Cooking with Herbs and Spices
What Would Pesto Be without Basil?
Or salsa without cilantro? Think for a minute what our food would taste like, if we removed all herbs and spices. It would be pretty bland. Whether sweet or savory, herbs and spices are an integral part of our cooking. Imagine pumpkin pie without spices! No thanks.
Fresh vs Dried Herbs
Most herbs are available in fresh or dried form. Fresh herbs will give you a flavor that can not be matched by dried. Fresh herbs can be found in the supermarket or farmer's market and will last about 1 week. When you get them home cut off a little of the stem and keep them in a glass of water in your refrigerator. Cover with plastic wrap or a plastic bag. Basil should not be refrigerated.
I saw a good idea in a cookbook for keeping fresh herbs longer. After you have used some of the fresh herb for a recipe, chop the rest of it and distribute1 Tablespoon into each compartment in an ice cube tray. Pour water over the tray and freeze it. You can still use the herbs for cooking. Just add the herb ice cube to the pan.
When you don't have fresh herbs, you can substitute dried. Use only 1/3 the amount. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of fresh basil, use 1 teaspoon of dried basil.
Dried herbs will last about a year. When the fragrance is gone, throw them out.
When adding dried herbs and spices to a recipe, add it to the beginning of cooking. Dried herbs are more tolerant to heat. Fresh herbs should be added to the end of cooking and should be chopped to release the flavor.
Common herbs - Robust flavor
Bay Leaves - can be used with meats, soups and stews in moderation. Remove before serving.
Thyme - used in Italian cooking, great in pasta sauce and meat dishes
Sage - the flavor we recognize in our turkey stuffing, great with potatoes or pork, as well.
Chives - has an onion-like flavor, good in salads or dairy, like sour cream.
Oregano - goes well with poultry or tomato-based sauces. Dries well, too.
Leafy herbs are great in salads or cooking and include basil, cilantro, mint, tarragon and parsley.
Fragrant herbs include lime leaves, lemon balm and dill.
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