Herbes de Provence Salt
Herbes de Provence is a blend of dried herbs from the Provençal countryside in southern France. Thyme, rosemary and oregano are musts. Savory and marjoram typically find their way in as well. Maybe basil, fennel, chervil, sage, bay or dill. These are the foundation of herbes de Provence, but what makes it truly unique is the mild floral sweetness of dried lavender buds.
Combining a handful of these signature flavors with your best salt adds up to a versatile seasoning that can transform dishes in the kitchen or at the table. And it’s brilliant with so many things.
In the kitchen use it on meats, poultry and seafood, mixed with pasta or grains, veg or eggs, or in place of salt in vinaigrettes or sauces. It can also be the final flourish to salads or soups, and goes superbly with other staples of these regions like roasted potatoes, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, grilled lamb and chicken, chickpeas, and soft fresh goat and sheep milk cheeses.
Here I chose earthy oregano, bright lemony thyme, and the aromatic hint of pine from rosemary as my foundation classics. Crushed fennel seeds add a faint sweetness and crunch, as does coarse grey salt. And then the pretty purple lavender!
Because most of these herbs are integral to cuisines around the Mediterranean, including southeastern France, I thought to share herbes de Provence during Mediterranean Diet Month. Cooks in these regions rely on herbs and spices to impart color, aroma and intense flavor, as well as antioxidants and other essential nutrients to this simplistic style of eating. Their additions also allow cooks to get away with less fat and salt to enhance flavor.
What’s in it for me?
As a whole herbs — fresh or dried — are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, all of which add to their powerful antioxidant punch.
Rosemary is a fair source of vitamin A, and also brings vitamin C, manganese, iron, potassium, as well as the anti-inflammatory compounds rosmarinic and carnosic acids. One teaspoon of dried thyme provides more than 20% of your DV for vitamin K, as well as a small amount of iron and more of the phytonutrients, particularly one called thymol.
The seed of a fennel (anise) plant — a member of the carrot family — fennel seeds offer a small amount of fiber and manganese, in addition to beneficial phytonutrients. They are said to help freshen breath and stimulate digestion, and are often found in a mixture called “mukhwas” served by the spoonful after heavy meals in India.
In comparison to rosemary, thyme, sage, mint and basil ounce for ounce, researchers found that oregano ranks highest in total antioxidant capacity. It is particularly rich in the phytonutrients rosmarinic acid and thymol, and may contain compounds with antibacterial properties.
Lavender is actually closely related to mint. Like the others here it comes with phytochemicals and antioxidants, and is well known for its calming, soothing aroma. Lavender is currently being researched for antiviral and antibacterial properties, as well as the potential to inhibit growth of some tumors and cancers.
As we head into summer, celebrate the signature Mediterranean flavors and this healthy style of eating while transporting yourself to the sunny French countryside with your own blend of herbes de Provence salt. For more information about the Mediterranean “diet” and its many benefits, visit my post (+ recipe) here.
Tell me… Have you ever used or eaten culinary lavender?
- 2 Tbsp dried rosemary
- 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
- 1/4 cup high-quality coarse or flaked grey or white sea salt
- 2 Tbsp dried thyme
- 2 Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 Tbsp culinary-grade dried lavender buds (see HGN Notes)
- Use a spice grinder (or clean coffee grinder), small food processor, or mortar and pestle to coarsely grind the rosemary and fennel.
- In a small bowl, combine the ground rosemary and fennel with the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Store in a tightly sealing container in a cool, dry place like a spice cabinet/drawer or pantry up to 6 months for freshness and best flavor.
To dry herbs from your home-grown stash or the local farmers' market, see my instructions here: http://buff.ly/24ORoju.
+ Omit the salt for a salt-free seasoning blend.
+ If you prefer a finer texture, grind everything in your spice or coffee grinder, food processor, or mortar and pestle -- great for popcorn!
+ Experiment with other classic Mediterranean herbs (dried), such as chervil, marjoram, chives, savory, tarragon, sage, bay or dill in place of any of the herbs in my recipe. If using bay, add that to the grinder with your rosemary and/or fennel seeds.
+ Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet for a hint of smokiness.
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