I woke up this morning and just can’t believe all the work “The Amazing” Cyndi has done on my site! It is already looking more wonderful than I could have imagined! Thank you, dear friend!
Marissa went back to Tucson yesterday, so on Thursday night we had a quick and easy dinner consisting of Stuffed Pork Chops, Parmesan Asparagus, and Caprese Salad. The thing I really love about this pork chop recipe is that it is so quick and versatile. I keep boneless chops and some sort of sausage in my freezer at all times. If it’s not hot Italian sausage, then it’s the sweet variety or chorizo. Onions and garlic are always on hand. And if I don’t have fennel, then celery or carrots are great substitutes. No fresh rosemary? No problem, use dried, just use half as much, as the dried herbs about twice as potent as fresh …as long as it hasn’t been in your cupboard for the last dozen years!
Dried spices and herbs do not spoil, but they do lose their strength. A lot of cookbook writers and chefs tell you to purge your pantry once an herb or spice is about 6 months old. But the spice companies, including McCormick and Penzeys say differently. They tell you to keep and use the spices as long as they appear to have flavor. And hey, they are the ones that would be raking in even more big bucks if we followed those writers and chefs, so I go along with them! It certainly helps if you store them correctly though. Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place. And most of us are guilty of storing them too close to the oven or stovetop… that is not a “cool” place! Spices retain their potency longer than you’d think — as long as 4 years for whole spices, 2 to 3 years for ground spices, and 1 to 3 years for herbs. Whole spices such as peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin, and cardamon hold their flavor for many years. Whenever possible, whole spices are they way to go, and toasting those spices in a dry skillet will bring out the oils and therefore bring out even more and better flavor. Invest $20 or so in an extra electric coffee grinder, dedicated just for spices, cause “cumin flavored coffee” – eeww!. Don’t want the flavor of peppercorns in with your cinnamon? In between spices, “clean” the grinder by grinding either dry white rice or a slice of fresh bread, then just toss out the rice/bread. Either one will take away the flavor of the previous spice.
Herbs lose their flavor faster than spices. Dried herbs that have no color and no or very little smell when crumbled in the palm of your hand are not going to do your dish any favors, but if they still have fragrance when crumbled in your hand, use them, taste the dish and add more, if needed. For a list of herbs and spices you should have on hand, go to Pantry Stocking on the “Tips” page or to the July 9, 2009 post.
August 22, 2009 4 Comments