Sunday, May 11, 2008


Ah, the wonder of herbs. What would our meals be like without a little cilantro, basil, or oregano to spice things up? Bringing a new level of flavor to a dish, fresh herbs are actually a dream come true for those of you out there who are counting your calories. Though their tiny leaves may pack a mighty flavor punch, herbs are virtually calorie-free! If you’re eliminating fat, sugar, or salt from your cooking, rely on herbs to bring your diet to a whole new level!

We often use dried herbs out of convenience, but if you want to spruce up your cooking, why not try them fresh? The difference between fresh herbs and their dry counterparts is the drying process causes some tastes to be lost so their flavors are somewhat decreased. Fresh herbs have more subtle flavors, though they are more delicate. But don’t worry; we’ve got some tips to cover all your fresh herb cooking needs!

Over-cooking fresh herbs can diminish their flavor. Add them in at the tail-end of your cooking process in order to obtain the maximum taste. For instance, try not to cook them in soups, stocks, or other liquids for over an hour. For some great roasted potatoes, add a little fresh rosemary at the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Recipes usually call for dry herbs instead of fresh. As a general rule, use three times the amount of fresh herbs that any recipe calls for because their flavors are often more subtle than the dry ones.

If you want to kick your fried foods up a notch, add some finely chopped fresh herbs to your batter and crumb mixes. One restaurant secret for working with roasts, seafood, and poultry is to rub the meat with herbs before cooking. To do this, chop the fresh herbs and add a little salt and pepper to flavor. Then simply rub the seasonings on!

Though fresh herbs are perishable, proper storage prolongs their shelf-life. Store a bunch of them in a refrigerator with their stems in water. If you have loose leaves, keep them in the coldest part of your fridge in perforated bags. Be careful, though, because too much moisture heightens decay. To avoid this problem, shake the herbs as dry as possible before storing and place a moist paper towel underneath them.

Herbs are known to help us feel more satisfied with our food. We tend to be more satisfied with our meals when they contain a little zest. Best of all, if you really take the time to savor these flavors, you end up feeling more full and eating less! You can find fresh herbs at your local grocery store, specialty food markets, and even growing in your backyard. Try a little experimenting with a sprinkling of fresh mint, bay leaves, or sage and see how your meals take on a whole new flavor!



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