Lemongrass: The Versatile Herb Everyone's Buzzing About

Our taste for non-American food isn’t “trendy." Diners across the country have been gradually and consistently exposed to flavors from India, the Middle East, Southeast-Asia, Africa, and more over the last decade or so, and now we can’t get enough! Ingredients like lemongrass are becoming so common on our plates that they are sold in conventional supermarkets and on fast casual menus.

Lemongrass is a stalky plant with a lemony scent sends a citrusy, grassy spark through any dish it touches. When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm stalks (not soft or rubbery, which means it's too old). The lower stalk should be pale yellow (almost white) in color, while upper stalks should be green. The lower bulb and tough outer leaves are best simmered in stocks, curries, and sauces for their aroma, and then thrown away because they are inedible. The main stalk (the yellow section) should be “bruised” with the back of your knife several times to really unlock the flavor.

Try pounding slices in a mortar and pestle (or food processor) with cilantro stems, fresh chilies, a bit of sugar, ginger, and lime juice. This paste is gorgeous stirred into broth, stir fry, and sauces. It can also be frozen into cubes and stored, ready to give any dish a punch of flavor, or used as a marinade for chicken, shrimp, or fish. It’s also very easy to flavor ice cream base and simple syrups for cocktails with lemongrass. Just steep a few sections of it for 10 minutes in milk or syrup!

About the Chef

Stephanie Goldfarb is a Chicago-based chef and national food television personality specializing in seasonal, globally-inspired cuisine. Recognized as the winner of Food Network’s America’s Best Cook competition, and a celebrity chef on Kitchen Inferno and NBC’s Food Fighters, Goldfarb delivers unique and relatable culinary experiences to discriminating and casual diners alike. As the owner of the successful Seven Species Supper Club & Catering, she enjoys the challenge of building brand new menus each month that inspire both repeat clients and newcomers, and seeks opportunities to utilize new ingredients, techniques, and approaches in accessible ways.