Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Herb of the Week - Dill

The Vikings cultivated a plant they called "dilla," or "soothing," as a remedy for colic in babies. This easy-to-grow herb, now known as just dill, has become an essential ingredient in cuisines around the world. 

This week's herb of the week is Dill (Anethum graveolens)

The term "dill weed" refers to the green leaves (and sometimes stems) of the plant. "Dill seed" actually isn't seed but the flat, oval, dark brown whole fruits of the herb, the seeds are hidden inside. Dill weed and dill seed have very different chemical compositions, different uses in cooking, and different applications in herbal healing.

To Grow
This annual plant has feathery leaves that erupt in yellow flower heads on umbels that turn to flat fruit.  If you want to grow dill in your garden, plan for success. The mature plant produces thousands of seeds, most dill seeds germinate, and the plant can invade other growing beds. Dill likes a moist, well-drained soil in full sun, although it grows on most kinds of soils. Stress on the plant by heat or drought improves its flavor. If you let dill come up on its own it will mature and go to seed before you have cucumbers. If you want to use dill in pickling, plant dill and cucumbers at the same time, or plant successions of seeds about every two weeks throughout the season.

To Use
Tasting in the family of parsley and celery, the flavor is sweet and pungent.  The seeds are closer to anise and caraway.  Harvest dill with scissors, clipping the leaves close to the stem when the stalks have grown to be at least 4 inches high.   When harvesting the seed you will have to wait about 2 months after the seed is planted before seed heads develop.  After the flowers have faded and the seeds have browned cut off the seed heads with about a foot of stalk and hang them upside down to completely dry.  I tie paper lunch bags over the heads to keep dropping seed from being lost. 

Dill can be added to cooking, can be taken as a tea or in capsule form.  Dill both settles the stomach and is mildly antibacterial. The August 2005 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry confirmed the usefulness of dill in stopping growth of various bacteria, yeast, and molds.  As a flavoring it works well with pasta, tossed salad, egg dishes, cottage cheeses, and fresh tomatoes.  Its sweet flavor adds much to fish, chicken, and veal, and steamed vegetable.  Dill seeds liven up breads and crackers and of course dill pickles.


Creamy Mustard-Dill Sauce Recipe

1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grainy mustard
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon light brown sugar or granulated sugar
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

Place the dry mustard and lemon juice in a non-reactive mixing bowl and stir with a fork to form a smooth paste. Let sit for 3 minutes.

Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, grainy mustard, dill, and sugar to the mustard mixture and whisk. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if necessary.

The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to a day. Let it return to room temperature before serving.

Easy Herbed Grilled Salmon Recipe
serves 2

You can use this method on pretty much any type of thick fish filet if salmon is not available. The herbs, wine, and lime give salmon a fabulous flavor, while the foil tray makes clean-up easy and keeps your grill clean. If you cannot grill, bake it in a very hot oven.

Vegetable oil spray
1-1/2 pounds boneless salmon filet about 1-inch thick (large end preferred)
1/2 lime
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon mayonnaise (may substitute butter)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika

Preheat grill to high heat. Make a tray out of a doubled-length of heavy-duty foil large enough for the salmon filet, by folding a long piece in half and folding up all four sides, with the dull side up. (The shiny side reflects, so you want it down so as not to burn the food.) Spray the entire inside of the foil tray liberally with cooking spray. Place the foil tray on a platter or metal tray to transport to the grill.

Place the salmon filet in the foil tray skin-side down (or boned-side up if it is skinned). Squeeze lime juice over salmon and sprinkle with white wine. Spread top of salmon with the mayonnaise.

In a small bowl, mix together kosher salt, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon pepper, oregano, basil, and dill weed. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the top of the salmon, then top with the sweet paprika.

Place baking pan with foil tray on hot grill. Transfer the foil tray to the hot grill. Cook in a hot covered grill for 10 minutes per inch of thickness of the fish filet. Do not overcook or it will be dry and unpalatable. Turning is not necessary. Salmon is done when it turns a light pink color throughout and feels firm when pressed gently with the back of a fork. Whitefish is done when it turns opaque. This method works best with large, thick filets. Use a spatula to lift the salmon away from the skin to serve. Garnish with lime slices, if desired.

Note: If you are unable to grill the salmon, preheat your oven to 475 F. Leave foil tray on the baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes, or until done.

Dilled Green Beans with Olives
Serves 4

Dill’s affinity for beans is obvious in this simple side dish.
• 1 pound young green beans
• 2 tablespoons minced Kalamata or Moroccan oil-cured olives
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill weed
• 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
1. Rinse and trim the beans. Plunge into a pot of boiling water and cook 3 minutes, or until barely tender. Drain immediately and toss with the remaining ingredients.
2. Serve warm or cold.

Dilly Shrimp Dip

8 oz. cleaned and chopped shrimp
8 oz. cream cheese
2 T. sour cream
1 Tbls. catsup, mayonnaise and mustard
2 dashes garlic powder & Worcestershire
1 cup celery, chopped fine
1 Tbls onion, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. dill
1 Tbls. parsley
(or you can substitute 1 1/2 Tbls. Marcy's Dill Dip Herb Mix)
1/2 tsp. horseradish

Whirl everything in blender until smooth and creamy.  Chill before serving.

I have so many Dill recipes that I could not decide, but choose one you might aenjoy and try it.  Dill is perfect for a winter pick-me-up!

Also, if you want to try our dips, spreads and cooking blends made with dill, just visit our store:    

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