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Monday, May 3, 2010

Hi. My name is Herb.

One of the things I really love about this time of year--and as we move through the summer--at least cooking-wise, is the availability of fresh herbs.  So nice to use them without having to pay a fortune for them in the supermarket.  Fresh herbs just add so much to pretty much anything that you cook. 

Years ago, we planted some oregano and chives in a flower bed at our place and they have been coming up bigger and bigger each year.  We usually just use the oregano until it dies--there's obviously more than enough than we need.  I should really dry some at the end of the season. 

We've also got a rosemary plant that barely hangs on through the winter.  A few varieties of thyme and sage survive in pots and somehow, we had tarragon grow in a tiny pot on our windowsill during the winter.  Of course, there's the Attack of the Killer Mint.  For those of you who have planted mint before, you know that it just spreads and spreads.  Eventually, you have to call in the National Guard to stop it.  We'll plant some of our favorite, basil, in a week or so along with some others--parsley, etc.  Supposedly, if you plant your basil next to your tomato plants, the flavor of the tomatoes is enhanced by the basil.  To me, you can't get much better tasting than a fresh tomato, but that's for another post.

Fresh herbs should be added to dishes at the last minute, so the fresh taste is not diminished by the heat of cooking.  Use dried herbs for things like sauces, that need to be cooked for a long time.  Be wary of dried herbs, though.  Things like oregano dry fine.  But herbs like basil, don't.  Dried basil doesn't taste anything like basil, if you ask me.  There aren't many herbs that are worthwhile substituting dried for fresh.  If you must, use about half of what the recipe calls for if using dried in place of fresh.  My suggestion is that you just use another kind of herb that you have on hand instead of using dried.

I have used freeze dried dill.  It looks and smells like fresh and you use it in the same amount as fresh.  Not bad in a pinch.

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