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Cooking with fresh herbs   

Herbs are added to food recipes, supplying several unique flavors. They consist of the leaves, flowers, and stems of plants; each herb has it’s own distinctive taste. Used alone or in combination, herbs hold a specific relationship to individual dishes. They enhance the food’s natural flavors or provide extra zest. When used appropriately, herbs create a livelier, tastier meal.

Herbal flavors and aromas are released by heat. Although fresh herbs are usually preferred, dried versions are often acceptable. When using dried herbs, use those that are as close to whole as possible. By crushing them yourself, you will release more aromatic oils than found in ground, processed varieties. Substitute 1 teaspoon of crumbled, or 1/4 teaspoon powdered, dried herbs for each tablespoon of fresh herbs called for.

When using fresh herbs in cold dishes, they must be at room temperature. When preparing a dish that requires a lengthy cooking period, it is best to use a small, tied bunch of fresh herb sprigs. This bundle is referred to as a bouquet garni and customarily contains parsley, bay leaf, and thyme. Herbal combinations can also be minced and added to a meal immediately upon completion of cooking, and as a garnish before serving. This French practice is referred to as fines herbes. It includes fresh chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives. This combination is added primarily to salads, scrambled eggs, and dishes containing poultry and fish.

Italian cuisine often consists of herbal blends that include basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Basil is best to use fresh (when possible) and compliments tomatoes, tomato sauces, eggs, fresh salads, and macaroni. It adds a wonderful tang to vegetables such as green beans, peas, eggplant, and zucchini. Basil is the significant ingredient in pesto and is an extraordinary compliment in both tofu and tempeh marinades. Oregano is the preferred herb in Italian cooking, especially in spaghetti sauces and pizzas. It also adds a nice touch in salads, soups, and chicken. Mediterranean cuisine favors the use of oregano as well. Marjoram can actually be used as a substitute for oregano, providing a much subtler taste. It often accompanies green beans, mushrooms, and chicken as well. Thyme is an exceptional herb for seasoning sausages, soups, casseroles, bread, stuffing, and many cooked vegetables. Sage, like thyme, is a terrific addition to sausage and stuffing. Many experienced cooks accent their favoite meatloaf recipes with this herb. Chicken, pork, and lamb taste best when they are flavored with rosemary. Adding a scant pinch to mashed potatoes or peas can add an appetizing twist to these otherwise ordinary side dishes. Take care when preparing foods with dried thyme and rosemary! When dried, these herbs possess an incredibly pungent flavor. Adding too much can definitely prove to be a bit overbearing!

Tarragon enhances many foods; among these are chicken, fish, and lentils. Adding a hint of tarragon to split pea soup is heavenly. Tarragon also makes especially aromatic herbal vinegar. You can prepare tarragon vinegar by placing sprigs of the herb into a bottle. Pour vinegar into the bottle, completely covering the sprigs. Close the bottle tightly and store for several weeks. This allows the tarragon time to release its flavors. The herb savoury has two varieties: winter and summer. Both are often added to salads and poultry stuffing. Bean dishes also benefit from this herbs aroma. Bay leaves are frequently added to sauces, stews, and many dishes that require time to simmer. One medium bay leaf may be added to season a recipe that serves six. Bay leaves are excellent embellishments for spaghetti sauces, dishes containing chicken or venison, and eggs.

Parsley is a widely utilized herb, its flavor being subtle enough to be added to virtually any cuisine. Cooked vegetables, stews, soups, and fresh or prepared salads often contain this herb. As a garnish, parsley adds fantastic eye appeal. Cilantro, also referred to as coriander or coriander leaves, has an extraordinarily original flavor. It is utilized frequently in Indian, Mexican, and Chinese cooking. Some cooking texts actually identify this herb as Mexican or Chinese parsley. It adds a wonderful flare to salsas and marinades. Chervil, like parsley and coriander leaves, is often used as a garnish. This herb seasons soups, salads, and fish. Cheese dishes and potato salads are also excellent choices for the addition of chervil.

One of the most commonly used and well-known herbs is chive. Chives have a delicate onion flavor, making them a common addition to sour cream and cottage cheese. Sprinkling chives on vegetable stews or soups, particularly those containing eggs or milk-based products, is divine. This herb is placed in many herbal vinegars and jellies. Be certain not to add chives to dishes during boiling, frying, or baking. These processes destroy the herbs natural flavor. Dill weed is another commonly used herb, seasoning sour cream as a vegetable dip, salads, fish (particularly salmon), cold soups, and vegetables. The pickling process utilizes the seeds from this herb. Mint leaves are regularly used to adorn desserts, especially those consisting of chocolate or fruit. Mint has a very refreshing taste and is added to several salads and drinks containing fruit, tea blends, jellies, and sauces. Mint jelly or sauce is customarily served with lamb.

Always remember to purchase herbs in small quantities. Store them in airtight containers to prevent staleness and insect intrusion. Place the containers in a cool, dry, darkened area. Fresh herbs may be refrigerated. Freezing fresh herbs is a relatively simple process. Cleanse the herbs delicately, blot them dry, and remove leaves from the stalks. You can freeze them whole or chopped, packing into bags or airtight containers. There is a convenient method of freezing chopped herbs to be used in soups or stews. Simply spoon the clean, chopped herbs into an ice cube tray, cover each cube with water, and freeze. You can pop them right out of the tray and into a cooking pot as needed. Remember to experiment! You’re sure to create blends that compliment many of your favorite recipes!


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