Thursday, November 4, 2010

Using Dried Herbs ~ and loving it!

The dictionary has an overwhelmingly negative view of the word “dry,” using words like stale, wearisome, uninteresting, sterile, stingy, insipid, plain, harsh, unenthusiastic, tough. But in the context of herbs, “dry” takes on a much more positive spin. Drying is the most popular means of capturing the flavors of the summer herb garden for good reason. Granted, most herbs are at their best when they are fresh and in season, but the reality of the off-season is that fresh herbs in many areas command steep prices in grocery stores, if they are available at all, and the small pots on the windowsill don’t always fill the gap. At such times, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, sage, lavender, and savory—all herbs that hold up to drying—can help ­season the stews, soups, and other comforting and hearty foods that warm us when the cold winds blow.
Dried herbs don’t just tide us over the winter. In any season, dried herbs are sometimes just more convenient to use than fresh. Preparing fresh herbs—harvesting, washing, and stripping off their leaves —to flavor a dish isn’t difficult, but it can’t compare with the ease of scooping dried herbs from a nearby jar when you’re in a hurry or it’s raining.
A selection of dried herb
Properly dried herbs can yield so ­intense a flavor and fragrance that you won’t recognize them as the old powdered stuff on the spice rack. The flavor of some herbs, such as rosemary and sage, can change or heighten on drying just as that of tomatoes does when they are sun-dried. Some cooks even prefer the dried flavor to fresh. And dried herbs may suit some recipes better than fresh or frozen—in breads, for example.
I’ve gathered some favorite wintertime recipes that use dried herbs without sacrificing flavor to the season. My husband aspires to be a chef and I have spent the last 30 years collecting recipes, so between the two of us we have tried and tested a large number of recipes and these are our favorites for winter.

Sausage & Peppers
¾ pound sweet Italian sausage
¾ pound hot Italian sausage
2 Tbls. olive oil
2 medium onions cut into wedges
2 medium green bell peppers cut into strips
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped roma tomatoes
1/3 cup heavy cream
Hot cooked pasta

Remove casings on sausage, cut into 2-inch chunks.  Place sausage in a large skillet with ½ inch water.  Cook over medium heat until water evaporates.  Add olive oil; brown the sausage.  Remove sausage from skillet and reserve.  Drain excess fat from skillet.
In the same skillet, combine onions, bell peppers, dried herbs, and garlic.  Cook over medium-high heat until onions begin to brown.  Add tomatoes; simmer 5 minutes.  Return sausage to skillet; heat 2 minutes.  Stir in cream.  Heat to serving temperature.  Immediately serve sausage mixture over hot cooked pasta.
You can use turkey sausage to make this recipe with out and changes to the recipe.

Herbed Root Vegetable Soup
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 or 3 shallots, chopped
1 leek, trimmed, rinsed, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 Tbls. unsalted butter
3 potatoes, peeled
2 parsnips, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
2 turnips, peeled
1 large celery root, peeled
1 ½ quart chicken stock
1 tsp. savory
½  tsp. sage
½ tsp. thyme, lemon thyme is a nice touch
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the onions, shallots, leek and garlic in the butter in a large saucepan over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until tender, but not brown.
Cut the potatoes, parsnips carrots, turnips, and celery root into ½ inch dice.  Add to the onion, mixture with the stock.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 35 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Puree half the soup at a time in a food processor or blender container.  Return to the pan.  Simmer until the heated through.  Season with salt and pepper and dried herbs.  Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley, cilantro and/or chervil.
Peppered Lavender Beef
1 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoons whole white peppercorns
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
Pinch of savory (for luck!)
In a small spice or coffee grinder, coarsely grind the black peppercorns, white peppercorns, fennel seeds, thyme, and lavender flowers; rub mixture all over the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight (preferably).
This is good on a tenderloin roast, rolled roast, steaks or even pounded Round steak.  Just sear the meat then broil or crock pot coot it until fully cooked.  The recipe amount is calculated for a 3 to 4 pound roast.

Herb Bread Recipe

1 Tbls. yeast
½ cup warm water
2 Tbls. onion, chopped
1 ½ cups milk
4 Tbls. oil
1 Tbls honey
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
5 cups unbleached white flour
1 tsp. sage
3 tsp. parsley
2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. rosemary

Directions add yeast to warm water.  Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.  Sauté onions.  Separately bring 1 ½ cups of milk to the scalding point.  Pour milk into a bowl.  To milk add yeast mixture, oil, honey, salt and eggs.  Stir in flour to form dough.  Before kneading, add sautéed onions and herbs.  Knead the dough until it is smooth.  Place it in an oiled bowl, and let rise.  Punch down the dough after 1 hour and form into two loaves.  Place in loaf pans.  Let rise for 45 minutes.  Bake the bread at 400 degrees for roughly 1 hours or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.

If you want to try some of the Backyard Patch carefully dried herbs, please visit our e-store or if you are in Arlington Heights, Illinois on Nov. 6, 2010 stop by the Methodist Church on Euclid St. for a craft sale where will have a booth selling all our items.   For complete address click here.

All recipes are copyright of Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh 2010 and should not be reproduced without permission.

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