A great video from Chef Gordon Ramsey on how to chop fresh herbs. First up, basil. Gently rolled and carefully sliced (chiffonade) with a very sharp knife. Next up, coriander, called cilantro in the states. The technique Gordon demonstrates works beautifully for Italian parsley as well. Excellent knife skill demo with details and nice close up shots. Take a look!
SEE ALSO: Pappardelle with Herb Oil (recipe)
SEE ALSO: How to Make Fresh Pasta with a Machine (video)
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To get the most flavor out of fresh herbs, there are a few tips to remember.
First, rinse them well in cold water to get rid of any dirt or grit. Gently shake off the excess moisture and spread them out on paper towels. Allow the herbs to air dry completely. You want to avoid storing wet herbs as they will start to break down very quickly.
The flavor from herbs comes from essential oils in the leaves. To get peak flavor, chop them as little as possible and use a very sharp knife.
Basil, in particular, is easily bruised and will turn brown quickly if handled too roughly. Whenever possible, use the full leaf. (The smaller leaves can have a lot of flavor.
Chose super fresh, compact herbs. Fresh herbs should be quite "perky". If they are droopy or off color, they are too old. If you are growing your own, harvest the herbs while they are still relatively young.
A second option for basil is to gently tear the leaves and add them at the end of the recipe. The final method, and the one demonstrated in the video, is to julienne the leaves. This produces thin ribbons of basil that are pretty and fragrant in a dish. Simply stack the leaves together, roll them up loosely (like a cigar) and them slice them into thin strips. If you use this method, do it just before you add the basil to the dish so the herbs retain maximum flavor.
When chopping parsley, coriander, cilantro and mint, trim the stems and then rough chop the leaves, again using a very sharp knife to minimize bruising. Don't overchop the herbs. If the cutting board is covered with a green residue, you've overdone it. You want the flavor in the dish, not the board!
Optional approach: I sometimes use kitchen shears and trim the parsley right into the dish. Just gather the bundle of parsley and, holding it over the pan, snip the tips of the leaves off. It's like giving the parsley a little haircut..."just a bit off the top". The trimmings will fall directly into the sauce with minimum "wear and tear" on the leaves.
To store fresh herbs with stems, (parsley, cilantro, etc.) trim the ends just a touch and keep them in a cup of water, like fresh-cut flowers. Change the water often. You can refrigerate them if you like. Alternately, wash and dry the herbs and pop them into individual zip-top plastic baggies. They should keep about a week.
The fresher the herbs, the stronger the flavor so buy - or harvest - just what you need and use it right away. Always use a very sharp knife to get the best results!