The brightly flavored dishes of the Mediterranean region rely on an abundance of fresh herbs, especially mint, oregano, dill, and basil, so it is helpful to keep your fridge or garden well stocked with these essentials. In the test kitchen, we use fresh herbs as a bright garnish for a large number of dishes, but they also act as main flavor components in some recipes too.
Most fresh herbs are fairly perishable, but if washed and stored correctly they will keep for a week or longer.
We recommend gently rinsing and drying herbs (a salad spinner works perfectly) and then loosely rolling them in a few sheets of paper towel. Seal the roll of herbs in a zipper-lock bag and store it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
We also like to keep a variety of dried herbs on hand, which are great for use in long-cooked dishes like stews and braises. Although we usually use only hardy herbs such as rosemary and thyme in dried form, mint is another important dried herb in Mediterranean cuisines, valued for its earthy yet bright flavor.
Dried herbs lose their potency six to 12 months after opening, so it’s important to replace them frequently. You can test dried herbs for freshness by rubbing a small amount between your fingers; if the herbs don’t release a bright aroma, it’s time to buy a new jar.
You can quickly dry hearty herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf ) in the microwave. Lay a single layer of herbs on a paper towel–lined plate and cover with a second paper towel. Microwave on high for 1 to 3 minutes, checking occasionally, until the herb appears dehydrated. Cool at room temperature and then crumble or store whole in a plastic bag.
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