Summer Herbs 101

The fresh vs. dry debate continues
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The debate rages on

People frequently try to cut corners when they're cooking their own meals — myself included. But when it comes to fresh herbs vs. dried, I've definitely found out a few things regarding when to take the easy way out, and when to suck it up and get the good stuff.

With the abundance of fresh herbs in the summer, here are a few quick herb tips:

 

1) If the meal you're making is a salad, salsa, or "raw" dish, ALWAYS go with fresh. Dried herbs will taste too strong and won't give the boost of freshness you need. This is also the case in pasta salads or pasta dishes that don't employ a heavy sauce. 

2) The ratio is always 3 (fresh) to 1 (dried). So if a recipe where you CAN substitue dried for fresh herbs calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, you can swap it out for 1 teaspoon of dried. 

3) Slow cooking and long cooking dishes can benefit from dried herbs most of the time and don't need to be swapped out for fresh. Because the flavor is more concentrated, the dried herbs can release their essence over a longer period, as in the case with roasts or slow-cooker meals. Fresh herbs, though flavorful, would break down and fall apart — even burn — in a dish that needed to cook for hours. 

4) There are rules when it comes to fresh and dry herb storage. For dried herbs, make sure that the herbs are still potent and not stale or old. Crush dried herbs between your fingers and make sure they still smell like whatever they are. Also, keep them stored in airtight containers out of direct light. For fresh herbs, try to use them as soon as you either pick them from your garden or buy them at the super market. If I can't use them right away, I'll usually just stand the stems in a small glass of water on a counter until I'm ready to cook. You can also freeze fresh herbs — either in a plastic bag OR in olive oil "ice cubes" for future dishes or meal starters. 

Do you have any other tips for the ongoing herb debate? 

Categories: Dine & Dish, Food + Drink