Rosemary is one of those herbs that people either love or hate. I love it in its fresh form, but I’m not the biggest fan in the dried form. Rosemary has a very strong flavor, but if paired well, it can really enhance a dish. For the longest time, I only put rosemary in my Thanksgiving food, because I knew that it belonged there. It has taken me a while to figure out how to use it in other dishes. After much experimentation, I have figured out some other foods that pair well with rosemary.
I primarily use rosemary in savory applications. I love the way it goes with roasted potatoes. There is something about the caramelization and creaminess of the potato with the earthiness and pine like flavor of the rosemary that goes really well. One of my favorite combinations is rosemary with kalamata olives. The briny flavor and meatiness of the olive really goes well with the pungency of rosemary. It is nice because if used in correct proportions, neither of the strong flavors will over power each other. One of my favorite things to do is marinate tofu in some lemon, olive oil, and rosemary and serve it with tomatoes and kalamata olives. The lemon adds an acidic balance to all of the strong flavors, and the tofu acts almost as a “feta”. Using rosemary in a marinade like that is probably my favorite way to use the herb. For a marinade using rosemary, I use an acid like lemon, orange, red wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar. Spices are also key; I like to use a combination of garlic, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt. I almost always use olive oil, since the rich flavor of the olive oil helps balance out the strong flavor. It goes well with any protein or on virtually any vegetable!
Every once in a while, I will use rosemary in a sweet application. I like making things like cookies, cakes, or custards with it since it can be easily blended into any batter or dough. Most of the time, I like pairing it with citrus (lemon or orange). I will also pair it with something like a caramel. Citrus goes well with rosemary because the acidity and the natural oils help balance while enhancing the piney flavor of the rosemary. Caramel works well because it has a nutty, buttery, toasty, and sweet flavor. The complexity of the flavors that make up caramel, work really well with the pungency of rosemary.
For the most part, I find rosemary pretty easy to use. It can be overpowering in certain situations, but when used in moderation, it can really enhance a dish. I have covered some of my favorite uses, but the best suggestion I have is to just experiment! I didn’t know how to use it until I began putting it in random things. Now, I don’t think I could live without it!