safely eliminate them.
Parsley is a diuretic. It helps with fluid retention or swelling women may experience in the last half of their cycle or anyone can experience when traveling, sitting for long periods of time or eating a food their sensitive to.
Basil supports the nervous system and calms anxiety. It's also been shown to stabilize blood sugar and reduce cholesterol.
Aside from its medicinal properties, an herb's fresh brightness provides that extra dimension of flavor we're often missing in meals. Some of my clients seek support with cravings and overeating tendencies. When we dig deeper, we discover they're missing a deeper level of satisfaction with food. I’ll address this from several angles, but one simple remedy is to introduce new flavors (in part by way of lots of herbs) to familiar ingredients.
Here are some ways to up your herb game:
Throw whole (or roughly torn) leaves into green or grain salads, grain bowls, pasta, steamed/roasted vegetables and slow-cooked sauces, soups and stews
Blend into dips and sauces such as chutney, pesto, salsa verde, chimichurri and hummus
Add to smoothies or juices
Layer on tacos, pizza, sandwiches
Cilantro and mint are the stars in the Indian Quinoa Salad below. A handful of each are tossed directly into the salad and the rest form the base for the mango cilantro chutney. The salad is filled out with cucumber, tomato, red onion, raisins and toasted cashews. (Cashews not pictured because I like to top individual plates once served to maintain their crunch.)
Hope you enjoy this one!
Indian Quinoa with Mango Cilantro Chutney
1 cup (186 gr.) dry quinoa, cooked (~ yields 3 cups cooked)
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon (~ 3/4 juicy lemon)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
Handful of raisins
1/2 pint (200 gr) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 of an English cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 bunch cilantro, divided
1 bunch mint, divided
Mango Cilantro Chutney (recipe below)
Toasted cashews or pumpkin seeds
Mix together olive oil, lemon and salt in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Stir in onion and raisins. Let marinate while prepping other ingredients.
Add warm quinoa directly to bowl with marinated onion and raisins. Toss gently to coat.
Reserve half a bunch of each cilantro and mint for chutney. Make chutney following recipe below.
Roughly chop a handful of the remaining half bunch of each herb. Add to quinoa along with cucumber, tomatoes, and half of chutney. Gently toss until just combined. Be careful not to over mix or quinoa can get sticky. Taste and adjust for seasoning, namely salt and lemon.
Plate salad. Top with toasted cashews and a generous dollop of extra chutney.
Mango Cilantro Chutney
Notes: Despite the name, this chutney can be made without mango for those who prefer no fruit or sugar. It will be sharper and more acidic, which will mellow slightly once tossed with quinoa. Start off with 1/2 cup water and add more if needed.
1/2 large bunch cilantro (60 gr), with tender stems
1/2 large bunch mint (30 gr)
1 green chili (remove seeds if you prefer less spice)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 in. piece of ginger, peeled + grated
3/4 cup (180 ml) water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Heaped 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 large mango, roughly chopped
Add everything except mango to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to break up garlic and chili, then let motor run until you get a mostly smooth sauce.
Scrape down the sides and add mango. Process again until sauce is smooth and emulsified. (Mango will thicken sauce slightly.)
Taste and adjust for seasoning.