Prisco’s Family Market

1108 Prairie Street, Aurora, IL 60506 | 630-264-9400

Hours: Monday - Friday, 7 am to 8:30 pm | Saturday, 7 am to 8 pm | Sunday, 8 am to 7 pm

My Account

Search:
Have you had the pleasure of tasting a Peppadew Pepper?- Tuesday, March 6, 2018

This type of piquant pepper is originally from South Africa and was first discovered in early 1993 and introduced to market later that same decade. The name is a portmanteau of 'pepper' and 'dew'. Although the pepper is sometimes described as a cross between a pepper and a tomato, this description is not botanically accurate, and refers only to the resemblance in color and size between peppadew and cherry tomatoes.

The fruit is processed for removal of the seeds and reduction of the heat of the pepper to more palatable levels and is then pickled and bottled. The flavor of the Peppadew® fruit is sweet because sugar is added in the pickling process, with mild heat.

They are a juicy and delicious treat all by themselves, but people also enjoy stuffing them with cream or goat cheese. Another great suggestion is for pureeing them with almonds, garlic and olive oil and spreading them on crostini. You might also try stuffing them with our homemade fresh ground pork sausage and broiling them. They make a great addition to a tossed salad and recently we’ve been using them as a pizza topping with great success.

If you have never tasted these delicious little peppers (by no means hot, although they are bright red in color), ask for a sample the next time you are visiting our deli. You’re going to love them!

 

 

Some Facts About Button Mushrooms- Monday, February 26, 2018

Something that we tend to take for granted are button mushrooms. They make a great garnish or addition to hundreds of centerplate items, and they are also a primary ingredient for foods like omelets, pasta sauces and pizza toppings. In addition, unlike other, less meaty vegetables, button mushrooms serve very well as the main ingredient of soups and even stews.

These hearty veggies offer a strong and individual flavor and keep well in the refrigerator. Best of all, they are available even in the worst weather, and all year long. Formally known as Agaricus bisporus (also sometimes called "commercial mushrooms"), the button mushroom was first cultivated on horse manure heaps in France in the 1700s. It is still grown this way. Until recently it was the main mushroom cultivated in the United States.

The button mushrrom was originally brown in color. In 1926, a Pennsylvania mushroom farmer found a clump of Agaricus with white caps in his mushroom bed. Cultures were grown from the mutant individuals, and most of the cream-colored store mushrooms we see today are products of this chance observation.

Whole unopened buttons taste best. Once the partial veil protecting the gills has broken and the cap expands, the flesh becomes softer, cooks darker, and has a stronger taste.

Cleaning

Little water is required for the cleaning of store-bought mushrooms or of field specimens if gathered carefully. Older ones may be fragile and difficult to clean without cracking. A soft brush is useful. Avoid soaking, for the gills retain water and they will cook poorly. For best results, let them drain in a colander 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.

Cooking

The button mushroom is one of the few mushrooms that can be eaten raw in a salad, or ussed for dips. Thickly sliced pieces, when sautéed, may be savored as delicate hor d' oeuvres. Added to vegetarian casseroles or stews, they may simulate hunks of meat.

Preserving

Store your button mushrooms in the refrigerator for a week in an open bowl covered with waxed paper, but avoid plastic. They may also be sautéed in butter and frozen. They are surprisingly good when cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices and dried at home for later rehydration. Buttons may be pickled, spiced, or canned. Use a pressure cooker, applying fully adequate time, heat, and pressure, when canning them.

A Bit About Curry- Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Too many of us Westerners have far too little exposure to Indian foods, and one in particular that we tend to avoid are curries because at some time we may have tasted something described as a curry that we found too fiery.

"Curry" is actually an umbrella term for many dishes throughout the world, particularly Asia, that are simmered in or covered with a sauce full of spices and herbs. There is no one specific curry. It's just a combination of flavors and textures, usually served with meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, or even fruit. As it turns out, the word describes any dish of meat, fish and/or vegetables that is served in or with a sauce. So, if you think you don’t like curry, you are really limiting yourself. There are literally thousands of different curry blends that range from sweet and mild to hot and spicy.

How Curry Is Prepared

Most traditional Indian cooks make their curry seasoning from toasted whole spices that they grind themselves. There are probably as many curry seasoning blends as there are cooks who make curry, and most of them contain anywhere from 5 or 6 to as many as 30 different herbs and spices. Some curry powders are hot and spicy, and some are much milder. The problem is we like to pigeon hole things so they are easier to understand, but you simply can’t do that with curry. In India alone, there are over 600 distinct types of curry blends and when you take other countries into account there are large variances by region. Here is a brief description of types of curry by region.

Indian

These curries are made with a number of toasted and ground spices called masala. Some spices that are traditionally included in Indian curry dishes include cumin, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cardamom, mustard, fennel, and ginger. Indian curry dishes also vary by region.

Thai

More soup-like than their thicker Indian cousins, these curries are made from a paste of ground chilies, then added to aromatics (like galangal, lemon grass, lime leaves, and garlic) and coconut milk or water. The coconut milk-based curries are less spicy than the water-based ones since the milk calms the tongue. They are often described by color -- yellows, for example, are full of turmeric and cumin while reds and greens are dominated by red and green chilis. As with other regional curries, the sauce covers a combination of meats and vegetables.

British

They resemble the Indian style of curry (made from whole, ground spices instead of a chili paste). The British who colonized and ruled over India for centuries brought many Indian dishes to the UK and popularized them over time. It has been said that Chicken Tikka Masala, a popular curry dish, has even been dubbed the "British national dish."

Chinese

Often made with soy sauce, coconut milk, and a bunch of spices, this mildly spicy (and usually yellow) curry tops meats, veggies, steamed rice, or noodles.

Japanese

Curry is huge in Japanese cuisine. The standard contains onions, carrots, potatoes, sometimes celery, and a token meat (often pork) that's cooked in a large pot.

If you want to broaden your horizons within the world of food, may we suggest that you let your guard down a bit and try a variety of curry dishes the next time you frequent an Indian, Japanese, Thai or Chinese restaurant? You are very likely to discover some new tastes that you will enjoy along the way.

 

What are the most popular apple varieties in the US?- Tuesday, October 3, 2017

There are more than 100 commercially viable varieties of apples in the US, but here are the 10 most popular.

Red Delicious

Originally known as the Hawkeye, this is the most popular, most maligned, most ironically named of all apple varieties in the US.

Flavor profile: After generations of breeding for longer shelf life and cosmetic stability—call it vanity ripeness—the flavor has largely been cultivated out of the Red Delicious. It now has thick skin, a one-note sweet flavor, and an often crumbly texture.

Where it’s grown: Just about everywhere.

Best enjoyed: Straight out of the silo. Red Delicious apples are not regarded for their use in baking.

McIntosh

This is what you expect to get when you bite into a Red Delicious.

Flavor profile: With a soft skin and softer flesh, the McIntosh strikes a level balance between sweet and acidic.

Where it’s grown: Throughout the northeastern and upper Great Lakes states and eastern Canada.

Best enjoyed: Raw, in fruit salad, or sauced. McIntosh apples typically collapse when baked.

Golden (or Yellow) Delicious

Considered an all-purpose apple, the Golden Delicious—along with Red Delicious (no relation)—is the one most commonly found in 42-pound bags sold for five dollars at the grocery store.

Flavor profile: Mild and sweet, the flesh is juicy, but taste-wise isn’t all that different from the Red Delicious.

Where it’s grown: In most regions of the country.

Best enjoyed: Pick your poison. It works whole, chopped into salad, or baked into desserts.

Gala

This New Zealand breed has gained popularity in the last 15 years. It’s a cross between a Kidd’s Orange Red and a Golden Delicious apple (assuming you’re up on apple husbandry).

Flavor profile: With pinkish-orange striping over a gold base, its skin is thin, concealing a crisp and juicy flesh that’s fragrant and fairly sweet.

Where it’s grown: All but the southernmost points of the lower 48.

Best enjoyed: Raw, juiced, or in salads.

Granny Smith

Neon green and as squat as a five-foot bodybuilder, this is probably the most readily-recognized of all apple varieties.

Flavor profile: If you’re into tartness, this bitter old bird is your go-to. Its crisp, juicy flesh, however, does sweeten with storage.

Where it’s grown: Originally cultivated in Australia, it’s harvested stateside below the Mason-Dixon Line, and is available year-round.

Best enjoyed: Raw, in pies, or in salads where its tartness can be offset. Granny Smiths work especially well with nut butters.

Fuji

The Fuji was created in Japan (where it’s still the most popular variety) and is a cross between two American varieties (Red Delicious and Ralls Genet).

Flavor profile: Dense, crisp and generally regarded the sweetest of all varieties.

Where it’s grown: It wasn’t introduced here until the 1980s, but there are now more Fuji apples produced in all but the northern- and southernmost parts of the US than in Japan.

Best enjoyed: Raw, chopped into salads, or baked into pie.

Braeburn

Apple snobs can’t gush enough about how this variety was discovered—as opposed to bred—in New Zealand. Its probable parents are the Lady Hamilton and Granny Smith.

Flavor profile: Thin-skinned Braeburns boast textbook apple flavor and balance sweet and tart along with faint notes of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Where it’s grown: Just about anywhere on the mainland except the northernmost parts of the Midwest and New England.

Best enjoyed: Raw, but it’s also known to juice very little during baking.

Pink Lady

This brand name for the Cripps Pink variety applies to apples grown under specific license, dictating a rigid sugar-to-acid ratio, among other traits. Those that don’t qualify are sold as Cripps.

Flavor profile: A cross between the Golden Delicious and Lady Williams, the Pink Lady is firm and crunchy with a tart flavor that finishes sweetly.

Where it’s grown: In America, it’s primarily grown in Washington and California.

Best enjoyed: Raw, in salads, baked in pies, and sliced onto cheeseboards.

Honeycrisp

The product of efforts to develop cold-weather apples, the honeycrisp is the official state fruit of Minnesota.

Flavor profile: Keeps things simple with a light overall flavor profile that’s more sweet than tart. It’s also juicy and moderately crunchy.

Where it’s grown: The northern Great Lakes and New England. They’re actually better a week or so after removal from cold storage, making the time when you buy them the time that’s best to enjoy them.

Best enjoyed: Hardy and versatile, honeycrisps are up to any task you put them up against

Empire

Introduced in New York in the 1960s, it takes a lot to bruise this cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh varieties despite its thin skin.

Flavor profile: Retaining the sweetness of the Red Delicious and the tartness of the Mac, this is a crisp, juicy everyman’s apple.

Where it’s grown: Mostly in the Northeast and upper Midwestern states.

Best enjoyed: Raw, cooked (it’s better for this than most), chopped into salads, and in lunchboxes.

 

10 Ways to Keep Your Thanksgiving Stress-Free- Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hosting a big turkey dinner can be a challenge but, if you do it with love and ask for some help, it need not become a stress-filled event. The following tips -- put together by Editor Debra Steilen of Better Homes & Gardens -- will prove to be a big help in making Thanksgiving a pleasant family occasion for all your guests -- and for you, the host or hostess, as well.

1. Create a plan. Sit down and make a guest list. From the number of guests you invite you can plan a meal. The secret to a simple meal is planning ahead so everything doesn't demand your attention all at once.

2. Plan a potluck. A potluck can be a great way to share the load, and with just a little planning you can avoid 15 green bean casseroles at your dinner table. Ensure menu variety and head off an all-deviled-egg buffet by assigning food categories to your guests.

3. Shop early. Brookhaven stores will get busier closer to Turkey Day. Plan your main shopping trip a week in advance and follow up with a second trip a day or two before Thanksgiving to pick up things like produce and bakery goods. Ask your spouse or partner to help with the shopping; it’s always easier if you have help finding things, and an extra pair of hands makes putting the groceries away much less stressful.

4. Prepare as much as possible in advance. There are plenty of side dishes, desserts, and breads that can be made ahead of time. For instance, measure seasonings and store them in labeled bags or containers; cut and store vegetables; and roast garlic a week in advance, then store the cloves in olive oil in the refrigerator.

One thing that you should not do, however, is pre-stuff your turkey.  Harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning even when the stuffed bird is refrigerated. The cavity of the bird actually insulates the stuffing from the cold temperatures of the refrigerator and acts as an incubator for the harmful bacteria. 

The ingredients for the stuffing can be prepared in advance and refrigerated separately. To save time, chop vegetables such as onions and celery the night before. The safest method is to mix the ingredients and lightly stuff the turkey just prior to popping it into a preheated oven.

5. Remember: practice makes perfect. If you're braving a new recipe or using ingredients that you aren't quite familiar with, try them out beforehand so you'll be primed for success on Thanksgiving Day.

6. Let your family help. Have the whole family help clean house and put up decorations. Children will jump at the chance to make place cards, fold napkins, and dress up your holiday table. This will also keep them out of the kitchen while you attend to the food.

7. Use your microwave oven. Take advantage of this appliance to reheat food before serving when all the burners on the stove-top are occupied.

8. Let the turkey rest before slicing. To avoid a last-minute crunch and assure tender turkey, let the bird rest out of the oven, covered, for about 20 minutes before slicing.

9. Serve buffet-style. Serving dinner buffet-style saves on both space and cleanup time. Also, with pretty serving bowls and silver utensils, guests can help themselves to seconds whenever they want.

10. Relax. Remember that Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day full of family, relaxation, and reflection. Thanksgiving is a great time for families to gather and spend the day together sharing traditions, so don’t let the task of being the host or hostess overwhelm you and rob you of that joyous family experience.

 

All About Brie - One of the world’s greatest cheeses- Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Brie is one of the best known French cheeses and has seen a surge in popularity in the United States over the past couple decades, with peoples’ perception of it transitioning from “this is a luxury food” to “this would probably be great on my grilled cheese” mainly in the past ten-fifteen years or so. This is largely due to the tremendous increase in availability and variety of Brie cheeses, which has brought prices down and enabled more people to experience Brie, as well as experiment with it.

While it may have only taken off here in recent times, throughout its history Brie’s popularity in Europe has been immense. In fact, it was dubbed the “King of Cheeses” (or “Queen”, depending on whom you ask) not long after its creation in the Middle Ages, and was often given as tribute to the Kings of France… And if you have ever encountered a perfectly ripened, quality Brie, it’s easy to understand why it was so strongly favored.

Types of Brie

[info courtesy of Wikipedia.org]

Brie de Meaux - Brie de Meaux is an unpasteurized Brie. It is manufactured in the town of Meaux in the Brie region of northern France. It was originally known as the "King's Cheese", or, after the French Revolution, the "King of Cheeses," and was enjoyed by the peasantry and nobility alike. It was granted the protection of Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) status in 1980, and it is produced primarily in the eastern part of the Parisian basin.

Brie de Melun - This Brie is considered to have a stronger flavor and more pungent smell than Brie de Meaux. It is made with unpasteurized milk. Brie de Melun is also available in the form of "Old Brie" or black Brie. This Brie also has AOC status.

International Bries – Bries are now produced all over the world using a variety of methods and ingredients, including herbs, but what always remains the same regardless of country of origin is Brie’s development and texture...

Brie is classi?ed as a "bloomy rind, soft-ripened cheese," which indicates that it ripens from the rind inward, forming a thin white skin with that velvety "bloom." When perfectly ripe, it should be creamy and ?avorful, not runny or pungent. It should bulge slightly when cut but not collapse or pull away from the rind.

Serving Brie

A wheel of Brie is a quintessential party food due to its unmatched ?avor and elegant reputation. However, in order to maximize its flavor and texture, be sure to remove the cheese from the refrigerator approximately 30–45 minutes before serving.

Once brought to room temperature,

1)     Slice the Brie into bite sized pieces.

2)     Serve the Brie with a crusty bread or a plain crackers, or with light-colored fruits, such as pears or grapes.

3)     For the full experience, pair your Brie with wine. Acidic, herbaceous, dry whites like Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) or Sauvignon Blanc work well, as do champagnes and sparkling wines.

Though Brie is pure heaven on its own, as part of a cheese course, or with cool, fresh fruit, it takes on an equally delightful character when heated. Try baked Brie (see below) for a more traditional take on the cheese, or experiment a bit by incorporating it into a grilled sandwich or homemade macaroni and cheese. Brie in puff pastry is also delicious, and it lends itself perfectly to fondue as well.

Baked Brie

1)     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2)     Place the Brie on a glass pie plate or some other decorative oven-proof plate.

3)     Bake the Brie for 10 to 12 minutes, until the center is soft.

4)     Serve sliced with fruit, crusty bread, or crackers.

Recommended toppings for Baked Brie

  • Slivered almonds
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Apricot preserves
  • Raspberry preserves
  • Caramelized pears or apples

Other Brie recipes

Baked Brie with Spicy Kiwifruit Compote

Lemon Pepper Chicken & Brie Flatbread Pizza

Tuna, Broccoli and Brie Casserole

Ripe Olive and Walnut Brie Torte

Baked Brie in Pastry

 

Olives – Candy for the Mediterranean Diet- Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Anyone who has visited our store knows that we offer a wide variety of fresh marinated olives, which can be found both in the cheese case and in bulk in our deli. Olives make up an important part of the healthy Mediterranean diet, so why not take a closer look at them? Here is some useful information regarding several varieties of olives, from harvesting facts to preparation suggestions...

(Much of the information contained in this blog article was found in a web posting on About.com, written by Nancy Gaifyllia.)

The color of olives indicates what time during the harvesting season they were picked.  Harvesting runs from October to January: The greenest olives are harvested in October, the red or pink in November, the black in December, and the wrinkled black (not to be confused with olives that have shriveled due to curing in salt) in January.

picSmall Cretan Green Olives
Crete is famous for these tiny olives, which are also cultivated in Messinia and Zakynthos.  Despite their size, they are packed with oil and are the source of some of the world's best olive oil.  When green, small quantities are harvested as table olives.  When black and ripe (December, January, and sometimes February), they are almost exclusively harvested for the production of olive oil.  Most of the table olives are consumed in Greece, never reaching western markets; the olive oil, famous the world over, is consumed in Greece and exported.

picHalkithiki Green Olives
These olives are harvested in October and are grown solely on the Halkithiki Peninsula.  Recently, green olives from Halkidiki were finally granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union (EU).  A PDO product is given this designation/label to highlight the fact that it is produced in a specific geographical region, and therefore unique.  The Halkdiki green olives are huge due to the microclimate and the geography: low-lying hills, lots of flat land and the sea being nearby.  These olives have a unique flavor profile and, like all other olives, are very healthy for you.

picGreen olives from Nafplion
Harvested at the beginning of the season in October, these olives are named after a town which is found on the coast and which is famous for its exotic places and nature.  The Nafplion olive is rather small and has a nutty flavor.  They are used in Greek specialties, including cold appetizers, as topping for warm main courses, and in salads or garnishes.  These kinds of olives are sometimes used simply for decorating salads and various meals.  They may also be used in local kebabs, and beside chicken, lettuce and mayo.

picKalamata Olives, Red & Black
Also known as "pink" olives, these are harvested in November.  If left on the tree longer to further ripen, the Kalmata turn black and are harvested, at full ripeness, in December.  This is the olive most recognize as the Greek olive.  Kalamata is a region in Greece famous for its production of olives and olive oils.

Most Kalamata olives are split prior to being brined or pickled, which allows the flavor, particularly of vinaigrette, to soak into the interior of the olive.  Yet before you begin eating, be aware that these olives are usually sold with their seeds in.  If you plan to serve these, eat them yourself, or add them to recipes, be sure to remove the seed first.

picWrinkled Black Olives or "Throubes"
Unlike olives that shrivel up after curing, these are fully mature olives that are not picked...They ripen and shrivel on the tree.  Nets are placed under the trees and the olives fall off when fully ripe.  The wrinkling is their natural state.  They are the only olives that can be eaten directly from the tree, but are dry-cured for commercial use.  Most throubes come from the Greek island of Thassos.  Favorite ways to serve them are with Patatosalata (Greek potato salad), or drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano.  They are meaty with a strong olive taste, and are not used to make olive oil.

 

Short Ribs...never short on flavor!- Tuesday, February 23, 2016

If this is a cut of meat that you aren’t all that familiar with, we would like to help change that by giving you a bit of helpful information. There are two major cuts of beef ribs, back ribs and short ribs. Beef short ribs come from primal cuts below the more expensive beef cuts, the rib and the loin.

The best cut of beef ribs comes from the lower (ventral) section of the animal. The ribs in this region are called "short ribs" not because they are short in length, but because they come from a specific subsection called the short plate. The short plate is located right in front of another inexpensive, chewy but flavorful cut, the flank steak, and just behind another favorite cut for barbecue, the brisket.

Like ribeye steaks, beef ribs are well marbled with fat which is why they are rich in classic beef flavor. However, these muscles get a lot more work than other areas, such as the loin, so they are full of connective tissue and tendons. This makes the meat too chewy to be enjoyable if not prepared properly. The bones are almost straight with about 1-2" of meat on top, which makes them good for barbecue, and braising. When barbequed, they should be roasted low and slow with dry heat and a bit of wood smoke; this method results in a dark brown exterior and flavorful, tender meat. Cooking your ribs at low temperatures allows the connective tissues and fat to break down without drying out the meat.

The other recommended cooking method is braising. When simmered on low in a flavorful liquid as they do in France, you get very juicy and very tender, flavor-packed meat that has absorbed the richness of the braising liquid. In return, the meat has given up most of its innate essence to the greater good of the stew.

Another preparation method that works well for short ribs is tenderizing. First, you sprinkle the meat with a tenderizing agent, then you pierce/pound the flesh with a handheld meat tenderizer. This method results in very fine pieces of rare meat -- very juicy and beefy, and roughly equivalent to much more expensive beef cuts.

Now that you know a bit more about beef short ribs and how to best prepare them, here are some delicious recipe ideas.

 

Preparing and cooking with fresh herbs- Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Everyone likes at least a little seasoning in their food, beyond the usual salt and pepper. Seasonings, and herbs in particular, can dramatically affect the way something smells and tastes, thus offering more variety in our meals and more ways to please our palates.

Fresh herbs versus dried

While it is often easier or more expedient to cook with dry herbs -- they come in convenient bottles and are more or less stable for months -- they're not always appropriate, and they don't always provide exactly the right flavor or texture. So how do you know which to use, fresh herbs or dried? According to delishmegish.com, you first need to determine how much of the herb you need:

If you’re making a dish that spotlights a particular herb, you’ll want to use a fresh one. Take pesto, for instance. You’d never pour 2 cups of dried basil into a food processor and hope for a luscious green pesto sauce — you’d use fresh basil leaves, no doubt. For something robust and savory like pesto, it’s important to use fresh herbs or that earthy bite. But, if you’re making chicken ratatouille, a dish that requires several ingredients, it’s safe to use dried herbs. After all, you’d only use a few tablespoons of dried marjoram.

And you should also look at the quantity of other herbs and seasonings in the recipe:

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is, the fewer ingredients a recipe calls for, the fresher and finer they should be. When you’re whipping up something like frico, a crunchy treat that needs only parmesan cheese, lemon zest and basil, fresh leaves are an absolute must. This way, you taste the sharp saltiness of the cheese, the fragrant lemon and of course, the basil, that initial peppery flavor that ultimately dissolves into minty sweetness.

How to prepare fresh herbs

Note: Before utilizing any of the following methods, thoroughly rinse your herbs under cool water. Gently blot them dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner to remove the excess moisture.

The best knife for chopping herbs is sharp with a wide blade, such as a chef’s knife or a Chinese cleaver, that lets you chop without hitting your fingers on the cutting board. Don’t use serrated-edge knives, because they won’t cut cleanly!

Stripping - You can remove tiny leaves from herbs such as thyme by holding onto the stem with one hand and stripping the leaves into a bowl using the other hand.

Snipping - To cut larger clean and dry fresh herbs, place leaves in a measuring cup or bowl and snip them with kitchen scissors, using short, quick strokes. For herbs with tough stems, such as rosemary, strip the leaves from the stem first.

Chiffonade - A chiffonade is a bunch of thin strips or shreds. To create a chiffonade of herbs, roll up larger leaves, such as basil, and cut across the roll

To store unprepared herbs, cut a 1/2 inch from the stems. Stand stem ends in a small jar with some water. Loosely cover leaves with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Don't refrigerate basil -- it may blacken. Discard wilted leaves as they appear.

Ratio of fresh herbs to dried (substitutions)

When cooking with fresh and dry herbs, there is a general rule when it comes to the ratio of fresh to dry. Because dried herbs are generally more potent and concentrated than fresh herbs, you won't require as much. Roughly speaking, you need about three times the amount of fresh herbs as dry. So, for example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, you would need 1 tablespoon of fresh if you wanted to do a substitution.

Herbs that are commonly used fresh [courtesy of cookinglight.com]

Basil - One of the most important culinary herbs. Sweet basil, the most common type, is redolent of licorice and cloves. Basil is used in the south of France to make pistou; its Italian cousin, pesto, is made just over the border. Used in sauces, sandwiches, soups, and salads, basil is in top form when married to tomatoes, as in the famous salad from the island of Capri—Insalata Caprese, made with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and fruity olive oil.

Mint - Mint isn't just a little sprig that garnishes your dessert plate. It is extremely versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. In the Mediterranean, mint is treasured as a companion to lamb, and is often used in fruit and vegetable salads. Though there are many varieties, spearmint is preferred for cooking. You can add it to a bevy of dishes and drinks—lamb, peas, carrots, ice cream, tea, mint juleps, and mojitos. Spearmint's bright green leaves are fuzzy, very different from the darker stemmed, rounded leaves of peppermint.

Rosemary - In Latin, rosemary means "dew of the sea"—appropriate since it is indigenous to the Mediterranean. Rosemary is one of the most aromatic and pungent of all the herbs. Its needlelike leaves have pronounced lemon-pine flavor that pairs well with roasted lamb, garlic, and olive oil. Rosemary is also a nice addition to focaccia, tomato sauce, pizza, and pork, but because its flavor is strong, use a light hand.

Oregano - Oregano grows wild in the mountains of Italy and Greece; its Greek name means "joy of the mountain." The Greeks love oregano sprinkled on salads, while the Italians shower it on pizza and slip it into tomato sauces. Add chopped oregano to vinaigrette, or use it in poultry, game, or seafood dishes when you want to take them in a Greek or Italian direction. Oregano and marjoram are so similar in looks and flavor that they are often confused. Oregano, however, has a more potent taste and aroma; marjoram is sweeter and more delicate.

Thyme -Thyme comes in dozens of varieties; however, most cooks use French thyme. Undoubtedly thyme is one of the most important herbs of the European kitchen. What would a bouquet garni be without it? This congenial herb pairs well with many other herbs—especially rosemary, parsley, sage, savory, and oregano. Its earthiness is welcome with pork, lamb, duck, or goose, and it's much beloved in Cajun and Creole cooking. It's also the primary component of Caribbean jerk seasonings. Because the leaves are so small, they often don't require chopping.

Cilantro - Some call it cilantro; others call it coriander, or even Chinese parsley. Whatever you call it, chances are you either love it or hate it. This native of southern Europe and the Middle East has a pungent flavor, with a faint undertone of anise. The leaves are often mistaken for flat-leaf parsley, so read the tag. One of the most versatile herbs, cilantro adds distinctive flavor to salsas, soups, stews, curries, salads, vegetables, fish, and chicken dishes.

Parsley - No refrigerator should be without parsley. It's the workhorse of the herb world and can go in just about every dish you cook. Parsley's mild, grassy flavor allows the flavors of other ingredients to come through. Curly parsley is less assertive than its brother, flat-leaf parsley (often called Italian parsley). Flat-leaf parsley is preferred for cooking, as it stands up better to heat and has more flavor, while the more decorative curly parsley is used mostly for garnishing.

Chives - Toss chives into a dish at the last minute, because heat destroys their delicate onion flavor. Thinly slice them to maximize their taste, or use finely snipped chives as a garnish. Chives are great in dips and quesadillas, and on baked potatoes.

Be Safe with Food - Basic Sanitation and How to Avoid Cross-Contamination- Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This is good information for anyone and especially good to teach your children as they begin learning their way around your kitchen. Even when a food preparer is trying to be safe and sanitary, a small lapse in judgment can make lots of people very sick.

Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

  • Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

  • Wash your hands after playing with pets or visiting petting zoos.

  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.

  • Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.

  • Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.

  • Keep books, backpacks or shopping bags off the kitchen table or counters where food is prepared or served.

Separate: Don't Cross-Contaminate

Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread. When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

  • Always start with a clean scene ― wash hands with warm water and soap.  Wash cutting boards, dishes, counter tops, and utensils with hot soapy water.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and in your refrigerator.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Use a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry, and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

If you have any additional suggestions to share with our readers that will help assure that they keep a safe and sanitary kitchen, please share them here.