cucina bene; mangia bene (Fresh Herbs)
This is a new category of tips and techniques that we have learned and will share with you on a regular basis. Cucina bene; mangia bene means ‘cook well; eat well’ in Italian—a fitting title we think.
This week’s post is about using and storing fresh herbs. How many times have you bought fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, or tarragon, from the farmer’s market or store, have put them in the refrigerator in the bag they were purchased in, only to find them wilted or rotted when you went to use them? How often have you only used the amount you needed for the recipe you were making, and weren’t sure what to do with the rest?
Fresh herbs are powerful flavor enhancers and using them is a good way to reduce sodium consumption. They can be added as whole leaves to salads: try adding fresh basil or parsley to a mixed green salad that is tossed with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. You’ll be surprised at how good they taste! You can make a healthy topping for grilled fish or chicken by chopping fresh parsley, basil, or cilantro with garlic, lemon zest, a small pinch of salt, and a little olive oil. You can add shredded fresh basil as a topping to a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce to enhance the flavor of the dish. Toss fresh chopped tarragon with peeled shrimp or scallops before grilling them; tarragon really compliments the sweet flavor of the seafood. Fresh dill is a nice match for salmon and cilantro works well with tuna.
When storing fresh herbs, cut the ends off the bunch, put them in a glass jar or water glass filled partway with water, and cover with a plastic bag. Store the herbs in the refrigerator; they will keep for a week or longer this way. Store fresh basil in the same way on the countertop and without the plastic bag. Fresh basil prefers room temperatures and the opportunity to breath.
The farmers’ markets have an abundance of fresh herbs available now; go buy some and create some magic in your kitchen. A presto!