I’ll Have the Bland and Bland with a Side of Bland

What’s the point of dull food in a world filled with flavor? Unless you are on an airplane (do they even serve food anymore?), in the hospital or facing a complimentary vacation in jail, there is really no reason to skimp on flavor. The warmer months are ideal for growing herbs in containers or backyard gardens-elevating even the simplest meal into something delectable.


Chives:

You can add chives to almost any dip (no, we don’t mean your sister’s first husband). Chives are a great addition to a do-it-yourself potato bar-set chives alongside bowls of turkey bacon, low-fat shredded cheese, sour cream and steamed veggies for a quick weeknight meal that’s easy on the eye, waistline and wallet.

Dill:
Add dill to fish, beans, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers for lots of flavor without the salt.

Basil:
The favorite among summer herbs, basil is a tomato’s BFF. Easy to grow and easy to enjoy, add basil to a grilled ham and cheese on French bread and the humble sandwich takes on a sublime quality.

Cilantro:
From Mexican fare to Asian dishes, cilantro puts the bite into every bite. Mix it into salsa, bake it into cornbread, or tuck it into an omelet.

Rosemary:
Rosemary does wonders to beef, fish, lamb, pork, potatoes, soups and stews. Grow it in the summer and dry it for winter’s heartier soups and stews.

Drying-herbs

Not sure how to harvest herbs? Below are some tips courtesy of Ask.com

1) Cut healthy branches from your herb plants.
2) Remove any dry or diseased leaves.
3) Shake gently to remove any insects.
4) If necessary, rinse with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Wet herbs will mold and rot.
5) Remove the lower leaves along the bottom inch or so of the branch.
6) Bundle 4-6 branches together and tie as a bunch. You can user string or a rubber band. The bundles will shrink as they dry and the rubber band will loosen, so check periodically that the bundle is not slipping. Make small bundles if you are trying to dry herbs with high water content.
7) Punch or cut several holes in a paper bag. Label the bag with the name of the herb you are drying.
8) Place the herb bundle upside down in the bag.
9) Gather the ends of the bag around the bundle and tie closed. Make sure the herbs are not crowded inside the bag.
10) Hang the bag upside down in a warm, airy room.
11) Check in about two weeks to see how things are progressing. Keep checking weekly until your herbs are dry and ready to store.

Storing Dried Herbs:

1) Store your dried herbs in air tight containers. Zip closing bags will do. I like to use small canning jars.
2) Be sure to label and date your containers.
3) Your herbs will retain more flavor if you store the leaves whole and crush them when you are ready to use them.
4) Discard any dried herbs that show the slightest sign of mold.
5) Place containers in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
6) Dried herbs are best used within a year. As your herbs lose their color, they are also losing their flavor.
7) When substituting dried herbs for fresh, use about 1 teaspoon crumbled dried leaves for every tablespoon of fresh.

-Ciao
Stephanie Blackford
Communications Director, Epicurean Culinary Group
sblackford@epicureanCG.com