Aromatic herbs in the kitchen

Aromatic herbs in the kitchen

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Characteristics and properties of aromatic herbs

Among the most well-known aromatic herbs used in cooking, especially in the Mediterranean, we find basil, tarragon, chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme. There are also laurel and rosemary, which are commonly called herbs even if they fall into the category of tree plants and shrubby plants, respectively. Generally they should be chopped at the time of use and added to the dishes raw, at the end of cooking, because they release their precious aroma to the full. Depending on your tastes you can also create mélange, that is mixtures, to give a particular character to the dish. Flavoring dishes with herbs reduces the need to salt the dishes. They also provide some micronutrients, such as mineral salts and vitamins, very important for health and increasing saliva production, favoring the production of gastric juices, helping digestion.

Aromatic in the Mediterranean diet

It is not always easy to combine the dish that is being cooked with the right aroma, the one that enhances its characteristics. Some hints can therefore be useful to understand how to use these plants with a unique aroma in our kitchens. For meat preparations, in particular for beef and veal, oregano, parsley, sage, thyme and rosemary are indicated. Rosemary, in particular, counteracts the carcinogens that form during grilling. Oregano, thyme and lemon balm are the ideal herbs to accompany chicken and pork, with the addition of sage for the latter. Parsley is excellent for turkey. Fish dishes prefer more particular combinations, such as mint, chives, lemon balm and parsley. Turning to vegetables we recommend thyme, sage and rosemary for cabbage, cabbage or cauliflower dishes, while carrots go very well with basil and mint. Basil, in reality, approaches almost all vegetable preparations, just as chives are suitable for all velvety. Finally, the taste of mushrooms is enhanced by parsley, chives but also mint and marjoram.

Exotic aromatics

The success that the so-called "ethnic" cuisine has been achieving in recent times has brought some dishes from far away to our tables. Also these preparations, in which generally the use of the spice prevails, are enriched by some aromatic herbs, like the thai basil, the citronella and the chinese garlic, also called nira. Lemongrass, originally from India, has a lemon-like aroma and is widely used as a basic ingredient in oriental cuisine, especially Indian and Thai. It is very suitable, also to accompany vegetable and fish dishes. Thai basil is similar to Italian basil but is more resistant and its aroma is reminiscent of citrus fruits. It is excellent for dishes based on fish, to flavor oriental soups and to flavor small tomatoes. Finally, Chinese garlic looks very similar to chives and is productive even in winter. The leaves are long and fleshy and can be eaten fresh, in salads, or added to any dish to give it a delicate onion flavor.

Aromatic herbs in the kitchen: How to store aromatic herbs

To preserve the aromatic there are three methods: drying, freezing and preservation in oil. Each method has its strengths, and should be chosen according to one's tastes and the type of grass to be preserved. After cutting the parts of the plant, usually the leaves, they should be washed and dried thoroughly. To dry them, a part of the stem must be cut sufficiently long to be able to form bunches, which will be hung upside down, in a dry, dark and temperate place. After two to three weeks, the leaves are removed from the stems and placed in an airtight, dark-colored container. Freezing is suitable for soft leaf and stem herbs, such as basil, parsley and chives. The latter, for example, is not suitable for drying. The leaves are placed in transparent bags or in the containers of ice cubes. In this case water must be added, in the proportion of one third of herbs to two thirds of water. For preservation in oil the herbs should be immersed with a bit of their stem in extra virgin olive oil, to be kept cool in dark-colored glass jars.


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