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with Chef Domenica Catelli

Domenica Catelli's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years. For more information on nutrition and eating well, visit our Real Life Nutrition blog.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cooking with Herbs – Should You Use Fresh or Dried?

fresh and dried rosemary

By Domenica Catelli

I get this question often: “Is there a difference in using fresh herbs or dried when cooking?” And, the resounding answer is, “Yes!”

First let’s clear up the difference between dried spices and herbs. If you are using dried rosemary, basil, oregano, etc. these are dried herbs. If you are using coriander, cumin, turmeric, etc, these are dried spices.

There are times that we don’t have fresh herbs available and substituting a dried one may be inevitable. However, in my opinion, they are not always interchangeable. When you dry certain herbs, the flavor and texture takes on a whole different quality. For instance, I am a huge fan of tearing up fresh herbs and putting then into your salad mix, on a sandwich, or into veggies or soups. I would not tell you to replace fresh basil on an heirloom tomato sandwich with dried basil. However, I would recommend using dry herbs in a salad dressing since the oils are more concentrated and will come out in a vinegar and oil mixture.

Another great use of dried herbs is to make rubs for meats. You can take dried rosemary, granulated garlic, cracked pepper and kosher salt and rub this into chicken, pork tender, or steak for a quick and flavor-filled dinner. The intensity of dried, ground rosemary will give you a powerful flavor but is a very different type of dish than if you used fresh chopped rosemary and minced garlic. If you have some extra time in the kitchen it would be a fun experiment to try a piece of chicken with a dry herb and garlic rub and a piece with the fresh version and see which you and your family like best.

An important note on dried herbs and spices… they are not all created equal. There are certain brands that use higher quality plants and drying techniques. This imparts very clear and distinct flavors. Some of the really inexpensive brands do not have as much flavor, and you may need two to three times as much dried oregano, for example, to get the same intense flavor as you would in a high-quality line.

Also, your spice cabinet has a shelf life! Like I’ve mentioned before, you may be hanging onto colored dust if you have had an herb or spice in your cabinet for the past ½ decade to ¼ century!

Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!

Photo: iStockphoto

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 8:54 am

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