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The rosemary bush in my backyard looks like an alien life form, all spindly limbs and piney green needles. The bees treat it like a vacation home, hanging about it all day long as though they’ve got nothing better to do. Doesn’t anybody make a living any more?
But I shouldn’t knock rosemary, even though I sometimes find its flavor bulldozes everything in its path. Unlike its more delicate herbal cousins, rosemary can be an assertive bully, so it’s important to pair it with robust foods that can stand up to its big personality. Lamb is a given, but other grilled or roasted meats (beef, chicken, pork, game) would also serve as an appropriate springboard.
Need more incentive? Rosemary, when used as part of a marinade, has been shown reduce the formation of HCAs, or carcinogens called heterocyclic amines. In a short hit New York Times piece, writer Anahad O’Connor pointed to a study in the Journal of Food Science that showed that rosemary extract substantially reduced HCA formation when applied to ground beef. A second study on rosemary-laced marinades bore out these same findings.
If you’re just looking to add some woodsy flavor, pluck off the leaves from a few sturdy rosemary branches and use them as skewers for shrimp, mushrooms, or mixed-meat-and-veggie kabobs. You can even use them to thwack some bees, if they happen to get in your way.