What is it about rosemary that makes it so popular? A single rosemary sprig resembles a branch from a pine tree, and its woodsy pine scent, while strong, isn’t overpowering. And rosemary packs a nutritional punch, too. Just one teaspoon of this flavorful herb contains more antioxidant power than 1/2 cup of lycopene-packed tomatoes.
As a plant native to the Mediterranean region, rosemary is often found in dishes from countries such as France, Greece, and Italy. Fortunately, rosemary now grows in many regions of both Europe and America where the weather is somewhat mild year-round.
Rosemary is an extremely versatile herb. Many herbs pair best with just a few foods, but rosemary works well in a number of savory dishes. It can be used in a marinade or rubbed directly on various meats, including beef, chicken, lamb, and pork. It can be the star ingredient in a flavorful herb bread—either baked in the bread itself or simply sprinkled on a loaf or rolls brushed with olive oil before baking. And if you have a simple loaf of bread, instead of slathering it with butter, try dipping it in rosemary-infused olive oil. Potatoes also make a good partner, whether boiled, mashed, or roasted. An assortment of other veggies including carrots and tomatoes shine with rosemary as well.
You can use rosemary whole, chopped, or ground. Be aware, the leaves are tough and don’t soften much when cooked, so when possible, you may want to use whole sprigs that can easily be taken out of the dish before serving. Also, unlike other herbs, rosemary tends to keep much of its strong flavor throughout the cooking process, so don’t go overboard.
Like most other herbs, dried rosemary will keep for about six to 12 months in a tightly sealed jar in a dark, dry place. Fresh rosemary will last about two weeks wrapped in a damp paper towel in a baggie and stored in the refrigerator.— Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN