Rosemary for remembrance — and bold flavor

01/09/2013 9:00 PM

01/08/2013 2:52 PM

Rosemary is synonymous with Italian favorites like Tuscan flatbread and chicken cacciatore. Native to the Mediterranean, it’s a woody herb with a solid texture and intense, pine-like aroma and flavor.

Heat mellows and transmits rosemary’s flavors during a long braise with beef or pork, for example, or a high-temperature roast with lamb, and even fish.

Recipes that call for rosemary tend to require the needles to be stripped from their branches and chopped, but don’t over look the woody stems, which can be used to flavor soups and roasts.

Be sure to taste the rosemary you’re using before adding it to a dish, since it can vary in intensity. Mincing rosemary releases its essential oils, making its flavor more pronounced. Remember that a little goes a long way. Rosemary is best with strong flavors, and can overwhelm delicate dishes.

With its sturdy stalk, rosemary makes a great skewer, infusing grilled food with its garden-fresh flavor. Soak stalks for a half hour before adding meat, fish, or vegetables. You may need to poke through the food first with a metal skewer.

Choose straight rosemary branches that stand upright without drooping. Leaves ought to be brightly colored and without brown spots, and their aroma should be strong and fresh.

Stand the rosemary bunch upright in a glass or jar of water before refrigerating and cover loosely with a plastic bag. If dry rosemary is your only option, the general rule is one teaspoon dried for one tablespoon chopped fresh. Crush needles between your fingers to release scent before using.

Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school and co-author of “Mmmmiami: Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere.”

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