Some of the most nutritious and important parts of a healthy diet are herbs. It is well known that eating a plant heavy diet benefits your health and waistline and helps you to enjoy delicious flavor in all your recipes.
There are many herbs to choose from, all of which offer very low calorie ways to add flavor to your cooking. Learning how to buy, prepare, store and cook with fresh herbs may seem like a lot of work, not to mention figuring out what herbs go with which dish but very worth it in the end. Cooking with fresh herbs is not reserved for gourmet chefs.
The following tips will have you elevating your dishes to the next level in no time.
Fresh or Dried – Which Is Better
Choosing between fresh and dried herbs, for the most part, is a matter of choice. That being said, there are times when one herb is better than the other. Dried herbs have the best flavor when they are added during cooking. This gives enough time for their flavor to infuse into the dish.
Making homemade soup or sauce that is going to be simmering for at least 45 minutes after you add the herbs, is a good time to use dried herbs. If you add the herbs too close to serving time, the herbs tend to taste dusty. Fresh herbs are best when they are used at the end of cooking. A good example of this would be adding ribbons of basil to a pizza just before serving it, or using fresh herbs in a sauce if you are not going to be letting it simmer for a long time.
How To Buy Fresh Herbs
If you are going to purchase your herbs from the grocery store, wait until as close to when you are going to be cooking them as possible. Choose bunches of herbs that have a vibrant color and aroma. If you can’t smell the herb, you aren’t likely going to be able to taste it either. Avoid any herbs that are limp, or have any sort of discoloration.
If you aren’t going to be using your herbs immediately, there are some steps you can take to extend their longevity and flavor. First, remove any fastening there may be on the herbs. Next cut the root ends off of as they will draw moisture away from the leaves which will cause wilting.
How To Store Fresh Herbs
The next thing you need to do with your herbs is to wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel and put them into a zipper seal bag. Ensure you leave a little bit of air in the bag. You are going to want to place the herbs in the warmest part of your fridge, which is typically the door, or the top shelf. The shelf life of fresh herbs isn’t very long. You are going to want to use them as soon as possible. When you take them out to use them, cut away any wilted or discolored leaves before you use them.
Washing Fresh Herbs
Only wash your herbs right before you use them. You don’t want to wash them before you store them in the fridge. To wash them fill a bowl with cold water and place your herbs inside. Gently swirl them around in the water to remove any dirt that is on the leaves. Once is usually enough, but if you find there is a lot of sediment at the bottom of your bowl, you can give the herbs another rinse. Gently pat the herbs dry with a paper towel and you are ready to chop them.
How To Chop Fresh Herbs
The first thing you need to ensure when you are cutting your herbs is to use a sharp blade. You can use a knife, food processor or even scissors, as long as they are sharp. To maximize the flavor of the herbs you want to cut them as finely as possible. Chop your herbs right, as you need to put them on the dish to maximize the flavor and aroma you are adding to your dish.
Ensuring You Are Using The Best Quality Dried Herbs
If you are choosing to use dried herbs, you want to ensure you are still adding the best to your dishes. Dried herbs lose their flavor over time. Buy herbs in smaller quantities to ensure you are able to use them before they have lost their flavor. It is also a good idea to store your herbs in an air-sealed container to maximize their flavor. If you open the container and cannot smell the aroma of the herb, there won’t be any flavor left to the herb either.
As long you know how to work with herbs and when to add them to your dish, cooking with herbs doesn’t need to be confusing. You can soon be serving dishes to your family that are as flavorful as what you would get in a restaurant. And they will love it.