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A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.

Herbs In The Kitchen

Since the ancient times people have been employing herbs to add essence to their foods and this tradition continues till this day. Precisely speaking, this practice is perhaps as old as the origin of the human species itself. In effect, archeologists have uncovered proofs hinting that the most primitive cooks employed portions of specific plants to flavor as well as enhance the taste of specific foods. For instance, it looks as if the primitive man chewed mustard along with meat, while they showered barley and wild wheat powder on other foods to include a nut-like flavor.

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There is no doubt that the herbs used by the early man would be found growing in the wild. It was much later that the humans started cultivating herbs for culinary as well as therapeutic purposes. In ancient times, the rich had magnificent gardens where a section was specially allotted for growing herbs, while in other places the herbs may be cultivated together with other plants that were grown for food. Everyone would agree that it is really worth to continue with this wonderful practice, because there can be nothing more pleasing than picking herbs from your personal garden to include them in various culinary preparations for a lunch in summer or an evening meal. In fact, while you pick these herbs, their fragrance alone serves as an ideal appetizer.

Frankly speaking, there is a wide assortment of herbs that are only used for culinary purpose. The range of such herbs is so vast that in the current scenario hardly anyone of us will have the requisite time, space or penchant to cultivate all of them in a traditional herbal garden. However, it is possible to cultivate a few of the most common species in a small bed or grow some selected herbs in pots near your kitchen door, window sill or the balcony. When you use these fresh herbs in cooking, your dishes will no doubt have a distinct taste and essence.

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Cooking with herbs

For culinary purpose, you may use the herbs in different forms - fresh, dehydrated or even frozen. While the fresh herbs do not possess an intense flavor like the dried ones, they compensate for this by being additionally fragrant. You may verify this by squashing a freshly obtained leaf in your hand and inhaling the herb's magnificent aroma.

You may definitely use fresh herbs to add essence to the cooked dishes, but when you are using fresh herbs you need to add them to the foods in the final stages of the cooking as it will help in preserving the originality of their flavour. Nevertheless, in most instances using the herbs in their raw or normal condition is perhaps the best way to retain the freshness and natural features of the herbs. While it definitely looks smart to traditionally spray parsley or scatter chives on the foods, you should also think about using a number of herbs having soft leaves in the form of ingredients of the foods cooked in their individual merit.

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Blend some amount of delicately sliced mint with yogurt to prepare the traditional Greek tsatsiki - an ideal cooler during hot summers. While adding whole leaves of basil to any common green salad will make this daily supplement much more flavourful and appetizing. On the other hand, it is also true that a number of herbs are extremely rough for being used in their natural form and it is better that they are always used in cooked dishes. Some of these herbs include bay and rosemary.

As mentioned earlier, dried herbs possess a more concentrated flavour. In addition, using dried up herbs also mean that you are able to avail herbal essences round the year and not only during the growing season of any particular herb. When dried up herbs are used in cooking, they are able to change even the most ordinary dishes into a delectable as well as unforgettable culinary preparation. On the other hand, using frozen herbs in culinary helps to close the difference between fresh and dried up herbs to such an extent that the foods you cook with frozen herbs brings to mind the reminiscences of summer even in environments of a very cold winter. However, the fact remains that even after the frozen herbs are defrosted, they never produce the results of the fresh varieties in some dishes, such as salads - wherein the herbs just work as ingredients instead of adding any essence.

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Irrespective of the form of herb you may be using - fresh, frozen or dried, it is essential that you know the precise herb that has a similarity with a particular food. The typical 'blended herbs' pack available in the supermarkets is no doubt a wonderful and versatile product that has the aptitude to pep up any ordinary and tasteless bake or sauce, but the actual knack of an inventive cook is in selecting the precise herb which will balance as well as produce the flavour of a specific food in the most excellent manner.

For instance, while the herb tarragon is excellent when used with roasted chicken, fennel appears to be the perfect herb for any culinary preparation using fish. In addition, the fragrances as well as flavours of specific herbs also have the aptitude to bring to mind the gastronomy of any precise region or country. For instance, when you use coriander, it invokes visions of the Middle East and Greece, whole using basil, which has an affinity with pasta and tomatoes, reminds one of Italy. Similarly, when you use sage, which is frequently used to add essence to pork sausages, fresh pork or even simple vegetables like broad beans it reminds one of the cheerful farmhouse cuisines of Northern Europe.

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Seasonings and garnishes

Many people often wonder as to how they can use the herbs to add their appetizing flavour as well as to give an appealing look to their dishes. Below are a few important tips that will help you to achieve both in an easy and quick manner.

Herbs oils and vinegars

Adding a small number of properly selected herbs has the aptitude to transform a common cooking oil or vinegar into a connoisseur item. Provided they are properly spruced and enveloped, even culinary oils having herbal flavours prepared at home can be used in the form of innovative and delectable gifts.

Sauces and spreads

Did you know that adding butter prepared with aromatic herb that carries with it the entire fragrance of a summer garden, or a sauce prepared with herbs at home has the ability to instantaneously convert even the most common and most simply cooked food into something genuinely extraordinary? And there may be nothing more impressive than a choice of aromatic biscuits served together with herb cheese prepared at home to end a meal.

Herb butter

Though parsley is the most common herb used to prepare herb butters, many other substitutes are also available. Instead of parsley, you may also try herbs like mint, basil, tarragon or a blend of dissimilar herbs. However, you will have to be careful while selecting the herbs, as a number of herbs are not apt for preparing herb butter. For instance, rosemary has a very potent flavour and its texture too is coarse, which makes it difficult for this herb to blend effectively with the softness as well as the subtlety of butter. Therefore, it is advisable that you only opt for the herbs that excellently go together with the food with which you indent to serve the herb butter. An example of ideal combination is thawing herb butter prepared with mint on top of new potatoes. The ingredients for different herb butter recipes are listed below.

  • 100 grams or 4 ounces of salt-free butter
  • 1 teaspoonful of lemon juice
  • 4 to 5 tablespoonfuls of your preferred herb

In case the butter is very hard to start working with, leave it at room temperature for some time to allow it to soften. When the butter has softened somewhat, crush it using a fork, first add the lemon juice to it and, subsequently, the herbs. Ensure that every one of the above-mentioned ingredients is blended thoroughly. Spread the combination on a saucer and keep it in a refrigerator to allow the blend to harden. Cut the hardened herb butter into cubes and place them on a butter dish. Alternately, you may also put them over cooked foods just prior to serving.

Summer coolers

The leaves as well as flowers of several aromatic herbs appear to represent the quintessence of summer and there are several revitalizing beverages that contain herbs that help you to relax when the days are scorching during the summer. In case you are fond of any of the recipes offered below, you may well proceed to create your individual delectable and refreshing herbal drink, for instance creamy milk shakes containing herbs or herbal flavoured fruit punches.

Decorative ice cubes

Adding ice cubes that enclose herb leaves and flowers to summer drinks make the beverages look all the more appealing. To prepare such ice cubes, fill half of the ice trays with water and place an herb leaf, flower or spring in each compartment of the tray. You may use the flowers or leaves of aromatic herbs like thyme, mint, borage, violets or lavender in the ice tray compartments. Add more water to top off the herb leaves or flowers and freeze the water in the normal manner.

Festive summertime drinks

Herbs may also be used to prepare festive drinks during the summer. Here we offer recipes of two gala drinks that sum up the mood of the indolent days of intense summer. You may serve these drinks like delectable and refreshing entrées to meals consumed in the open air - they may be buffet parties organized in your garden or simply a leisurely Sunday lunch on your patio along with your friends.

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