Tag Archives: herbs

Thyme is on Your Side

Thyme: A Versatile Kitchen Herb

You’ve likely enjoyed the herb thyme in many dishes. You may even have it growing in your home garden, as thyme is not only delicious to eat but also lovely to smell and quite decorative.

Thyme, of course, is used in many recipes, ranging from meats and poultry to fish, seafood and vegetables. It also pairs particularly well with game dishes. In addition to its culinary uses, thyme is also reputed to have a number of medicinal and therapeutic qualities.

Bottom line is that “thyme really is on your side.”


Extremely versatile and one of the most popular herbs in the culinary world, thyme is a perennial from the mint family. Thyme is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area and has many cultivars, but the most common variety is garden (French) thyme, which has light grayish-green leaves and a pungent, somewhat minty, light-lemon aroma. Other “culinary” sub-varieties include English, lemon thyme, orange thyme, silver thyme and caraway thyme.

Where can you find fresh thyme?

Thyme is sold both fresh and dried at Nino’s. Our fresh thyme is available year round and is sold in bunches of sprigs. You’ll find it MUCH more flavorful than dried, but it generally doesn’t keep well for more than 10 days, so depending on your needs, it may be less convenient. If you do choose fresh thyme, my best storage tip is to wrap it in a dampened paper towel and place it in a sealed plastic container in your fridge.

How do you use fresh thyme?

If you’re using fresh thyme for the very 1st time in recipes, you’ll usually see it measured in bunches, sprigs or by the teaspoon or tablespoon. To measure a tablespoon, remove the tiny leaves from the somewhat firm “sprigs” by either scraping them with the back of a knife or by pulling them through the fingers or tines of a fork. The small, softer stems toward the very top of the sprig are often so tender that they can be used as part of your measurement as well. The resulting leaves are usually lightly chopped and then measured. Chopping also helps to release the oils in the leaves that give thyme much of their flavor.

If you’re using dry leaf thyme, on the other hand, you’ll want to keep it in an airtight container in a cool place. If you do that, it easily has six months of good, usable shelf life. Dry thyme is what most people keep around the kitchen because you never know when a recipe might call for it, and thankfully, thyme retains its flavor in dry form much better than most herbs. However, when you can plan ahead, there’s nothing like fresh thyme in your recipes.

What to learn more about thyme?

Nino’s has a terrific packet of information from one of our live cooking shows that we devoted entirely to fresh herbs. The packet entitled Nino’s Fresh Herbs contains additional tips and recipes for use with many of your favorite herbs.


And of course, we have a number of recipes on Nino’s website that use thyme. Here are several:

Give fresh thyme a try in one of your next recipes. You’ll enjoy its aromatic flavor as a distinctive departure from basil or marjoram and a welcome addition to your seasoning repertoire.

Basil: A Favorite Kitchen Herb

Basil Memories

There’s always been something interesting about leaves.

The majority of them cling to big trees of one species or another, just hanging there, high in the air, waving at the clouds, the birds, and maybe some passersby. They’re pretty to look at, providing shade and a lot of other pretty cool things, such as oxygen.

A different kind of leaf clings closer to the ground, cultivated specifically to be enjoyed in a different way; that is, in salads and other dishes.

The third type of leaf is so specialized that collectively, these leaves must have felt the need to change their names.

They’re called “herbs.”

fresh basil

Everyone has favorite herbs. My personal favorites are cilantro and basil. Their perfume is so fragrant that you know when they’re in the room (even more when they’re chopped). Just a whiff of either brings my mind to pleasant places I remember and dishes I love to make–and love, even more, to eat.

Basil also has some special culinary memories for me that go way beyond the leaf itself.

There was a time back in the early 80s that an ambitious gal named Marilyn Hampstead owned a property and business in Parma, Michigan that she named Fox Hill Farms. Among all the many herbs at Fox Hill Farms, Marilyn loved basil. She even wrote a book about basil and held a popular basil festival each year on her farm, where Detroit’s MOST celebrated chefs created recipes and served samples of their favorite basil recipes. The Pesto Challenge was THE highlight of the weekend.

Marilyn also developed basil sub-cultivars that were only found in Fox Hill Farms’ gardens. One of over a dozen basil varieties, her own Silver Fox Basil was developed right on the farm; it was her pride and joy.

Sadly, following a fire at the farm and some personal trials, the farm is no longer, but the memories of my visits and those great basil events at Fox Hill Farms live on in my mind whenever I smell fresh basil at Nino’s. In memory of her farm, here’s my personal recipe for pesto. Sweet Basil Pesto.

If you’ve never tasted fresh basil, you owe it to yourself to try it in a few recipes.

Originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, the unmistakable, sweet and slightly pungent flavor of basil has a somewhat anise (licorice) flavor and is (in my opinion) showing its best flavor foot forward when added to recipes at the last moment or used in dishes that are not cooked for long. It’s very popular both in Italian cuisine and in Asian countries where it is occasionally paired with mint.

Nicknamed “The King of Herbs” partially because the word basil comes from the Greek word basileus, meaning “king,” basil boasts over 150 cultivars. The most common is Sweet Basil.

How to Store Fresh Basil:

The fresh basil can be kept for a week to 10 days, wrapped lightly in a damp paper towel in your refrigerator (like thyme) and then placed within a plastic bag or a plastic storage container in your refrigerator. For a longer life, you can freeze basil by rolling the fresh leaves into a tube-like cigar shape, over-wrapping it in plastic film followed by foil, and finally, freezing it. To use it from the frozen state, just cut a piece off the “basil cigar,” and thaw it. The leaves will be darkened and limp, but much of the original flavor will shine through. Dry basil on the other hand, loses much of its anise-like flavor and has a taste more reminiscent of hay. I use it more as a background flavor mixed with other herbs but avoid using dry basil alone to create a true basil flavor in recipes.

Among the more interesting uses for basil are in ice cream, mashed potatoes, chocolate and deep-fried in full-leaf form as a garnishment.

A Favorite Basil Recipe


We have a great deal of recipes using basil on our Nino’s website. One in particular, our Eggplant Rollatini recipe, uses basil pesto flavored angel hair pasta stuffed within thin slices of breaded, pan-fried eggplant. You’ll really LOVE this recipe. It is one of my very favorite Italian dishes and believe it or not, it’s vegetarian!