Summer is a perfect time to start experimenting with fresh herbs in your recipes, and rosemary is a great herb to launch that experimentation.
Rosemary is a hearty herb that originated in the Mediterranean, and it's easy to grow at home. It loves sunshine and can thrive in your backyard or on a sunny window sill.
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In ancient times rosemary leaves were used to scent soap and sprigs were placed on soldiers graves as a sign of remembrance. Today we use rosemary leaves (as well as other herbs) to jazz up food without adding salt; high levels of sodium intake can lead to fluid retention and increased blood pressure.
Besides a bold flavor, rosemary has antioxidants that help promote healthy body cells and contain disease-fighting properties. Rosemary, for instance, can help protect against inflammation and oxidative stress, which are risk factors for cancer and heart disease.
Rosemary's floral yet earthy notes make it versatile and able to lend distinct flavor to a range of savory and sweet dishes. Toss the leaves into soups, sauces, vegetables, potatoes, rice or stuffing, even fruit salad and chocolate tarts; add it a little at a time as rosemary has a strong taste.
Stir chopped rosemary to bread batter, or brush commercially prepared rolls with olive oil, sprinkle with the leaves and bake for aromatic bread that will entice your taste buds.
You can also use whole sprigs to infuse vinegar or olive oil that can then be used for salad dressings or marinades.
Rosemary can add a layer of flavor to grilled meat and fish. Prepare an Italian rub using rosemary, oregano, basil, garlic and parsley and sprinkle it on chicken, beef, pork, seafood or veal before grilling.
That same rub can be used to spice up almonds; toss the nuts with a bit the mixture and some olive oil and bake until fragrant. Use the nuts in salads or enjoy as a snack.
Try this recipe: Rosemary and fresh fruit combine in a nice salsa for grilled salmon.
• Toby Smithson, a registered dietitian, works for the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center and is a national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.