Fresh Herbs

Fresh Herbs

It’s February and according to the little fuzzy fellow we are in for another six more weeks of winter. However I don’t think we experienced the first six weeks of winter this season. I visited my herb garden today only to find more signs of spring. My rosemary is lush and green, there are green leaves on my thyme, and oregano is popping up! Since I have no control over our weather patterns I guess I will just be excited that I soon will have fresh home grown herbs on the table.

I am a huge fan of the word fresh. In the culinary world fresh is best. That being said, I am surprised how undervalued fresh herbs are to some home chefs. People think fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic but quickly grab dried basil or parsley. They are not the same as fresh! Now, I am not suggesting that you quickly go to your spice pantry and throw out your dried herbs, no I am not. I am merely hoping to create more awareness and help home chefs expand their use(s) of fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are easy to grow here in Colorado, they are inexpensive, they are packed full of nutrition and they can really turn up your home cooking. We all eat with our eyes first and fresh herbs not only greatly enhance the overall flavors of a dish, but visibly make a dish more desirable.

Let’s look at parsley. Flat leaf parsley is one of my favorites and is pretty much a universal herb. Parsley is an easy to grow herb. Once established it may return. If not, plant it again. I can assure you a parsley plant is a minimal investment compared to its overall benefits. If you don’t have an herb garden or a green thumb, no worries, parsley is available year round at the supermarket. Parsley is packed full of over 80 nutrients and can be used in almost any soup, salad, or entrée. I do recognize that it can be a bit of a pain to wash then chop and always have on hand so I have I want to share a tip that keeps fresh chopped parsley on hand all week.

Purchase one whole bunch organic parsley and wash well. Dry it the best you can. I love using flour sacks for this. I wrap the parsley up in the flour sack, then roll it up and squeeze the water out. Drier parsley is easier and less messy to chop. Trim off most of the stems to the point where leafs begin to grow. (Save the stems for stock or another use). Run your chef’s knife through the parsley, rocking back in forth until you have minced all the parsley. (You can go as small as you want here…) Once the parsley is minced place it on a small section of cheesecloth and wrap up. Twist the cheesecloth tightly to secure the parsley then run the bundle under cold water in the sink.  While the water is running, squeeze the bundle of parsley continually. The water will be green from the parsley then turn clear.  Once the water is almost clear you are done. Squeeze well to get rid of excess moisture. Keep the parsley in the cheese cloth bundle in your fridge and sprinkle on anything from morning eggs, salads, soups, to dinner! Not only will your plates visually be brighter and tastier but you will little by little be gaining numerous health benefits!

This technique does not work for more delicate herbs like basil. Once fresh basil is chopped it begins to oxidize immediately turning its delicate leaves brown. Fresh basil should be minimally chopped and prepped right before service. However, other popular herbs like oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, cilantro and tarragon are easier to manage.

As spring approaches and we begin to crave fresh greens get creative and explore the different uses and varieties of herbs. Be sure to smell and taste them before using and begin with small amounts at first.

A general rule to follow when using herbs is to use dried herbs in the beginning of a dish and fresh herbs at the end. Dried herbs need heat and moisture to blossom and fresh herbs are best used with minimal cooking time to ensure their delicate flavors don’t get lost.

Here is a quick guide of common herbs and their pairings to get you started:

Fresh Basil – Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisine.  Including tomatoes, bell peppers, cheeses, lemon, garlic, watermelon, squashes, eggplant, salads, dressings, soups, eggs, chicken, lamb and fish.
Fresh Cilantro – Asian, Indian, Mexican and Thai cuisine.  Avocados, peppers, coconut, garlic, ginger, limes, mint, tomatoes, yogurt, chicken, fish, and pork.
Fresh Dill  – German, Greek, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Russian, Scandinavian, and Turkish cuisine.  Beets, cabbage, carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, eggs, parsley, pickles, potatoes, tomatoes, yogurt, beef, fish, and shellfish.
Fresh Oregano – Greek, Italian, and Mexican cuisine.  Basil, beans, bell peppers eggs, eggplant, garlic, lemon, mushrooms, olives, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, beef, chicken, fish, and pork.
Fresh Rosemary – French, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine.  Beans, bell peppers, breads, cabbage, eggs, eggplant, garlic, lavender, lemons, beef, chicken, duck, fish, rabbit, and lamb.
Fresh Sage – European cuisine.  Apples, asparagus, beans, breads, cheeses, cherries, eggplant, garlic, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, rosemary, sausages, squash, thyme, tomatoes, chicken, duck, game birds, goose, pork and fish.
Fresh Tarragon – French cuisine.  Beets, carrots, cheeses, chives, eggs, fennel, grapefruit, lemons, limes, melons, mushrooms, parsley, potatoes, chicken, fish, lobster, pork and rabbit.
Fresh Thyme – French, Italian, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisine.  Bay leaves, beans, carrots, cheese, chives, corn, eggplant, lemons, mushrooms, onions, oregano, parsley, potatoes rosemary, tomatoes, chicken, fish, lamb, and pork.

 

LET’S GET COOKING!

SUZANNE

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SUZANNE

Foodie | Home Chef | Author

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The Perfect Pomegranate

The Perfect Pomegranate

Check out this video from Jamie Davis Films!

 

https://vimeopro.com/user2654411/the-perfect-pomegranate

 

LET’S GET COOKING!

SUZANNE

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SUZANNE

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Sharp Knives

Converted all my knives from 20-degree blades to 15 degrees. Wow, now we are talking sharp. Fabricating this 8 piece chicken was a snap. Already down one band aid from bumping one of the knives! They will require a little more maintenance but so far I think it will be worth it!

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SUZANNE

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Salt 101

One of the greatest joys I love about my cooking classes is all the questions that come up.  Of course, I always hope that I can impress and quickly spit out the answer however every now and again a question arises that requires follow up…and if you know me, you know I love to conduct research when it comes to food or ingredients!  So that being said, salt, a workhorse in the kitchen, is a topic that gets a lot of attention.Simply stated, the better the ingredients used the better the outcome.  However a subsequent question is when to use which type of ingredient?  This is a question I am often asked when it comes to salt. I hope to simplify this as many of us have fallen to the excitement of a spontaneous purchase in specialty shop either as a gift or a splurge only to get home and have to ask ourselves …now what am I going to do with this Black Hawaiian Sea Salt?Salt 101 (Sodium Chloride)Salt either comes from salt mines or from the sea.  Salt is nonorganic therefore keeps indefinitely.Table Salt (aka common salt) is a mined salt.  It is a fine grain salt with non caking additives that make it free flowing and most often has iodine added.  A good choice for everyday uses of sweet and savory dishes as it dissolves easily, however some believe the iodine added can alter the taste slightly.Kosher Salt is raked during the evaporation process and yields a more coarsely grained product.  Unlike table salt, kosher salt contains no additives or non caking agents.  Coarse kosher salt is the preferred choice of most cooks for the pure flavor and texture.Sea Salt comes from the evaporation of seawater.   A more expensive process than the salt mining mentioned above.  Sea salt tends to be irregular in shape and varies in mineral content depending on the region it comes from.  Due to the high amount of minerals it can have a grayish color.   Sea salt is more expensive and should be used as a finishing salt as there is no distinction when used in regular cooking.  When purchasing sea salt, look for large flaky crystals and color instead of exotic regions.Rock Salt is even less refined which results in very large crystals and a higher mineral content. Routinely used as a bedding for seafood or for making ice cream.

Pickling Salt is a very fine additive free salt that is used in brines, pickling and sauerkraut as it dissolves easily.

Seasoned Salt is typically regular salt that has been enhanced with other flavors; examples include garlic, onion, celery and truffles.

Pink Salt (aka Himalayan Salt) is an unrefined rock salt that typically comes from Pakistan and contains many different minerals.  It has a pink hue due to the amount of iron and copper it contains. Due to its high mineral content there have been many debates over its possible health benefits.

Black Hawaiian Sea Salt is also a sea salt but one that has gone through an additional step of being bathed in charcoal which results in a deeper more flavorful product.  This salt should not be used during the cooking process as it will give off a grey residue. It should be used a finishing salt where a deeper flavor is desired.

Fluer de Sel (flower of salt) is a specialty salt that comes from the sel gris marshes off the coast of Normandy, France.  It is gathered from the rocks and has not had contact with the earth which results in a clear crystal color and delicate texture.  Fleur de Sel is a great finishing salt.

As I am fully aware that there are many more salt options available, the ones I have listed are the most common I have encountered recently.

For everyday use, I prefer to use the coarse kosher salt as I prefer the texture and pure flavor. However for baking, I prefer a finer kosher salt as I find that it disperses more evenly into my recipes.

Keep in mind:  1 tsp of table salt = 1 ½ tsp kosher salt

Skip the salt grinder…. Grinding the salt does not alter the flavor.  Save your money and invest in a reliable pepper grinder.

Use salt sparingly as it can be added to a dish but not removed.   When tasting, remember cold temperatures diminish flavors and warm temperatures enhance them.  Season at the appropriate temperature for the dish.

LET’S GET COOKING!

SUZANNE

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SUZANNE

Foodie | Home Chef | Author

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Seasonal Eating and Winter Foods

Seasonal Eating and Winter Foods

I believe that nature’s cycle of growing produce is designed perfectly to meet our health and nutritional needs. If this is not true, they why do we get so excited about asparagus in the spring and crave vine ripened tomatoes in the summer?

Seasonal eating not only benefits our bodies but supports our environment and our economy. There is a natural rhythm that draws us towards seasonal foods as comforting and satisfying and this is for a reason. First, flavor and nutrition are at their peak when produce is grown in its natural environment.  We have all been told to eat a “variety” of foods in order to ensure that we meet all our nutritional needs.  Well, nature had that figured out for us a long time ago; some of us just need scientific evidence for convincing.  Second, eating seasonally helps our local communities as well as encourages more home cooking.  Seasonal foods are fresh and forces home cooks to get creative.  And third, foods grown outside of their natural season require more maintenance, hence the cost, and can be exposed to more pesticides and genetic alterations to ensure their success.

We are in the heart of winter here in Colorado and winter fare is at its peak. This is the time for baking, braising, glazing, roasting, simmering, stewing, making soups, and dusting off your slow cookers.

Here is my winter list!

Beans, beef, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, caramel (yes!), chocolate, citrus fruits, wild game, heavy grains, grapefruit, winter greens, lemons, lentils, limes, lobster, maple syrup, mushrooms, mussels, passion fruit, pears, pork, potatoes, root vegetables, squashes, sweet potatoes, turnips, water chestnuts and yams.

Heavy herbs like rosemary and sage go well with winter fare as well as warm spices like cinnamon and allspice.

 

LET’S GET COOKING!

SUZANNE

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SUZANNE

Foodie | Home Chef | Author

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Gift Ideas for the Home Chef in Your Life

So…yes again it is that time of year already! As much as I love this time of year, due to the overindulgence of food and gatherings, I find it can be stressful when it comes to selecting the perfect gift for that perfect someone. Over the years, I have tried to select gifts that are more personal and useful than gifts that will be stuffed in a closet (remember those silly lounger robes that were all the rage…) or gifts that will be re-gifted due to lack of need (a signing fish that hangs on the wall…sorry to who ever I re-gifted that to!)As I may not be able to assist with all of your shopping needs this holiday season, one category I can assist with is shopping for the Home Chef in your life. I can honestly say that I own EVERY item on this list and that I am NOT a gadget person. These ideas are not only personal to the Home Chef but are in fact practical and necessary to some extent in the kitchen. I have categorized them in groups of estimated cost.  I hope this list helps ease some of the anguish so many of us experience during this time of year.

Gift Ideas for the Home Chef in Your Life.  Cheers!!

$
Wooden spoons (assorted)
Microplane / rasp zester
Flour sacks
Sheet pans (jelly roll)
Bench scraper (aka bench knife)
Fine mesh strainer
Vegetable peeler
Salt crock
Timer(s)
Salad spinner (a must!)
Kitchen twine
Rolling pin
Good Olive Oil (I use Olio Santo)
Tellicherry Peppercorns (I like Penzeys)

$$
Cutting boars (ones that can go right into the dishwasher)
Chefs knife 8″ (bigger is not better here…high carbon steel, make sure its returnable)
Digital thermometer
Pepper Grinder (I like Peugeot brand with metal components)
Stainless mixing bowls of graduating sizes
Cast iron skillet (12″)
Stock pot
Digital kitchen scale
Mortar and Pestle
Food Lovers Companion Book (Barron’s)

$$$
All Clad pans – or similar construction
Cuisinart Food Processor (4 cup / 12 cup capacity)
Immersion blender
High Quality Dutch Oven – enamel
Blender
Whiteware dishes

 

CHEERS!

SUZANNE

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SUZANNE

Foodie | Home Chef | Author

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