Discovering Flavours… Aromatic herbs and extra virgin olive oil

Aromatic Herbs and Extra virgin Olive Oil: raw, fresh or cooked, they are always delicious!

Herbs have always been an important part of cooking culture all over the world. Everybody uses them, to a greater or lesser degree, to enhance their dishes, both raw and cooked.
However, it is important to be able to use them correctly; fresh raw herbs can be chopped and mixed but don’t cook them for any significant time.

Always use herbs to improve the taste of fish, meat, vegetables, soups and desserts to enhance their appeal.

During the Professional Olive Oil Sommelier Course being held in Val d’Orcia in the heart of Tuscany, there will be cooking demonstrations showing you how to use EVOO and fresh herbs to finish off each dish in perfect harmonization.

This simple but effective recipe by chef Gregory Nalon, requires the use of raw, fresh herbs vacuum cooked at very low temperatures with olive oil.

Curry lobster salad with sweet-sour pickled vegetables and fumé herbs.
By chef Gregory Nalon

Ingredients for 4 people:
n° 12 lobster tails, 5 g curry; 20g egg white; 30 g Tropea onion; 30 g white onion; 40 g red bell pepper ; 10 g chopped fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, wild fennel, chives); 20 g extra virgin olive oil, scented with sage and rosemary; 15 g classic extra virgin olive oil; 20g white vinegar; 10 g white sugar; 2g salt; 0.5 g white pepper; 1 bay leaf; 2 g fresh ginger; 20 g basil leaves

Take the lobster tails out of their shells, wash them and dust them with curry after dipping them in whisked egg white. Steam them at 76°C for about 7 minutes, laying them on top of the fresh basil.

Clean and cut the vegetables, than put them in a special bag for vacuum cooking and season them with sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper and classic extra
virgin olive oil.

Close the bag and cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes. Change the vacuum cooking bag, add the chopped herbs and the seasoned extra virgin olive oil.

Close the bag and cook in the oven at 68°C for 20 minutes.

Dish arrangement:
Plate the sweet and sour vegetables, lay the lobsters on top, season with some of the cooking sauce and the seasoned oil.

Decorate and serve.

Courtesy SIRMAN/Zafferano anno 13/ 37 del 2011

Herbs, discovering taste
When men were even more like monkeys, fire and salt were used to make food tastier and longer lasting. And only then did they start to stand out from the animals. But culinary taste probably had to wait for the discovery of herbs and spices, paying the price of stomachache.
A common long-ago origin, perhaps dating back to the beginning of trade between wooded and lagoon areas and between deserts and mountains.

Highly sought-after and precious, they were worth their weight in gold and were even recognised (for example in 11th century Venice) as a valid way of paying taxes. An important chapter in our gastronomic history, not to mention in medicine itself (syrups, infusions, compresses, ointments…) at least until the early 17th century. And perhaps even before (although not confirmed by science) as aphrodisiacs, an illusion which considered prodigious the root of the mandrake, a Solanaceae widespread in Mediterranean countries, as recognised by the Greek physician Dioscorides and confirmed by Pliny the Elder (although lacking in credibility in such matters).

For the Romans, however, lettuce, mallow and wall-rocket were enough. For the great agronomist Columella, wall-rocket aroused dulled passions, while other unidentified herbs ended up in infusions, distillates and even desserts. Always with the same hopes. But no-one has ever confessed to using these incentives…
Then the times changed and we ended up with oysters and champagne which have nothing in common with herbs, but are supposed to have the same prodigious qualities as certain wild herbs. What is sure, however, is that these wild or cultivated herbs are able to add a distinctive touch to particular international or local, refined or traditional, ways of cooking meat or fish, in which spices and herbs play a leading part.
Anise, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, chilli pepper and saffron are all spices (powder, leaves and dried bark) able to characterise any dish, not to mention their healing aspects (stimulating, digestive, purifying, toning, sedative…).

And herbs? Garlic, basil, onion, fennel, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, shallots, celery, thyme… fresh herbs so common they are even cultivated indoors. Flavours which together or on their own are added to food to make it stand out, transforming the humblest of kitchens into a genuine laboratory of taste. As confirmed by academics and chefs.

Courtesy SIRMAN/Zafferano anno 13/ 37 del 2011

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