Cooking School Daze, Week 6

Lettuce and Tubers and Pears- Oh My!


Now this week’s focus was my kind of food! With last week’s arterial clutter finally out of my veins (dairy and eggs), I was really excited for these next two weeks of class time. Fruits, vegetables and herbs! Being a large portion of my daily diet, I was psyched to learn more recipes and tidbits about various edible plant life.

This week we concentrated on raw fruits and vegetables. First, May tested us on our herb knowledge, bringing out examples of both delicate and hardy herbs. Delicate herbs are the ones that have softer leaves and don’t do well with longer cooking times. These include parsley (both curly and Italian), cilantro, mint, basil and dill (my personal favorite).
The hardier herbs have a woody stem and can handle longer cook times. These are herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano. Whichever one uses, the rule of thumb is to use 2-3 times as much fresh as you would dried, as the dry herbs are more intense in flavor. Also, to make the delicate herbs last longer, put a wet towel around the base of them and place in a plastic bag to keep moisture in, especially if you need them to last more than two days. They won’t last for a month, but you’ll get another day or two out of them.

May told us about how various herbs are used in global cooking. Cilantro is used not only in Latin cuisine, but many Southeast Asian and North African dishes, as well. Did you know that cilantro roots go into curry paste?

Mint, and this means spearmint, is used anywhere from Southeast Asia to India to the Mediterranean. The French love Marjoram, a hardy herb used in the Herb de Provence mixture. They’re also pretty fond of Chervil, which has a lemony, licorice taste and is used with seafood. I, for one, will never try this. Anything licorice is on my “HATE THIS!” list.

Since it is winter, we discussed seasonal fruits and vegetables. Pomegranates are in season and the seeds are terrific in salads. Want to get the seeds out easily? Cut off the top, pry it open with your thumbs, then take the back of a wooden spoon and slam the fruit with it. The seeds will fall out. Persimmons are also in season here in California. I had never really had this fruit, it tastes like a combination of a papaya, pear and something I can’t quite identify. They’re delicious.

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