Got questions?
Ask Sara!

Send email to


Tips for Taking Herbs Successfully
Cilantro Substitute
Herbs That Changed the World
Herbal Pet Care
The Real Deal About Healing Herbs
Classic Herb Blends
Sweet Stevia
Vinegar the Miracle Cleaner
Herbs to Enhance Romance
Rites of Passage
Skin Care Naturally
Spring Bounty (Wild and Wonderful Weeds)
Menopause Gracefully
Spring Ritual for the Health Conscious

Classic Herb Blends

The flavors of many countries have found their way into our kitchens. In the supermarkets we see herbs and spices from near and far, both dried and fresh. Many prepackaged combinations of herbs are available, but they are expensive and they age quickly. Do you know that once they are opened, dried herbs and spices are only effective for a few months? Growing and drying your own herbs guarantees that the herbs you use are always pungent and flavorful. Try a few of the combinations I've listed below, and I'm sure you'll agree. And throw out all those old bottles in the spice cabinet soon!

Bouquet garni
The idea behind the bouquet garni is to add flavor without little flecks of herbs in the dish. Usually, these are dried herbs or a combination of dried and fresh. They are made into little bundles tied with a string long enough to be tied to the handle of the pot for easy removal. You can use cheesecloth, muslin, or even a tea ball to hold the herbs.

For a muslin bag, cut a 4"x 4" piece. Place the herbs in the middle and tie up the corners. I have also tucked herbs between two pieces of celery stalk, tied them together, and dropped them into the soup or stew. It is nice to have these bundles all made up and stored in an air-tight jar, or to mix a favorite blend and bundle it when needed. The traditional herbs used in a bouquet garni are a tablespoon each of parsley and thyme and one crumbled bay leaf. I always try to use fresh Italian parsley because I find the dried has little flavor. Here are some other combinations that I like to have on hand:

Sara's Hearty Bouquet Garni
for stews, soups, meats, and other robust dishes.

1 part rosemary
1 part thyme
1 part sage
1 bay leaf, crumbled
10 peppercorns

Sara's Savory Bouquet Garni
for light soups, stews, stocks, and vegetable dishes.

2 parts marjoram
1 part savory
1 part thyme
1 bay leaf, crumbled
a few peppercorns

Sara's Hearty Herb Blend
This combo can be ground fine and used in a salt shaker. It's good rubbed on roasts and in hearty stews. Forget the salt.

2 parts rosemary
2 parts summer savory
1 part thyme
1 part marjoram

Sara's Leek Bouquet Garni
especially good for bouquets with garlic and spices.
Assemble your herbs. Wash 2 leek leaves about 10" long. Have ready a 2' long cotton thread or unwaxed dental floss. Place the herbs on the center and fold the end of the leek over so they meet in the middle. Wrap the other leaf, curved side down, over and around the folded leaf. Fold the ends of the second leaf over the back of the first. Tie. The best tie looks like the way a roast is tied. The leek is also a nice flavor to add.

Fines Herbes
Only fresh herbs are used in the fines herbes combination. Add these the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking to preserve the flavor. Traditional fines herbes consists of chervil, parsley, thyme, and French tarragon. This is a nice combination for omelets, sautés, and cheese sauces.

Quatre Epices
Literally, this means four spices. Good for roasts, poultry, hardy vegetables, or desserts. For 1 teaspoon: rounded ½ tsp. white pepper, scant ¼ tsp. nutmeg, very scant ¼ tsp. ginger or cinnamon, and a generous pinch of cloves. Leave out the pepper and you have a good dessert combination.

Curry powder
Curry (or kari) leaves are leaves of the kari plant, used to flavor southern Indian cooking. You can find fresh leaves in an Indian specialty food store. Toast in a heated skillet over medium heat until a shade darker and fragrant, about 4 minutes:

6 TBS whole coriander seeds
4 TBS whole cumin seeds
3 TBS chana dal or yellow split peas
1 TBS black peppercorns
1 TBS black mustard seeds
5 dried red chili peppers
10 fresh or dried curry leaves (optional)

Combine the toasted spices with 2 TBS fenugreek seeds. Grind the mixture to a powder in batches in a spice mill or electric coffee grinder. Mix well with 3 TBS tumeric.

Chinese Five Spice Powder
Good for pork and chicken. Best ground as needed and heated before serving. 1 part each of Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, and star anise.

New Mexican Chili Powder
Combine and toast over medium heat for 2 minutes:

5 TBS ground, mild chili peppers
2 TBS dried oregano
1 ½ TBS ground cumin
½ tsp ground red pepper, or to taste

Sara's Cajun Blackening Spice
Rub generously on chicken, fatty fish, steaks, or vegetables before pan broiling, grilling, or sautéeing. Spices will smoke some during cooking.

1 TBS cracked black peppercorns
1 TBS salt
2 tsp crushed fennel seed
1 tsp dry thyme
1 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp sage