Monday, June 1, 2015

Slice and Dice: Fresh Herbs

Low in calories and immensely flavorful, herbs transform deviled eggs, potato salad, and rubs from ordinary to "oh my gawd" exceptional. Like a pied piper, they draw us to pesto, tabbouleh, and refreshing mint ice cream.

Cooking Tips

Basil, parsley, dill, and love-it-or-hate-it cilantro have delicate leaves and tender stems. Sensitive to heat, they are best eaten raw or added at the end of the cooking process. 

Rosemary, thyme, and sage on the other hand have thick leaves and tough stems that can withstand prolonged heat. Their raw leaves are rubbery, but become palatable with cooking. They should be chopped before they are cooked or added with their stem intact and removed before serving. 

Fresh Versus Dry


Fresh herbs have greater complexity than their dried counterparts. Fresh rosemary, for example, has notes of cloves, lavender, nutmeg, and pine, but when dried often loses all but its pine flavor. (See both pictured below). Opt for fresh herbs whenever possible. If dried herbs are your only option, purchase them in small quantities as they quickly degrade.


Prepping Fresh Herbs


Grab a sharp knife (to avoid bruising and crushing your herbs), a cutting board, and a few sheets of paper towel, and follow these simple steps:

Wash herbs and pat them dry with a paper towel.

To chop herbs with fragile leaves like parsley and cilantro: 

Remove the leaves from the stem (this step is optional when prepping cilantro). Pinch the base of your knife. With your other hand, wad up the loose leaves. Slice through them.

Hold the knife over the sliced leaves. Place your other hand on the back of the knife and rock it back and forth over the leaves.

To chop hardy herbs, like rosemary, thyme, sage, and marjoram:

Remove the leaves from the woody stem. With one hand, hold the knife pinching the base. Place the other hand on the back of the knife and rock the knife back and forth over the leaves.

To chiffonade (thinly slice) basil, sage, or mint:

Remove the leaves from the stems and stack five or six leaves in a pile. Roll the leaves lengthwise into a tight cylinder, then hold the tip of the cylinder with one hand and slice it into thin strips with the knife.

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