Chris' Recipes

Bon Appetite!

Fresh Herbs!

Written By: Chris - Feb• 04•12

People have told me my dishes taste great…. That is a huge compliment, but I’ve discovered by simply using FRESH Herbs when ever possible, versus using dry herbs that the tastes just punch!

One of the many reasons I can’t wait to reside in our favorite place (Northern CA)… is the foliage! Flowers and Herbs that I could grow all year round?  Seriously!  I am grateful to have grown up in the four magnificent seasons of Minnesota… but as we get older, I’m not loving the fact that our winters are so long.  We truly have a limited growing season for flowers and herbs.  I only started growing my own fresh herbs in recent years and though I’m able to find starter plants at the local garden center and even the Home Depots and Wal-Mart’s of the world…  they are short-lived!

This is what happened to my Rosemary plant in MN… Makes me sad! I do have some in the kitchen, but they don’t like it in doors much.  I read that this is a perennial and will survive up to 30 degrees.  She is in the garage and I’m hoping that we can produce some life back in the spring.

But don’t become discouraged if you live in a cold zone like me!  Or even if you don’t keep a garden, you can find most fresh herbs for sale at the supermarket virtually year-round.  The frustration I’ve felt are the high prices for “fresh” herbs in the grocery stores.  The packages are found in the produce department and average about four bucks ($4) a small package and I usually want to use most of it for one meal!  While visiting our favorite valley in northern CA over the past several years… we’ve learned that Rosemary for example, grows like hedges!  I’ve been green with Envy ever since!  Each and every time we visit, I find myself hoarding Ziploc baggies and stuffing them with clipped sprigs of Rosemary that I’ve helped myself to outside of wineries, restaurants and just about anywhere there! These herbs will store for several days if you immerse the stems in about an inch of water in a tall glass, cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate.  Be sure to replace the water when cloudy. You can also freeze herbs by removing the leaves from the stems, rinsing and drying the leaves, and then placing them in a heavy-duty sealed plastic bag for up to about six months. (Frozen herbs darken but still retain much of their flavor. I froze a whole bunch of Basil as my friends had an abundance last fall and we continue to enjoy it today! I primarily use it in sauces as the flavor is boldly there, but the color and look is not as vibrant or appealing as using fresh)

When we transport Rosemary home from CA – we wrap the sprigs in cool, moist paper towels (press out most of the air from the Ziploc’s); keep them refrigerated until the last moment and then take them home in my suitcase.  I have had great success keeping them alive and healthy until arriving home to be placed in the fridge; and they have lasted for a couple of weeks at home!

This link I’ve found as a great guide to help you determine distinct flavors and which herbs may be used particularly in your dishes:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/cooking-tips/fresh-herbs-cooking-guide

I assure you that you will be rewarded when you start cooking with fresh herbs.  Herbs hold wonderful fragrances and are simply pleasing to both the eye and the palate!  Try this to evaluate the quality of a fresh herb: rub the leaf of (any) herb between your finger and thumb.  Then allow the oils and sense to be released….  Your senses will enjoy the greatest pleasure from the herb’s fragrance itself; But it will be its flavor that is released in your dish that will tease… leaving people wondering what made your dish so special!  Think about it, all chefs cook with fresh herbs!  If you find yourself wondering why you never thought to use fresh herbs?  Wonder no more!  Cooking with fresh herbs is easy and makes food taste so much better so just do it!

Learn how to grow your own herbs and to either dry herbs for winter usage, or figure out how to keep some plants alive (in our cold zones like MN) so that you can continue to enjoy exquisite herb flavors in all of your dishes year round.

What would pesto be without basil, or salsa without cilantro? Whether used by the pinch or by the bunch, fresh herbs pull a recipe together by infusing the dish with unparalleled aromas and flavors.  Sometimes, when the effect you seek is subtle, refined, and delicate, a hint of herbs is enough; other times, handfuls are required.

Fresh herbs add a wonderful FRESHER flavor to your meals along with an extra helping of healthy vitamins and fiber.

Fresh herbs are as easy to use as dried herbs… if you know how.  Here is a great guide to Harvesting, Using and Storing fresh Herbs:

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/images/document/howto/JA00_ISherbs.pdf

My friend recently borrowed me her AeroGrow Garden, which is pictured.  I’ll start my plants indoors and move them out when the weather permits.  In the interim, I keep pots in my kitchen of Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, Flat Leaf Parsley, etc.  I often have to take them out of the kitchen window bay because it’s simply too cold and they suffer…. I use them and treat them with caution while I move them to the kitchen/dining room table and allow the warm sun shine in on them.  They are a treasure after all…

Give it a shot!

http://www.aerogrow.com/

Best wishes!

Cheers!
~Chris

 

 

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