This week's look at what's bountiful, new or even mysterious in the produce aisle.
Both dill seeds and leaves are used in cooking, but it's the feathery leaves of the dill plant that so easily transform a dish. Dill is an herb that can make all the difference. Just a spoonful of chopped dill turns something ordinary like scrambled eggs into the extraordinary.
Dill has a clean, cooling taste with a hint of licorice. How can a taste be cooling? Think of dill as the opposite of hot peppers. It pairs beautifully with other cool foods like cucumbers and smoked salmon. Dill is a perfect partner for seafood of all types, also potatoes, zucchini, and citrus or mustard sauces.
Available year-round, dill is particularly plentiful during the early weeks of summer when gardens overflow with it. If you find yourself with too much, use it as a garnish for other dishes. The leaves make a beautiful bed for salads and platters--line serving dishes with cleaned dill branches and then place the prepared food on top.
Buying and Storing:
Common sense rules here. Buy bunches free of any brown or yellow shading--a sure sign that the dill is old. The color should green and even.
Wrap the stem ends in a damp paper towel and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Properly stored, fresh dill should last for at least a week.
The leaves are generally clean, but rinse to remove any dirt or grit. Thicker stems, especially those toward the root end should be cut off, but the thin stems holding the feathery leaves don't need to be.
As with most herbs, extended exposure to heat diminishes the flavor. Add chopped dill at the end of the cooking time, not the beginning. Or reinforce the dill flavor by adding at both beginning and end. Dill is a wonderful addition to chicken or vegetable soups, veal stews, potato dishes and marinades for seafood. Throw a few tablespoons into to your bread or biscuit dough. Mix it into your potato pancake batter before frying. And almost any egg dish will be brightened by dill--try it in deviled eggs, souffles, omelets and old-fashioned egg salad.
Dill shines in cold dishes. Cucumber, tomato or potato salad are all improved by the addition of dill. Make dill butter and use it as a base for smoked salmon canapes or cucumber sandwiches. Make a dressing with dill, lemon juice and olive oil--don't forget a little salt and pepper--mix with grilled chicken, shrimp or zucchini for a quick salad. Substitute orange juice for the lemon and you've got the perfect dressing for a salmon salad. Dress it up with sliced cucumber. And, of course, there are always dill pickles.