Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to Clean Fresh Herbs

Cooking with fresh herbs makes a huge difference in the flavor of the final dish.  Dried herbs are great for mid-winter stews and braises.  They have plenty of time to rehydrate and distribute their flavor.  But when finishing a dish with a hit of freshness, or when using herbs in an uncooked dish, you can't beat fresh herbs (one exception, in my opinion: oregano).

There are so many fresh herbs available in the grocery store now.  The ones in the little plastic clamshell packages are generally ready to use with only a quick rinse.  However, anything that has a rubber band around it and that you need to put in a produce bag will need a thorough wash.  Most of the time, you will find that it is pretty clean, whether parsley, cilantro, mint, dill or any other grocery store bunch.  However, I have run across enough dirt clumps, sand particles and tiny bugs to make me a devoted herb washer.  The cilantro that I bought the other night is a prime example, as you will see.

This is also effective for cleaning lettuces and herbs from your garden.

So here is the simple, thorough method for making sure that you are putting herbs, and nothing else into your cooking.

First, fill a large bowl or bin with cold tap water.  Take the rubber band or twist tie off of the bundle of herbs that you wish to wash.  Plunge the herbs into the water.


Now swish the herbs around with your hand a little bit.  Then walk away for a few minutes.  When you come back, the herbs will be floating on the top of the water, and any sediment will have settled at the bottom of the bin.  Carefully lift the herbs out from the top of the water, so as to avoid stirring up the sediment.  Then shake them in a towel covered strainer or run them through a salad spinner to get the excess water off.  Sometimes, there will be more than just a bit of sediment, and this is one of those times.  The water actually looked grey.  So I lifted the herbs out, and look how much dirt was in the bin!
    

In this case, I just emptied the dirty water, rinsed out the bin, and repeated the process.

Nothing can ruin a meal faster than crunching on a piece of sand because you figured that a quick rinse was all the cilantro needed.  Don't skip this simple step.  It only takes a couple of minutes!

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