For those of us who have become accustomed to the pleasure of using herbs in our food and drinks, we know how easy it is to lift a simple food item to gourmet status with just a few sprinkles of the right, flavorful herb. We are gratefully aware of how herbs can infuse food with medicinal value and easily boost its nutrition levels. And who hasn’t been able to transform a dreary dish with a pretty garnish of mint or rosemary?
But all herbs come in two varieties: fresh and dried, and it’s tough to know when to use which kind and how to treat them differently. We outline some common situations when this dilemma crops up, and offer you some clever herb hacks that will surely help you in your cooking:
When To Add Herbs To Your Recipe: Since timing is everything when it comes to making food, it’s good to know when herbs need to be added during the cooking process. Dried herbs need to be added a little early in the game, since they need time to infuse the dish with their flavors. Fresh herbs can be added just before serving, but don’t pile them on top of steaming dishes too early or they will wilt, and look as well as taste terrible. Use fresh herbs in quick dishes and add them freely to sauces and dressings.
How Much? Quantities can make or break a dish, so you need to regulate the amount of herbs in the recipe to adjust the amount of flavor you wish to extract from them. Dried herbs have concentrated flavors compared to fresh ones, which have delicate flavors, so use the dried kind sparingly. Just remember to be careful when adding herbs and do it in small increments, so you can taste and adjust accordingly.
Purchasing Herbs: Availability is an issue, since not all herbs are perennials; thus it’s important to figure out how to substitute one for the other. If a recipe calls for a dried herb, you can use the fresh variety, one and half times the suggested amount. Sometimes you can use a pinch of the dried kind during cooking, and garnish with a larger amount just before serving, thus creating deeper layers of the same flavor.
Twist Of Taste: Some herbs taste different in their fresh and dried avatars. You ought to remember what each one does, so you can better exploit them to enhance your food. Herbs like dill, parsley and chives should only be used fresh because their grassy notes tend to infuse food in a refreshing way, while those like oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage taste better in their dried state and add deeper flavors to food.
Storing Herbs: Their storage solutions and shelf lives are going to vary, so it’s best to learn some nifty tricks n this department. Soft and tender herbs like basil are better when used fresh, so wrap up the cuttings in paper towels and store in re-sealable plastic bags in the fridge. Dried herbs last six to eight months if kept in airtight jars in a cool, dark and dry place. Fresh or dry, always smell herbs before using, and if they reek of mold or lack any smell at all, it’s time to throw them out.
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