The strong scent and woodsy flavor of fresh rosemary complements meat dishes including chicken, fish, lamb and pork. You can also use it to season potatoes or carrots, and to add flavor to a soup. Preparing the fresh herb properly depends on the type of dish and whether you want the whole herb or just the flavor.
Rosemary is best washed right before you use it. Hold the sprigs by the stem and rinse them briefly under cold water. Pat the rosemary dry with a paper towel. If you don't intend to use it right away, drying it well prevents the it from spoiling quickly.
The Full Sprig
The stems on rosemary sprigs are too tough to eat, but they can still impart a lot of aromatic flavor to a broth or cooked food. Create a bouquet garni -- a small bundle of aromatic herbs -- to use in the dish by tying a small bunch of rosemary together with cooking twine or by placing it in a cheesecloth bag. After cooking, lift the bag or bundle of stems out of the food. If you don't want the rosemary leaves in a finished broth or soup, you must strain the liquid through a sieve or use a cheesecloth bag to contain the leaves during cooking.
Just the Leaves
If you want the flavor and texture of fresh rosemary leaves but don't have time to create a bouquet garni, stem the fresh rosemary before you cook with it. Hold the stem firmly in one hand, hanging the rosemary over a bowl. With your other hand, pinch the stem between two fingers and pull your fingers toward the tip of the sprig so the leaves fall into the bowl. You can use the leaves whole, or you can place them in a small mound on the cutting board and mince them finely with a chef's knife.
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Save the Stems
After you remove the leaves for cooking, the stems can still serve a purpose. If you're grilling outdoors, toss the stems on the coals so they can add some aromatic flavor to the grilled food. You can also use just the stems in a bouquet garni to flavor stock or broth. As a more creative use for the stems, make them into small skewers for vegetables or meat you're roasting. The rosemary stems imbue flavor while providing an interesting serving method.
Prepare and Store
After you prepare your rosemary, you can store any that's leftover. Rosemary can store well for a week or longer if it's kept in a sealed plastic bag. Make sure the sprigs are completely dry if you already washed them, or wrap them with a dry towel to absorb extra moisture.
Freelance writing since 2009, Tom Ross has over 30 years of corporate management and hands-on experience in the supermarket industry. Ross was featured on the cover of "Instore Buyer" magazine and his articles have appeared on various websites.