Tips for Cooking with Fresh Herbs
Fresh herbs are a wonderful way to add extra flavor, depth and dimension to a variety of home-cooked foods and meals. There are so many different types of herbs that have an exciting range of flavor profiles. Just a few sprigs of an herb can elevate a simple staple dish.
Read on to learn some helpful tips for cooking with fresh herbs.
Know Your Options
As more and more people become interested in creating fresh, farm-to-table meals at home using locally-sourced ingredients, fresh herbs are becoming much easier to find. Most supermarkets carry a selection of fresh herbs, while local farmer's markets supply a variety of herbs grown at nearby farms. Another great option is to grow your own herbs.
Look for Quality
Herbs are generally fragile, and can spoil quickly. When shopping for fresh herbs, look for vibrant, green sprigs, and avoid herbs that appear limp or have begun to change color or blacken. While a little imperfection is okay, skip over herbs that have spots or other marks.
The majority of herbs can be classified into two general groups: delicate and hardy. Delicate herbs, like basil or cilantro, typically last less than a week, while hardier herbs like rosemary can last for one or two weeks. Once you've bought some fresh herbs, wash them gently but thoroughly under cold water, making sure any dirt or sand is removed. Then, fully dry the herbs with paper towels, taking care not to crush them.
To best preserve freshness, cut the ends off of the stems then wrap the herbs in a paper towel and place in a sealed plastic bag, and store in the refrigerator.
The way you prepare the herbs affects their flavor profile. Cutting the herbs with a dull blade weakens their flavor, however the Oster® Oskar™ 2-in-1 Salad Prep & Food Processor is designed with sharp blades that seamlessly cut through the stems and leaves of herbs with precision, preserving as much of their flavor as possible. Simply add the herbs to the Oskar™ Food Processor attachment and secure the lid to mince the herbs and combine them with other ingredients.
Incorporating herbs during the cooking process also affects the overall flavor of the dish you are preparing. If you want the herbs to provide a more subtle background flavor that blends with the other ingredients, add the herbs early on during cooking. If you want the herbs to be the star of the dish, then add them toward the end of cooking and use for garnish as well.
Learn Flavor Profiles
Certain herbs pair particularly well with specific ingredients, and knowing these pairings can help you enhance your meals. For example, cilantro has a refreshing and green taste that tempers spicy dishes, and it is frequently used in Latin-inspired dishes. Basil is used in many Italian recipes and has an earthy taste that complements tomatoes, plus a variety of other produce, like strawberries and watermelon. It also pairs well with creamy cheeses. Mint provides balance to sweet foods, including pork and fruit salads.
This is just a sample of the many herbs out there - try preparing meals with fresh herbs today to enhance the flavor of your dishes.