Fresh Herbs & Spices - Tips from Tina
Guest Blogger - Chef Tina Martini
Summer is a great time to take advantage of all the fresh herbs and spices available at your local market and grocery store. Soups, salads, grilling and oh yes, all those great summer cocktails are perfect places to utilize fresh herbs and spices and wow your family and friends at the next dinner party or backyard barbecue. Here are a few tips on how to handle, use, preserve and even present your herbs and spices:
A great way to store fresh herbs and have them easily at hand for use is to freeze them. Just remove the stems, chop the leaves and sprinkle them in an ice cube tray. Pour water over herbs, freeze into cubes and then pop the cubes out and store in labeled plastic freezer bags. When making soups, sauces, stews, (or mint for your mojitos!), etc., grab a couple cubes and just throw them in. You'll have the beauty and taste of fresh herbs and you'll have saved both time and money.
Another way to store fresh herbs is simply by trimming off the stem ends and placing the bunch in a glass of cold water. Wrap the leaves with a damp paper towel or clean dampened kitchen towel to protect the delicate leaves.
Fresh herbs make a beautiful center piece when coupled with fresh fruit and vegetables. Fill a large glass, vase or clear bowl with fresh fruit or veggies, trim herb bunches so the bottoms are neat and even and place in the vessel of your choice. Fill with water and you have a unique, signature arrangement. Place candles in and around the arrangements for a high-end ambiance you and your family will love.
What about dried herbs and spices? When it comes to cooking, the general rule with dried herbs is this: dried spices and herbs go first. What this means is the dried spices and herbs should be gently heated before any other ingredients are added to the pan. The heating of the herbs can be done in a dry pan or you can infuse your cooking oil with the spices. Fresh herbs go in last because we want the color to stay bright and the taste to remain fresh.
So don't be afraid to pick up some fresh herbs and spices and use them in your next dish - you'll find a use for them in just about everything you cook and they'll add color, flavor and that professional chef flair!