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King fare

The other day, I posed a question to a few of my co-workers. I asked if they could name the famous person who called herbs "the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks."...

The other day, I posed a question to a few of my co-workers. I asked if they could name the famous person who called herbs "the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks."

After several wild guesses and a few well-placed hints, one finally correctly answered Charlemagne.

Charlemagne, in case you missed history class that day, was a French king in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Besides being a great warrior (his army conquered the Saxons and Lombards) and a wise emperor (he established schools and placed good teachers in charge of them), he was quite a gardener. He particularly liked herbs, especially dill, which always was on his table.

After growing herbs as well as using many others in dishes the past few years, I can see why the man also known as Charles the Great, king of the Franks and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, had such an affinity for them.

Herbs are very simple to use and add immense flavor to cooked and raw dishes. They also are fat-free and have hardly any calories. And cooking with herbs has taken on new importance with today's greater awareness of reducing salt and fat in our diets.

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I just love to go into my garden, snip a few fresh herbs and then bring them back into the kitchen, where they're incorporated into some tasty dish such as broccoli with rigatoni (basil), guacamole (cilantro) or marinara sauce (oregano and thyme).

While there was a time I didn't think herbs had a place in my garden, those days are long gone. I can't imagine not cooking with herbs. Even long after the snow flies, I still enjoy herbs from my garden some are frozen, some are dried (stored in air-tight containers out of direct sunlight).

But it's fresh ones that I like the most.

But a few things about fresh herbs:

-- The flavor and aroma of herbs quickly deteriorate after picking, so be prepared to use them immediately.

-- If you must store them for a few hours, keep them in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag.

-- When you are ready to use them, wash the herbs gently under cool (not cold) water and pat dry between paper towels.

Herbs are not that hard to grow. If you're successful with marigolds, petunias or geraniums, you can be successful with herbs.

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One of my favorite dishes to make with fresh herbs is pesto. Besides the traditional pesto made with basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, I recently made one that included cilantro, Pecorino Romano cheese and pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

The cilantro-pepita pesto, combined with pasta, makes for a speedy summer dinner a meal fit for a king!

Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, ext. 136, or jtiedeman@gfherald.com .

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