In ancient times, herbs were thought to be mainly medicinal… gypsies used herbs for fortune telling, and in the Middle Ages, herbs were used to preserve meats as well as to cover-up the flavors of rotting flesh, and used in religious observances. Over the centuries we had less need to cover-up the off-flavors of spoilage, and began to love the flavors herbs imparted just for themselves. Now we are coming full-circle and realizing that herbs indeed have tremendous antioxident properties, with implications that affect our health--another reason to eat more fresh herbs.
(photo shows Pacific Grill Executive Chef, Aaron Valimont, holding a bunch of Rosemary going to fight for our health!)
In a recent article found on http://www.realage.com/ there is an interesting study on the medicinal qualities of rosemary-- one of my favorite herbs.
When I first started cooking professionally I was struck by what a wonderful piney flavor rosemary imparted to foods and marinades. In fact, I make an all-purpose herb infused oil that we use to marinate vegetables, meats and chicken, out of a blend of 10% extra-virgin olive oil, 90% canola oil, chopped garlic, fresh chopped Italian parsley & chopped fresh rosemary.
When I was growing up, my Italian grandfather, Frank Naccarato, used to make a wonderful minestrone soup at his restaurant on the old mountain highway that I still wish I had the recipe for. One day while making a vegetable soup for my restaurant Gordon’s in Aspen, I happened to add a bunch of chopped rosemary. After the vegetables had simmered, and the soup was ready to taste—it immediately conjured-up the memory of my grandpa’s-- and I realized I had discovered the secret of great chicken soup—it was the rosemary! Every mother knows that chicken soup is good for you when you are sick. But we are just beginning to find out how good certain herbs are for us!
Now a study has found that not only is rosemary a great flavor booster-- and one of the trendiest cooking herbs, but the article goes on to say: ”… the fragrant needle-leaved herb is also showing early promise as a cancer killer…in cell studies, rosemary extract has given both breast cancer and leukemia cells a real fight."
As a way of introducing a greater use of rosemary in your diet, they suggest sticking a fresh sprig in lemonade, or steep some rosemary in hot tea, and sprinkle it on salads.
At Pacific Grill we use rosemary in many of our dishes. It is a particular favorite of mine on our Saddle of Lamb.
And don’t forget it's the secret of great chicken soup!
References: Anti-proliferative and antioxidant properties of rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis. Cheung, S., Tai, J., Oncology Reports 2007 Jun;17(6):1525-1531.