Posts tagged using herbs & spices
Harvesting Fresh Herbs
In preparation for moving my herb garden to a permanent location I’m harvesting some of the herbs. I try to grow as many of my herbs as possible, because they taste so much better than store bought herbs. Even the herbs I can buy in bulk are missing some key element that home grown and dried herbs have. There’s something that happens when they dry them at high temperatures that changes the flavor.
Today I harvested oregano and spearmint. I’ve been working in my office for several hours and came out to get a drink of water. I was greeted by the heavenly scent of oregano. It smelled like I was walking into a five-star Italian restaurant!
Home Processed Tastes Better
I use a temperature controlled dehydrator, set at 90 degrees (F), and let them dry for approximately 8 hours. If I can, I store my herbs whole. Otherwise I process them minimally. For the mint, I’ll put the whole leaves in an air tight container. The oregano will need to be stripped from the stems, but I do this trying to keep from breaking them up too much.
For each break there is in an herb leaf, the essential oils are released. I’ve never understood why anyone would by rubbed sage. It is so smashed that most of the essential oils have been released. If you rub the sage yourself, just before you use it, the taste will be totally different and be much more aromatic. Powdered herbs are an even more distasteful product. Once the herb has been powdered you need to use it within a few days, otherwise the taste will begin to deteriorate rapidly and you’ll just be left with tasteless green powder in a short time.
So, if you want herbs that will set your tongue to tingling and remain tingling for hours afterward (I can still taste the spearmint I put in my smoothie this morning), then use them fresh or dry them yourself. It will make an average dish taste gourmet just with this one small change.
Share Your Thoughts
What are your experiences with using home processed herbs? Have any interesting new ideas or stories to share?
Just want to give you a heads up. I’m going to be offering a free demonstration of my “Cooking by Feel” method of food preparation on June 12th, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. It will be held at The Creative Center in Greensboro, NC. You can see the calendar listing. I discovered I have a knack for being able to just grab things out of the fridge, willy-nilly, and end up preparing a delicious dish or meal. My goal, through the demonstration and classes, is to get people eating more freshly prepared food, with minimal time involvement, and make it so tasty they won’t want to go back to pre-prepared or fast foods.
I don’t have a clue what I’m going to fix, because what I’ll do is, the day of the event, I’ll grab stuff out of my fridge, load it up, take it to the site where the demo is, and I’ll prepare one or two dishes for people to taste.
I will make sure I have a wide selection of my most used herbs, as well as all my food fixers. You know those things that you add when you made it too salty, bitter, sour, etc. Other than that it will just be whatever whim I happen to have that day.
These demos are a lot of fun and you get to taste whatever concoction I come up with. I hope you’ll join me as I venture into in-person opportunities to learn healthy gourmet meal preparation.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Solonynko.
Confused on how to say that, well I had to guess at how to spell it! It’s an expression I use all the time when I taste something delicious, and yesterday was one of those days. I was cleaning out all the winter weeds from the herb garden. In the process I had to dig up a few volunteers that had come up in the middle of other herbs, and managed to break a stem off the oregano.
While preparing a salad for lunch I pulled out all the fresh herbs I had just gathered from the garden and proceeded to add some to the salad. Yummo-schmumo. There is nothing that will perk up a salad like the addition of fresh herbs. I added just fennel, oregano, and parsley, but it made a taste sensation that is missing throughout the winter months.
During the winter I’m relegated to using dried herbs, but they just don’t carry the punch of fresh. No matter what way I dry my own surplus, when I get to use my first bit of fresh it’s like an explosion of flavor that I’ve not had for many months.
Herbs that are amazing additions to salads include – fennel, oregano, lemon thyme, tarragon, basil (all the different flavors), rosemary, parsley, salad burnett, and marjoram.
Share Your Favorite Salad Addition
I’m sure I’m missing a few great additions. What do you add to your salads to make them unique? Please share with us all in the comment box below.
When I first became a vegetarian I didn’t miss any meat, except turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I had it every single holiday that I could remember and the first without was interesting. What was I going to fix? At that time there was no Tofurky available. For a number of years we just ate butternut or acorn squash to replace the turkey. Then I found this recipe from Ann Gentry. I first used it about 15 years ago. I was amazed to find her sharing it in a recent blog post.
I’ll tell you, if you want the taste of turkey without having to kill one to eat it, this is the recipe for you. I love this recipe. It does take a little bit of prep time, but it’s delicious. The recipe also makes a huge amount, so I usually halve it, because there’s only two of us. Even then we can have “turkey” leftovers for several days afterward, just like we did in the “olden days.”
I serve it with my own herbed gravy, which I’m sharing below. So, here’s a great base for holiday meals without the meat. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Prep Time: 20 min
Servings: 1.5- 2 cups
- ½ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup rice milk, unsweetened
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 cup water
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 2 Tbsp safflower or sunflower oil
- 1 tsp dried, crushed sage
- ½ tsp dry thyme
- ¼ tsp dry marjoram
- pinch black pepper
In 2 qt. saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add flour and stir often for 2 min. Remove from heat and allow to cool for several minutes. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Whisk together with the flour/oil, half at a time to avoid lumping. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10-15 min, stirring occasionally. If gravy seems too thick, whisk in additional water, 1 Tbs. at a time until desired consistency is reached. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
You can substitute soy or almond milk for the rice milk.
Last post I promised that I would talk about the different types of basil and how to use them. Nowdays there are many more flavors of basil than just sweet. One of the most popular is lemon basil.
Lemon basil has a delicate flavor, distinctly lemon with a hint of basil spiciness. It is not as robust, nor does it grow as large or with as big of leaves as sweet basil. The essential oil that creates the lemony flavor is easily destroyed with high temperature cooking, so it is best to add lemon basil at the end of the cooking cycle, except in baking when it cannot be added at the end. Lemon basil is excellent in raw dishes, too, especially salads and in salad dressing.
Low temperature dehydrating is a must for this type of basil in order to retain its delicate lemony taste.
Next is licorice basil. It is distinctly licorice with a strong basil spiciness, too. It is a smaller plant and leaf, as well. It is delicious in both cooked and raw dishes. It’s flavor is robust and strong and not easily damaged with cooking. It is excellent on pizzas in place of or combination with sweet basil.
Dry it the same way you would sweet basil.
Cinnamon basil has a sweet cinnamony pungence with sweet basil overtones. It also is a smaller plant and leaf than sweet basil. It holds it flavor well in cooking and can be used in raw dishes as well.
Dry it like sweet basil.
Holy basil. This basil has a very distinct flavor. The plant is smaller with smaller leaves than sweet basil. The leaves and stems are slightly hairy. I’ve only used holy basil for tea, so don’t know if it works well in cooking or raw preparations.
It dries excellently and is a prolific self-seeder in this area (zone 7a).
All basils are best if cut and dried before flowers set, but that can be hard, especially with holy basil, which seems to blossom almost from day one.
More basils next time. (Yes there are even more to choose from.)