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Archive for February 21, 2014

TIP OF THE DAY: Freeze-Dried Herbs In Everything

The trick to adding more flavor to everything you eat, with negligible calories—and the ability to cut back on salt—are spices and herbs.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HERBS & SPICES

  • Spices are the dried seeds, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark or roots of plants. They are usually of tropical origin.
  • Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the flowers of plants, usually grown in a climate similar to the Mediterranean.
  • Aromatics: In culinary terms, both herbs and spices fall into the category of aromatics. (Now you know what those Top Chef contestants were referring to!)
     
    Today we’re focusing on herbs.

    A few months ago we received a shipment of Instantly Fresh freeze-dried herbs from Litehouse, and have been happily adding them to just about everything.

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    litehouse-herbs-chive-basil-230

    Two of the numerous freeze-dried, “Instantly Fresh” herbs from Litehouse.

     
    Litehouse freeze-dries every herb you could need for daily cooking: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, Italian herb blend, jalapeños, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, poultry herb blend, red onion, sage, salad herb blend, spring onion and thyme.

    What does all this choice mean? That you have some “herbing” to do!

    Whether you’re cooking breakfast eggs, making soup, mashing potatoes, broiling, roasting, sautéing or simply reheating or microwaving—think of what herb would brighten the dish.

    You don’t have to go exotic. A basic complement of basil, chives, garlic, oregano and parsley will do.

     

    slaw-cheesecake-factory-230sq

    Cole slaw, potato salad and protein salads
    (chicken, egg, tuna, etc.) all benefit from
    added dill, plus parsley. Photo courtesy
    Cheesecake Factory.

     

    WHAT ARE FREEZE-DRIED HERBS

    Freeze-drying is a dehydration process used to preserve perishables. The food is quickly frozen and the surrounding air pressure is then reduced. This allows the frozen water in the product to go directly from the solid phase to the gas phase, avoiding the liquid phase.

    The process delivers more of the taste, aroma and nutrition of fresh herbs, compared to conventional drying.

    And the unopened food can be stored at room temperature without refrigeration for years. The greatly reduced water content inhibits the action of microorganisms and enzymes that would otherwise spoil or degrade the substance.

    When freeze-dried herbs are rehydrated by contact with moisture (the liquid in the recipe itself or other ingredients in the recipe), they reconstitute into a close approximation of their former fresh selves.

     

    So your task this week is to look at everything you serve and match at least one herb to it (don’t hesitate to use two or more):

  • Bread: create your own bread dippers by adding herbs to olive oil and add a green herb to garlic bread
  • Main Dish: anything goes
  • Pasta: beyond the Italian basics—basil, oregano and parsley—try other herbs like dill, rosemary, thyme and sage
  • Pizza: ditto!
  • Sandwich/Wrap have fun with it!
  • Sauce/Condiment ditto!
  • Side Dish: once you sprinkle herbs onto potatoes, rice and vegetables, you’ll be hooked
  • Soup: what looks like a nice garnish really adds a flavor boost
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    When you come across dynamite pairings, share them with us!
     
    FOOD TRIVIA

    Some plants yield both an herb and a spice.

  • Cilantro is the leafy herb of the same plant that gives us the popular spice coriander seed.
  • Dill weed (an herb) and dill seed (a spice) also come from the same plant.
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    FOOD FUN: Snow Ice

    One of our favorite writers, bakers and photographers—that’s all one person, Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog—is on sabbatical in Hawaii. The photos she’s been posting are such a treat.

    One of her favorite discoveries is snow ice. “A distinct and entirely different dessert than shave ice,” she writes, “snow ice is also a sweet frozen snack, but made of paper-thin ribbons of ice flakes already infused with flavor. Thus, no syrup is required.” [There’s more about the differences below.]

    “This creates a sensational, light texture that’s incredibly easy to eat, even after a big meal. The technique actually comes from Taiwan but has taken root in Hawaii, particularly in downtown Honolulu.”

    Hannah has been hanging out at Frostcity, a small chain with lot of flavors. The base can be milk- or water-based.

    There you’ll find an abundance of flavors, some milk-based and some water-based (vegan):

     

    watermelon-snow-ice-hannahkaminsky-230

    A mountain of snow ice. Photo © Hannah
    Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.

     

  • Classic flavors: almond, chocolate, coffee, cookies & cream, green tea & azuki, mint, nutella, peanut and vanilla
  • Conventional fruits: assorted Berry and melon flavors, banana, lemonade, limeade, mango, pineapple
  • Exotic flavors: avocado, black sesame, calamansi*, haupia†, purple sweet potato
  • Combinations: caramel apple, choco hazelberry (strawberry and Nutella), piña colada, strawberry cheesecake toffee-choco mac
  • Seasonal flavors: egg Nog, gingerbread, nectarine
  • Savory flavors: natto, pickle, sriracha, watercress
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    Colorful garnishes include azuki beans, jellies, mochi balls, tapioca pearls and a sauce of sweetened condensed milk.

     

    blueberry-dramatic-frostcity-230

    Blueberry shaved ice, garnished with “the
    works.” Photo courtesy Frostcity | Honolulu.

     

    SNOW ICE & SHAVE ICE: THE DIFFERENCE

    While both are frozen treats, snow ice is an entirely different dessert than shave ice.

    Snow ice, made in a special machine, consists of paper-thin ribbons of ice flakes that are already infused with flavor. There’s no syrup—which is how shave ice gets its flavor.

    The machine creates a sensational, light texture that’s incredibly easy to eat. The technique actually comes from Taiwan but has taken root in Hawaii, particularly in downtown Honolulu.

    Shave ice or Hawaiian shave ice is made by shaving a block of ice. (That’s “shave ice,” not “shaved ice”—a fact more grammar-conscious people may stumble over. On the Big Island it is also referred to as “ice shave.”)

    Shaving produces a very fine, snow-like ice that easily absorbs the flavored syrup poured over it. Shave ice resembles a snow cone; but there’s a significant difference. Snow cones are made with crushed, rather than shaved, ice and have a rougher texture.

    Which would you prefer? You may have to buy a ticket to Honolulu to begin your voyage of discovery.

     

    *A rarity in the continental U.S. but common in Hawaii, calamondin (also called calamansi) is a Pacific Rim lime that looks like an orange. It was grown in Florida and California until the easier-to-cultivate Bearss/Persian/Tahitian lime became the standard supermarket lime. Some heirloom fruit can still be found in farmers markets. Learn more about the calamondin in our Lime Glossary.
     
    †Haupia is a traditional coconut milk-based Hawaiian dessert often found at luaus and other local gatherings. Made from coconut milk, heated with a thickening agent, it is also a popular topping for white cake, including wedding cake. Although technically a pudding, the consistency approximates a gelatin dessert and it is usually served in blocks like gelatin.

      

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