Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Herbal Pressure

When it comes to my taste in food, I can be very ordinary. I mean, I can be a pretty adventurous eater. About the only thing I can think of on my "Foods That I Hate" list is Fennel or anything licorice-flavored. But I'm willing to give anything a try, even my hated Fennel. My favorite foods, though, are strong simple flavors without a lot of embellishment. My favorite meal to have any night of the week is a NY Strip steak with a good Bearnaise sauce on the side, a small green salad, and some slice of whole wheat baguette (I like whole grain breads). I like my steaks very underdone and I like to mix the red juices from the steak with the salad and sauce (I'm sure the vegetarians are turning sick to their stomachs reading this.)

For herbs, I'm actually not a huge fan of herbs. I tend to like the flavor of ground spices instead. If I had to name a favorite herb, I really just like flat leaf Italian parsley in just about any dish, which isn't the most exciting herb around. But some herbs are just essential. For example, basil and tomatoes are an obvious combination.

I'm actually not that big a fan of basil. I think it's a little too strong and I'm not sure I like the flavor all that much. But my main issue with basil, and a lot of other herbs for that matter, is how rapidly the stuff goes bad. I'll buy a huge bunch of Basil and then poof, two days later, it's black and slimy. I've tried everything--wrapping the leaves in wet paper towels and throwing them in the fridge; keeping a bunch in a vase full of water; putting it in airtight containers, etc. No matter what, the leaves go bad and unusable in about a couple of days. Everytime I buy basil, I feel this intense pressure. Am I going to use it in time??? Will it turn black??? How many things can I make with basil??? I know I could always make pesto, but I'm not a huge lover of pesto.

It's too bad I don't have a four season jungle in my backyard like the Barefoot Contessa or Michael Chiarello, or a backyard for that matter. I suppose I could try buying basil at Fairway and sticking it in a pot and growing it in my apartment since they sell it with the roots. But I don't want to stink up my apartment.

Such pressure.


teahouse said...

Yeah, fresh herbs are lovely in theory. It's like, yeah, if I were Martha Stewart or the Barefoot Contessa I could have them - along with a personal assistant who would clean up after my kitchen messes and throw the rotten stuff out of my refrigerator...

So in practice, I use dried herbs!

Anonymous said...

From Jayne: what about making pesto and freezing it? A guy I worked with one time did that - he froze it in an ice cube trey and then put the pesto cubes in a plastic bag or two and took out a cube or two any time he needed pesto. Or you could make your sauces with fresh tomatoes and basil and freeze the sauce - that way you would have home cooked goodness without having to keep it forever. One of the web sites I visited about keeping basil said:
One place many gardeners lose their basil is in the kitchen. The big misconception is that basil should be stored in the refrigerator. Remember what happens when growing basil outdoors and the nighttime temperatures dive into the mid-30s? The leaves turn black. Likewise, basil stored in the refrigerator will barely last a couple of days before the leaves also blacken.

The ideal temperature for storing basil is around 60 degrees. The easiest and best way to store it is right on the kitchen counter (away from the stove) in a glass of water. By changing the water daily, you can keep that fresh basil flavor alive for up to 10 days.

So - 10 days to use it or lose it. Good luck!


who finds that a little basil goes a long way ...

Jon said...

Yeah, I second keeping it on the counter in fresh water. You could buy Thai basil and make curries, you can even by the pastes in Chinatown so all you need is coconut milk.

I'm not a pesto person either-- I'm not a picky eater at all, but for some strange reason, pine nuts make me puke. Seriously, how weird is that??

Sarah said...

I love pesto, but yes...basil usually goes black before I use it. Freezing it is a good idea, a la Jane, above.
I'm stopping by to say hello and I look forward to meeting you at TequilaCon this Saturday.
Hi! *waves*

sandra said...

You've just made me really, really hungry for steak. But I suppose, where better to get a great NY strip steak than in NY!

Anonymous said...

From Jayne: Of course, I see this really great recipe today but it calls for one *teaspoon* of basil: you cannot buy just one teaspoon of fresh basil - you have to get a TON of it! What is wrong with selling small amounts of items?? (Perhaps there is no profit, too much goes to waste, especially since basil is only going to last 10 days at most.) I am wondering if there are any recipes that call for black basil slime ...