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Old 05-29-2012, 07:09 AM   #1
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Herbs and spices - alternative "liquid base" to oils and vinegar

Hey guys,

I have immersed myself in the rich and fascinating world of herbs and spices, and have bought some and began adding them to my food.

I did experience one problems though. I noticed that with some food that is dry (e.g., pasta, beans with no sauce or salad with no sauce), when I add the herbs and/or spices, they don't dissolve and "fuse" with the food - this is expected as the food is often dry.

Thus, I have read that it's good to mix the spices with some sort of liquid, for lack of a better word, such as oils (e.g., olive and sunflower) and vinegar I believe. But, then the problem occurs that I originally wanted to add herbs and spices to my food because healthy eating is my prime goal and adding oils sabotages this goal. Likewise, vinegar I feel dominates the taste too much, and as my stomach does not react well to vinegar sometimes, this is not an ideal option either.

Therefore, my question is whether there is some of "liquid base" I could find that is in line with the aim of very healthy eating (thus not oils) and is not too acidic (such as vinegar)? Would water work? Although, this magical alternative that I seek might not exist and I might need to settle for oils or vinegar, I thought I'd try and see if you guys have any creative suggestions, since in the realm of gastronomy, although I am ignorant in this area, I have felt that pleasing surprises do spring up sometimes.

Many thanks,

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Old 05-29-2012, 08:34 AM   #2
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Water does not fully break down the enzymes in flavorful herbs, hence never fully realizing the flavor; plus oils and vinegar double as preservatives allowing the essence to be preserved. Olive oil used sparingly is excellent for the skin, digestive system, and hair. It will cause more benefit than harm used in moderation. A tablespoon a day should be completely negligible from a diet standpoint.
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Old 05-29-2012, 10:45 AM   #3
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I agree that olive oil is not incompatible with a healthy diet - you do need some fats in your diet and olive oil as well as things such as nuts are healthy sources of fats, providing you don't have too much. So as bearpants says a tablespoon a day is a perfectly healthy amount. Far rather something like olive oil than a rendered fat - not all fats are created equal.

Also the vinegar part is because it needs an acid, but vinegars are not the only acid - citrus juices (lemon/lime/orange) are also perfectly good and not always as dominating. Also it depends on the vinegar you are using - rice wine vinegar is quite mild, as are certain red and white wine vinegars. An expensive balsamic will have a much sweeter and less sour flavour than a very cheap one.

Tomatoes are also quite acidic so a tomato based sauce shouldn't need any extra acid added to it and is very versitile with regards to herbs and spices it goes well with.
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Old 05-29-2012, 01:14 PM   #4
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Avoidance of the small amount of oil required to provide liquid adhesion for herbs is false caution when the goal is to make palatable, healthy food. Oil is not the optimum medium for breaking out the useful components of herbs. But it is probably the most useful in terms of adhesion. Ethyl alcohol is far better at extracting from herbs, better than vinegar or water. It's shortcomings as a culinary carrier still probably makes oil the better choice. Glycerine is another good liquid for breaking out herb components and perhaps a better alcohol carrier than ethyl.
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Old 05-29-2012, 02:17 PM   #5
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Fats are necessary for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. There are many flavors in food that are fat-soluble as well - you won't taste them in a fat-free preparation. So, as others have said, a small amount of a vegetable oil (olive is best) is a good idea.

Italian pasta sauces also frequently use a bit of the pasta cooking water in the sauce. Other liquids to use include stocks, broths and wine. And you can mix these together so the vinegar would not be so dominating, e.g., 1/2 cup of chicken broth with a couple tablespoons of vinegar or wine, reduced to about 1/4 cup.
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:04 AM   #6
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I appreciate the advice! Thank you!
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