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Posts from the ‘Herbs and Spices’ Category

Herbs and Spices: End of Summer

Hold on to the fading flavors of summer with these easy recipes:

Heirloom Tomato Salad: Toss together a variety of chopped heirloom tomatoes, roughly torn basil, mozzarella cheese, olive oil, kosher salt and pepper.

Summer Succotash: Combine 1 cup of fresh corn kernels, 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup fava beans, 1 Tbs chives, 1 clove garlic (minced), 1/2 small onion (minced), kosher salt and pepper.

Chimichurri: Finely chop or puree the following in a food processor: 1 cup fresh parsley, 1 Tbs fresh oregano, 1 clove garlic, kosher salt and 1 tsp red wine vinegar. Mix or drizzle in olive oil until smooth.

Roasted Carrots with Dill: Peel and slice carrots on the bias to 3/4″ thickness. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat with Kosher salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for ~25 minutes or until carrots are browned. Remove from oven and top with chopped dill and a drizzle of olive oil if needed.

Sea Salt vs. Table Salt

To all of the companies who market sea salt as healthy, you are doing your jobs well!  At least once per week I’ll discuss a low sodium diet with a patient who has heart failure and part of our conversation will go something like this:

Patient: “Oh yes, I always follow a low sodium diet.  We only use sea salt at home.” (This is usually followed by a self-satisfied look that says “See, I’m up to date on what’s good for me”).

Me: “Sea salt is salt.  It contains sodium which is what you need to reduce in your diet.  Don’t believe what the marketing says. It may be less processed, but it’s still salt.”

Patient: (now with slightly crestfallen face): “Really?”

Me: “Yes.”

In brief, sea salt is what’s left after salt water is evaporated. The minerals that are left behind give the salt nuances of flavor.  Table salt is processed to remove these minerals, and iodine, an important trace element, is typically added. But, the chemical makeup (NaCl – sodium chloride) is the same.

If you’re looking to reduce sodium in your diet my first recommendation is to experiment with fresh or dried herbs and spices (see this post for pairing suggestions). You can also use salt-free seasonings such as Mrs. Dash, or a salt substitute. The salt substitutes may be potassium based, so it’s important to check with your doctor before using them.  As always, experiment and enjoy!

Kitchen Tip: Season Like a Chef

In this new monthly Master Class series from the LA Times, Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon Bistro, and others, shares his insight on wet and dry brines and seasoning your food to perfection. Watch the video for an easy recipe that will transform your dinner table into your favorite restaurant.

The Master Class column will feature a different chef each month – watch for Nancy Silverton talking about focaccia, Tom Colicchio showing you how to expand the use of vinaigrettes and Sang Yoon discussing ketchup alternatives.

Fresh Herbs When You Want Them

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to grow your own herbs year-round, think about using a Grow Bottle.  It’s produced by Potting Shed Creations, and provides a second life for an old wine bottle.  The bottle comes with organic seeds and “clay grow pebbles” and creates a hydroponic system to grow the herbs (it uses water instead of dirt).  After your herbs have been used up from seasoning your meals, simply empty the bottle and start again with one of the Replant Kits or your own seeds.

If you’re looking for more of a one-time use herb or plant pot, look at the “gardens in a bag”.  These make great gifts, and I can vouch for the delicious mini tomatoes that brightened my windowsill last year.

Herbs and Spices: Preservation

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If your garden herbs are growing out of control or you don’t know what to do with the big bunch of herbs you bought at the farmers market, it’s time to extend their use with proper storage.  Fresh herbs can be kept in the fridge by placing their stems in a glass filled with a small amount of water and an unsealed plastic bag over the top (asparagus should also be kept this way).  If after two weeks you still have unused herbs you have two options:

Option 1: Freezing

This method works best for soft-leaf herbs such as basil, dill, parsley and chives.  Leaves and stems can be placed in a plastic bag (squeeze out the air!), and then kept in the freezer for up to six months.  Defrosting is unnecessary before using, but the leaves may lose some of their integrity, so it’s best to use them in mixed dishes.  Leafy herbs can also be placed in ice cube trays, covered with water and frozen.  It’s easy to season a winter soup by tossing a few cubes into your pot.

Option 2: Drying

This method works particularly well with hardier herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary and bay leaves. Simply wash the herbs, dry them off, and then hang them upside down until they are dried out.  Remove the leaves and keep in a tightly sealed bag or jar for up to one year. Another method of drying includes microwaving the herbs for 30 seconds at a time until crisp.  According to Bon Appetit magazine, you shouldn’t have to microwave them for more than 2-3 minutes total.

If you like kitchen gadgets you can try the Prepara Herb-Savor.  I can’t vouch for it, but it looks like it should work because the herbs are sitting in water and are covered by the plastic top.  All of these methods will help you enjoy summer-fresh herbs all year long!