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Time to make sure you have all the spice you need



The best way to ensure you have all the herbs you need is to shop your farmer's market now.


Here is a list of great herbs and some suggestions of how to use them.

  • Basil – spicy flavor, slightly minty, pungent, and peppery

    • Good with tomatoes, vegetables, pasta, salads, sauces, pesto, pistou, salad dressings, and drinks.

  • Chives – mild onion flavor

    • Add them to sauces, dips, vegetables, mashed potatoes, or as a garnish to add a touch of flavor.

  • Dill – mild, anis, grassy flavor, slightly sweet

    • Use them in dips, sauces on salmon, and potato salads. Note: dill will lose its flavor if cooked too long.

  • Mint – Fresh, cool tasting, menthol flavor

    • Wonderful added to a variety of foods, to drinks, used in salads, or steeped for tea.

  • Oregano –bold, earthy, and strong with a slight bitterness.

    • Often used in Italian dishes. Use with meat, marinades, stuffings, and tomato-based dishes.

  • Thyme – sharp, slightly minty, citrus, sweet, and slightly flowery.

    • Great with chicken and other meats, stews, soups, and sauces.

  • Rosemary – Very aromatic, woodsy, slight citrus, pepper, pine.

    • It is a strong powerful flavor that is a must addition to your arsenal.

  • Tarragon – very slight licorice flavor that adds a subtle brightness to food

    • Good with chicken, light meat stews, fish, eggs, sauces, and salad dressings.

Note: it is hard to describe the smell and flavor of spices. My suggestion is to smell and taste all the herbs and spices for yourself—that’s how you learn.


Having fresh herbs at your disposal all summer long is wonderful, but if you want those same flavors available the rest of the year, you’ll need to preserve them now.


Drying herbs

Dried herbs are three to four times stronger than fresh herbs. They will last longer if stored in a dark dry spot.

  • Group the same type herbs together and tie stems together. Hang them upside down to dry. Once they’re completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in a glass air-tight container. Make certain to label them with their names and the date you dried them.

  • Herbs can also be dried in your microwave on a paper towel, although this method is not as effective at preserving their full flavor. Spread the herbs out so they do not overlap and cover with a paper towel. Microwave for about two minutes, checking after one minute to see how the herbs are doing. Microwave time will depend on the density of the herbs.

Store in a glass container, as above, or place in resealable bags, removing as much air as possible before closing and labeling.

  • Dehydrators work well. You need to follow the directions that come with the machine and store as above.

Herb pastes

  • Put the herb of your choice in the bowl of a food processor and start processing while adding enough olive oil to make a paste. Spoon the paste into a glass jar and refrigerate; it will keep for at least three months. Alternatively, spoon the paste into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, put them into a resealable freezer bag. They will keep for 10 to 12 months.

  • Be creative and combine your own herbs to make your own blends. Since everything looks the same when it is frozen, make certain to label and date all your different bags.


Frozen herbs

Once frozen, the herbs will last 10 to 12 months—just in time for next summer.

  • Chop the herbs so they are ready to use. Fill an ice cube tray with the chopped spices and top off each cube with either water or olive oil. Either one works. Once they are frozen, remove them from the tray and place in a resealable bag that you’ve labeled. When you are ready to use a cube, just remove it from the bag and drop it into what you are cooking.

  • Another way to freeze the herbs is to lay the fresh herbs on a tray or plate and place them in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, place them in a resealable plastic bag and roll them up, removing as much air as possible. Label with types of herbs, date, and seal the bag closed.

This process is simple and can make a big difference to the flavor of your food.

It is possible to buy all these herbs in your local grocery store already dried and packaged. Though it is easier to do that, the flavor does not compare to fresh herbs you preserve yourself. Not to mention the cost savings of doing it yourself rather than buying them prepackaged in the store.


©Excerpt from Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook (pages 51–52) Pistou (page102)T

 


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