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Quick Tips: Herbs and Spices

  1. AK Home Cooking SolutionsUse a rubber jar opener to take the papery skin off garlic cloves. Rub the cloves in the jar opener to loosen the skins, then peel them off with your fingers.

  2. After roasting garlic, cool until easy to handle, then squeeze the entire head with your hand to release the cloves from their papery skins.

  3. Put extra fresh herbs to good use by mincing them, then stirring in to softened butter. Roll the herb butter into a cylinder, wrap in plastic, and freeze to use later to garnish a piece of grilled fish, steak or steamed vegetables.

  4. Extend the life of fresh cilantro by trimming the root ends and wrapping the bunch in a damp paper towel. Store the cilantro in the refrigerator in an unsealed plastic bag (so the leaves can breathe).

  5. Grate fresh ginger on the small holes of a grater, then freeze in tablespoon mounds on a wax paper- or parchment-lined cookie sheet. When frozen, transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag and freeze, perfect for using in stir-frys or adding to soups or stews.

  6. To perk up wilted fresh basil sprigs, soak the sprigs in cool water for half an hour, then blot the leaves dry with paper towels. Store basil at room temperature in a sealed plastic bag, if refrigerated, the leaves will turn black.

  7. Thinly slice fresh basil by stacking 5 or 6 large leaves on top of each other, then rolling them into a cylinder and slicing across the leaves into thin strips.

  8. Nearly empty Dijon mustard jars and bottles are great for making vinaigrettes. Measure vinaigrette ingredients (except mustard) into the jar, screw on the lid, and shake vigorously. The residual mustard on the sides of the jar will be incorporated into the vinaigrette.

  9. Dried herbs and spices lose their punch after 6 to 8 months. If you can't remember when you bought that canister of dried thyme or chili powder, now might be a good time to purchase a fresh supply, the flavor will be a lot better.

  10. Make a removable spice sachet by tying whole spices such as bay leaves, peppercorns and herb sprigs in a coffee filter with string. Float the sachet in simmering soups and stews, and simply remove and discard the bag after cooking.

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