Its alarming to note that half the food prepared in the US and Europe is wasted every single day. While its almost considered normal to discard food that's somewhat close to its expiration date, or because its been sitting for far too long in your refrigerator or pantry, or sadly because youre bored to eat it; you can now avoid wastage (and save a few bucks). For those of us who have become accustomed to the pleasure of using fresh 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 hasnt been able to transform a dreary dish with a well-placed pretty garnish of mint or rosemary? Herbs grow like weeds when planted, and if you buy them, they are usually available in a bunch. Using them in your cooking means you probably have plenty left over, and it would be a shame to waste them. Here are 10 easy tips to make the best of these gifts of nature.
How To Make The Best Of Extra Herbs
Go Gourmet With Herbs
- Toss up a big, green salad, but instead of reaching for the regulars like spinach, arugula or romaine lettuce, why not try parsley, tarragon, mint, and dill for a change? Tear them into large pieces instead of chopping them up, and see how they lift the salad much like a citrus zest or splash of lemon juice would do. Avoid using woody herbs such as sage or rosemary, since those are better off in cooked dishes. Instead of creamy dressings, opt for a light vinaigrette and feel free to make it a meal by bulking it up with cooked proteins or whole grains.
- If you like your salads to be predictable, perhaps herb dressings are the best way to experiment in a small, safe way. By adding finely chopped herbs to your salad dressings, you allow their veggie notes to smooth out the edges of the fatty and sharp flavors of the oils, citrus and vinegars. Play with assertive and pungent varieties such as chives. These dressings can last for a week in the fridge but not longer, as the herbs will start to turn.
- Create simple syrup by boiling a handful of herbs in equal parts of sugar and water. Strain and refrigerate. This can be used to sweeten all kinds of drinks with an interesting twist of flavor. Mint works well for most drinks, but rosemary can bring a nice savory accent when least expected, like in a latte or smoothie.
- Tarts are a visual feast but can be prettied even further with some fancy. Tear up some dill, oregano or parsley for a touch of freshness and to tone down a tarts buttery richness. Just make sure the tart is cool before you sprinkle them over the top, or else they will wilt and ruin the effect.
- Showering chopped herbs on fried foods like croquettes, or even just mixing them into the batter itself, can tone downtheir waist-expanding effects, thanks to the nutritional value of the herbs.
- Make dry brine, which is a kind of rub used on poultry or meat before roasting or grilling, by combining herbs, salt, sugar, and garlic. The result will be a smoky, umami flavor thats hard to forget.
- Prepare your own infused oil with either a single herb or a blend, by whizzing them in the food processor with some neutral oil. Dont use extra virgin olive oil, as it has a dominating flavor that will overpower the herbs. Heat this herb-permeated oil very slowly and for a short while. Let it cool, strain it and refrigerate. Use it to drizzle over salads, grilled proteins, or even as a dip on its own.
- Almost everything tastes better with butter, but when you suffuse that already delicious fat with herbs, you can create a sauce that will go with any dish. Just use a bit of citrus zest or juice, or even a splash of vinegar to brighten up this rich sauce.
- Mix finely chopped herbs into room temperature butter for an easy way to make plain toast snazzy, to melt atop a resting, juicy steak, or trickle individually over a bed of grilled shellfish. This can be frozen indefinitely for later use.
- Instead of plain old basil pesto, give some different herbs a whirl by using either parsley or cilantro, which can also make a chunky salsa verde. Using sturdy greens like spinach or arugula for bulk and body is recommended, but avoid potent herbs like sage.
Finally, if you have no time to do any of the above, just tie the herbs in small bunches with some string and suspend them upside down in a cool room for drying. Avoid doing this in the kitchen, which is too warm, and will hamper or slow down the process. Remember to tighten the string as the herbs slowly dry, as they will shrink. Take the fully dried herbs and store them whole in airtight bags, or crumble and store in jars for later use.
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