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Old 08-14-2007, 02:23 PM   #11
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No, tasting the herbs by themselves is not a strange idea. Slightly rub them between your fingers and hold them cupped in your hands to your nose. This will also give you an up close look at the smell AND taste. Take a nibble. When I first started using fresh herbs they all just sort of tasted "green". Then once my palate developed the different tastes came out.

If you make some spaghetti sauce take about 1/2 cup or so place in two different bowls. Heat one up with an extra amount of basil and heat the other up with an extra amount of oregano.

All this just takes experience. We are all different in what we can pick up on. I'm one of those that can taste leather, smokiness, meatiness, and earth in red wines quickly. I can pick out stone fruits and citrus notes, along with minerals and other notes in white wines. My boss can quickly pick up all those and other notes like honey, vegetal notes, lychee, almonds, etc. And no, those things are not made up. Those flavor notes are in there. And when you smell acetone and attics/basements throw it away! LOL
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Old 08-14-2007, 02:23 PM   #12
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There are some herbs and spices that just seem to confound the palate. Sometimes garlic comes off as having an inordinate amount of "heat" to it. Somtimes tarragon can come off tasting like anise or some other licorice type flavoring.

I find that if someone I know has prepared the meal, I'll ask how it was made. If I'm in a restaurant, I'll definitely ask a waitperson about specific flavors and ingredients; most especially if I'm in an ethnic place and I have not the foggiest notion of what's being used.

As for "season to taste" I think it's a flexible instruction to adapt to the highly different tolerances people have. i.e. Too much cayenne for you might be undetectable to me and the same goes for salt & pepper.

It's up to you to learn your tolerances of flavor and to try new things so you can get that impenetrable palate to cooperate!
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Old 08-14-2007, 02:28 PM   #13
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Another thought:

If you use dried herbs and spices, they lose their flavor after a while.

I occasionally cook at my aged mother-in laws, and most of hers are utterly tasteless! Coud you really buy a can of oregano for 20 cents?

I discard and replace mine after a year or so.
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Old 08-14-2007, 02:36 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiffonade
Somtimes tarragon can come off tasting like anise or some other licorice type flavoring.
Tarragon does, indeed, have a licorice flavor so what you are tasting is correct.

Another thing DaniaBchGirl. If you are using fresh herbs a lot of times they need to be added towards the end of cooking. Or at least 1/2 of them. They lose a lot of flavor in the cooking process. Fresh herbs at the end will retain their brightness of flavor. I would say that rosemary may not fall in this category though, IMHO of course.
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Old 08-14-2007, 02:48 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitchenelf
Tarragon does, indeed, have a licorice flavor so what you are tasting is correct.
I actually know that and was offering it as a "for instance" for the person who placed the original post

Quote:
Another thing DaniaBchGirl. If you are using fresh herbs a lot of times they need to be added towards the end of cooking. Or at least 1/2 of them. They lose a lot of flavor in the cooking process. Fresh herbs at the end will retain their brightness of flavor. I would say that rosemary may not fall in this category though, IMHO of course.
Rosemary is a woody herb and could probably benefit from some cooking as could unbruised fresh thyme; but the leafy herbs like tarragon, basil, parsley, etc. would definitely fall into the "add toward the end of cooking time" category.

Recently I was at Fresh Market (my happy place...or at least one of them ) and a husband and wife were trying to shop for produce off a list. They had no idea which leafy green herb was parsley and which was cilantro. I overheard and suggested the wife pinch one of the leaves, then smell it. "Does it smell subtly herby or bright and sharp?" She said, "Bright and sharp," to which I responded, "Then that's cilantro." She asked if one could be subbed for the other. I told her that people like to say you can use them interchangeably but I didn't feel that way.

Like lemongrass, there are some things you just can't use interchangeably with other things.

Pinch, taste, smell, eat, learn.
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Old 08-14-2007, 03:02 PM   #16
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I agree that while cilantro and parsley look very much alike, they are two entirely different herbs and as such may not be interchangable without changing the taste and character of the recipe. Lemon is paired very well with parsley but not with cilantro while lime is better paired with cilantro not parsley. I LIVE on cilantro and use it whenever I can but am careful to use it only if it's very fresh. Italian parsley is also a staple in my fridge. Mexican and Asian food get their great flavors from cilantro. Italian dishes do very well with parsley. I wouldn't think of sprinkling Italian bolognese pasta sauce with cilantro. See? not interchangable..
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Old 08-14-2007, 03:09 PM   #17
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And don't get discouraged. Remember that cooking is a skill. It's like art: anyone can paint, but not everyone can be a Salvador Dali. It's not just about technique, it's about flavors too.
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Old 08-14-2007, 03:35 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chiffonade
I actually know that and was offering it as a "for instance" for the person who placed the original post
OOOPS -

DramaQueen - I had an argument with my son last night. He says I have used cilantro for a LONG time in my spaghetti sauce. He can taste the brightness of the fresh basil and he can taste the brightness of the fresh cilantro in things - he just hasn't tasted them side by side yet. He will soon though!
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Old 08-14-2007, 04:22 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitchenelf
OOOPS -

DramaQueen - I had an argument with my son last night. He says I have used cilantro for a LONG time in my spaghetti sauce. He can taste the brightness of the fresh basil and he can taste the brightness of the fresh cilantro in things - he just hasn't tasted them side by side yet. He will soon though!
No worries! Thanks for the reinforcement

Re: Cilantro in spaghetti sauce? Wow...I use basil and/or oregano in my Italian products and cilantro in my Mexican or hispanic products! It would never occur to me to put cilantro in spaghetti sauce!
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Old 08-14-2007, 04:50 PM   #20
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Sometimes if I am not sure if something will add the proper taste to a dish I will try the herb or spice first.

But one need not add spice to the main dish, particularly if it is a sauce or stew, like tomato sauce and chili. Put a bit in a small bowl or cup and add a tad of the herb, spice, seasoning and try it. If it helps, go for it. Add a bit to the pot and try it. Can always add a bit more.

And sure, tastes vary. We both do not like cilantro very much (a tad in a bit of salsa is OK) but many love the stuff in gob quantities.

So I guess the advice is try a bit, add a tad to a small quantity of the dish, and see what you think.
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