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Dill: Use It The French Way

by | Apr 23, 2019 | Uncategorized

Two stalks of fresh dill

The French used to think of dill as “the Scandinavian herb,” because it’s often used in the Northern countries with fish. (It was introduced to Europe by the Romans who thought it symbolized joy).   

Today the French have adopted dill (“aneth”) for their every day cooking, and you find it easily in produce shops or in corner grocery stores.  Even in a large city like Paris, any fruit and vegetable seller will have a large variety of fresh herbs on offer, and dill is always one of them.   

It wasn’t until I moved to Paris that I saw how the families I visited used a variety of herbs like dill in their everyday cooking. Dill’s aroma, which is similar to fennel,  instantly takes bland food to another level.  Now I realize that this is one of the French secrets to make simple home-cooked meals taste “restaurant quality. ” 

How the French Use Dill:  

The French use dill with:

-vegetables such as: cucumbers, zucchini or beans in vinaigrettes or cream sauces 

-fish such as salmon and herring in marinades  

Fresh dill is an excellent herb to use in cooked dishes but it can only be cooked briefly or it turns grey. This doesn’t alter the taste, but it’s best to add it at the end of cooking. It’s one of the herbs that freezes well so it can be ready to use anytime you need it.    

 2 Simple French Recipes with Dill:  

1. Sour Cream Dressing with Dill (Vinaigrette à la Crème)  

Ingredients: 

•    1 egg yolk 

•    4 Tb sour cream 

•    1/2 cup of vinaigrette (2 TB of good red or white wine vinegar, 6 TB of oil, 1/8 tsp salt. Add a pinch of black pepper to taste. Optional: 1/4 tsp Dijon mustard)

•    lemon juice to taste 

•    2 Tb of minced fresh dill  

Instructions:

-beat the egg yolk and sour cream in a bowl until blended 

-beat in the vinaigrette slowly in small amounts as if making a mayonnaise 

-add the lemon juice to taste 

-blend in the fresh dill 

-optional: add salt & pepper to taste  

This sauce goes very well with: 

•    hard boiled eggs  

•    vegetables such as sliced cucumbers (“concombres à l’aneth”)  

•    hot or cold fish  

2. Pasta Salad with Fennel, Black Olive Tapenade & Dill  

For 4

Ingredients:

300g/10 oz.  fusilli or other short pasta (like penne) 

2 small fennel bulbs 

3 Tb of black olive tapenade or other black olive paste (if difficult to find, use 10-15 pitted black olives) 

1 bunch of fresh dill 

2 Tb of olive oil 

salt & pepper  

Instructions:  

-cook the pasta in boiling salted water until “al dente.” Drain and rinse. 

-cut the fennel bulbs in thin strips, then chop, so pieces are bite-sized.  

-chop the fennel or cut with kitchen scissors 

-mix the ingredients together, salt & pepper to taste and serve immediately   

Conclusion:  

Using fresh herbs in cooking will quickly put processed food to shame. The taste is far superior to packaged food. The French use them in easy recipes to make their home-cooked meals taste special. In this way, they don’t rely on processed food for good taste.   

But fresh herbs like dill also have substantial health benefits. For example, fresh dill helps digestion, calms nerves, and contains magnesium, potassium, and iron.  

So if you want to move away from packaged, highly processed food, using fresh herbs like dill in everyday cooking is a great start.  Another herb the French use for sauces – often fresh, but sometimes dried – is Tarragon.

Besides fresh herbs, savvy French cooks use dried herb blends like “Herbes de Provence” or “Bouquet Garni ” to give their home cooking outstanding natural flavor.

And now you: Do you like dill? Do you use fresh herbs in preparing your meals? Are they easy to find? Leave a comment and let me know!  

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