How to Cook with Mediterranean Herbs and Spices
People in the Mediterranean use an abundance of fresh herbs and spices in their cooking. Besides providing taste, color, and aroma, herbs and spices also add health benefits to your meals.
Think about your own diet. Do you tend to use a lot of herbs and spices in your cooking, or do you mostly depend on salt and pepper? If you don’t use many seasonings, your Mediterranean goal is to cook with more of them, both for the health benefits and to create amazing flavor in your food.
Storing fresh and bottled herbs
Herbs are delicate, so you want to make sure you store them properly to retain their best taste and their nutrient value.
Use these tips for storage:
Fresh herbs: Immediately use them. Just like fruits and vegetables, the longer fresh herbs sit around, the more nutrients they lose. Store them in perforated bags in your refrigerator crisper for up to four days.
Dried herbs and spices: Use them within a year of purchase. Keep them in airtight containers away from heat and light. You may want to record your date of purchase on the label; forgetting how long that stack of seasonings has been in your cupboard is really easy.
One way to ensure that herbs and seasonings don’t sit too long on the shelf is to use them generously in your cooking. If you’re running out of herbs every six months or so, you’re on the right track! That’s a good problem to have.
You may also consider keeping a garden for fresh herbs if you will be using them often. Fresh herbs are expensive at the grocery store, and they’re relatively easy to grow, even in a city garden on your back porch.
Livening up food with herbs and spices
Figuring out a way to increase the herbs and spices in your diet, whether you currently use a moderate amount or none at all, is a great idea. Doing so adds lots of flavor on top of the health perks, so it really is a win-win situation. Here are some suggestions for getting more herbs and spices in your diet:
Add ample amounts of herbs to your stews, soups, and chilis. Don’t be shy.
Use fresh basil leaves in sandwiches, or spread your bread with a basil pesto rather than with mayonnaise.
Spice up a tuna- or chicken-salad sandwich with some curry, turmeric, and ginger.
Let fresh mint, sliced cucumbers, and lemon sit in a pitcher of water for five to ten minutes for a refreshing drink.
Mix fresh mint into your next fruit salad.
Sprinkle fresh cilantro or basil over black beans and rice for a quick meal.
Top off your scrambled eggs with your favorite herb combination.
Kick up your lettuce-and-vegetable salads with cilantro and dill.
Add fresh dill to fish.