Herbs R Fresh


If you like herbs like we like herbs, then you plow through more than the average American. There are also likely fresh favorites you keep around pretty much all the time. For us, that would include cilantro and parsley. Both have subtle, lovely flavor profiles that go great with many dishes.

That said, both can get long in the tooth quite quickly. They're highly perishable, and can be hard to keep fresh after even a couple of days in your fridge. Considering the handling such foods receive as a part of modern distribution and sales, it's no wonder, really. A little handling and preserving work can go a long way toward having these indispensable always at hand.

When you get delicate perishables home, inspect them first and foremost. Get them out of the plastic produce bags, and better yet, don't put them in those things in the first place and reduce your plastic throughput. Remove any off colored or bruised stuff and toss it in your compost.

Give your goods a gentle rinse in cold, running water. Shake them dry, gently but thoroughly; excess water is not a friend to successful storage.

Remove any rubber bands or twist ties; all they do is bruise the goods and promote rot.

Place the washed produce on a clean paper towel and let them air dry a bit. Wrap the goods in the paper towel and store them in your crisper drawer just like that. If you use what you buy steadily, and pay attention to FIFO, (First In, First Out), in your fridge, your cilantro, parsley, green onions, radishes, etc will stay fresher, longer.

Consider drying some of those staple fresh herbs. It's a given that fresh is better than dry, but house dried herbs from a good fresh source are far better than store bought or none. Those faves of ours will dry thoroughly in a dehydrator in less than 30 minutes. I've tested both cilantro and parsley and found that our home dried stuff retains reasonably potent flavor for up to a month when stored in glass, in a cool, dark, dry spice cabinet.

Finally, and especially as the winter months are upon us, plant a fresh herb window box. An 18″ x 6″ x 6″ box will allow you to grow a full raft of your faves, and reasonable tending will sustain them through the season. There's nothing cheerier in the dark months than fresh, bright herbs growing in your kitchen.



We can pickle that!

If you love pickles like we do, you’ve pretty much always got several jars in your fridge. In addition to cukes, we’ll typically have store bought capers, olives, and pepperoncini. That list is a great source for fridge pickling brine you can now add to carrots, chiles, green onions, green beans, radishes, garlic, and whatever else strikes your fancy. 

Got a favorite brand with a just right pickle flavor? Save that brine and jar, and replace those kosher dills with a mix of jalapeno, garlic, onions and carrots. Top things off with fresh vinegar if needed, and you can add additional pickling spices as well if you like. Allow your new batch to marinate for 2 or 3 days, and you’re back in business. Fridge pickled goodies will last a month or two, although they’re so good, they’re unlikely to survive that long.

Try something a bit outside the box, like pearl onions in leftover caper brine, or cherry tomatoes in pepperoncini brine; experimentation is bound to lead to fresh ideas and new favorites. Let that outside the box thinking color your spice selection as well. Here’s the perfect chance to experiment with a single jar; develop something you love and you can expand to a batch run later. In addition to providing wonderful treats for a Bloody Mary or martini, pickled veggies add great zing to everything from salads or omelettes to soups and stews.

Next time you’re in the produce aisle, see what looks good and grab a little extra to pickle with. As always, carefully inspect and chose top quality for this endeavor. Try something that maybe you think you don’t like or aren’t that familiar with, like Bok Choi, Fennel, or turnips. A quick pickle brings a very tasty note to an otherwise dull character; try pickled celery and you’ll see what I mean.


Once you’re home, thoroughly rinse your produce in clean, cold water. For radishes, carrots, chiles, green and sweet onions and cukes, top, skin, seed, core, etc, and then cut them into whatever form you prefer your pickles in.

Fo green beans, corn, or peas, a quick blanch and shock will help preserve texture and color. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil, and have an ice bath standing by that, (50%-50% ice and water).

Toss your veggies into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, the transfer them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath. Leave them there until they’ve cooled completely. Remove and you’re ready to pickle.

When you’re ready to pickle, pour the remaining brine into a clean bowl or pitcher. Wash your jars thoroughly, and either sterilize them in your blanching bath, or run them through your dishwasher. Do the same with lids and rings.

For whatever you prepare, make sure they’re well packed, with at least an inch of brine above the tops of the contents, and seal the jars well.

Oh, and don’t forget to dust the rim of your Bloody Mary glass with chile salt.

Duh! Cooking Tip: Wondra Flour


Wondra flour; here’s what we hear the most about it:
What is this stuff?
It’s a bit pricy for flour, is it worth the cost?

Wondra is a brand name for instant flour so ubiquitous you’ll see the name used generically in recipes, (yeah, there are other brands). ‘Instant’ in this application means pre-gelatinized, a process wherein finely ground, low protein wheat flour is steamed and dried. Wondra, FYI, also has a bit of malted barley flour, which acts as a dough conditioner when baking bread, and also helps with browning and caramelization. The result is a flour that doesn’t need cooking, (or a while lotta time), to blend seamlessly with liquids.

The answer to the second question is a resounding ‘Yup’, it’s worth it. If you don’t already have it in your kitchen, get some on your next grocery run. If you’ve never used it, you’ve got a treat in store. If you do know what it is and have only used it as a thickener, I might have another trick or two for y’all.

As mentioned, far and away the coolest thing about Wondra is it’s effortless effectiveness as a thickener. Got the basics of a gravy going, some fat in a pan? Rather than the usual slow and deliberate process, you can literally toss a tablespoon of Wondra in there and whisk to your hearts content; you’ll end up with the easiest dang lump-free gravy you’ve ever built. Same goes for thickening soups, stews, and sauces. You can add Wondra straight away, or draw a cup or two of liquid aside, blend that with some additional fat, pour it back into your pot and bingo, lumpless delights. Wondra works great with sweet stuff as well; I’ve used it to thicken fruit pies and tarts with great success.

That said, Wondra is good for a bunch more stuff than thickening.

In pursuit of the perfect tender, flaky pie crust/biscuit/scone? Sub Wondra for a third of the All Purpose flour you’re likely using, (AKA, a 2:1 regular to Wondra ratio), and you’ll achieve a better measure of that gold standard. Tender and flaky are all about less gluten, (AKA, protein), and Wondra has less than anything out there except cake flour, (Which has a distinctive flavor you might not dig in stuff other than cake).

Use Wondra as the dusting flour to roll your dough out on. The low gluten count helps keep the dough from sticking to rolling surfaces, even if the dough itself has a fairly high gluten content.

Wanna pan roast like a Pro? Dust your protein lightly with Wondra just before you cook; you’ll be rewarded with a thin, crisply crusted skin that’ll taste great, seal in juiciness, and look fantastic.

Make Wondra your go-to flour for frying batter and you’ll get a lighter, crisp crust that highlights the flavor of the food rather than overpowering it.

The late, great Julia Child recommended instant flour for crepes. Because it dissolves so quickly, you need just a 10 minute rest to achieve great results, instead of the hour called for when using all-purpose flour.

If you grease and flour pans when you’re baking, Wondra’s the stuff for you; it’ll cover corners evenly without clumping.

As with any flour, use Wondra sparingly and you’ll avoid the telltale “flour flavor” note; Wondra gets dissed for this, but the fact is, use too much of any flour and you’ll achieve the same gaffe…