Relishing the Essence of Rosemary

comments (0) July 29th, 2008

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by Sylvia Thompson
October 1997
from issue #11

Rosemary’s piney flavor brings a quality of wildness into the kitchen. Chicken with tarragon is elegant, but chicken with rosemary is earthy. Lamb with dill is sedate, but lamb with rosemary is sensual. Tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and peppers are luscious with basil, savory, or sage. But with rosemary, they taste as sunny and fresh as all outdoors. A pinch of rosemary adds verve to fruits, and a lively snap to eggs and fresh cheeses. Rosemary mixes well with other intense seasonings like garlic, lemon, sage, thyme, oregano, sweet marjoram, and mint.

To prepare fresh rosemary, strip the leaves from the sprigs. I prefer to snip the leaves with scissors rather than chop them with a knife or food processor. Snipping does a better job of preserving the essential oils. How fine you snip the leaves depends on the texture and style of the finished dish, but since the leaves are leathery, I snip most fairly small, keeping a few larger pieces so I’ll get a deliciously pungent zap now and then.

By all means, use the flowers, too, as they are rosemary flavored. For drying, harvest leaves before the plant flowers—flavor will be more intense. Classically, rosemary is a symbol of remembrance, and also loyalty, an aspect of remembrance. How such traditions get started is anyone’s guess, although I can say how it happens for me in the kitchen. When a dish is intensely flavored with rosemary, I remember it distinctly and with pleasure.


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