Sunday, April 10, 2011

April's Featured Ingredient: Dill

         Dill, known as Anethum graveolens, is most often remembered as the flavor that brings those crunchy summer pickles to life!  The flavor of dill is often underestimated, and if used correctly, can bring a new dimension into the home cook's repertoire of herbs and spices.

        Dill is native to the Eastern regions of the Mediterranean, and parts of Russia.  Dill is named after the Old Norse term dilla; meaning to calm or soothe.  Historically, Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was used between 800 A.D. - 1300 A.D.  The Romans and Greeks viewed dill as a sign of luck and wealth, often believing it had the power to protect against witchcraft.  The use of dill could be seen hung over a doorway, or a child's cradle to protect them and keep evil spirits at bay.

        In cooking, dill can be used as an herb or a spice.  It's fern like leaves are often confused with that of fennel/anise leaves.  The infamous dill weed is a popular herb that can be added to enhance flavors similar to fennel and caraway.  As a spice, dill seed can be used, and has a similar flavor profile to that of the dill weed; this is the popular use of dill in Scandinavian and German cuisine.  Going beyond the traditional pickle, dill is often used to flavor cured Salmon, borscht, and other Eastern European soups.

Borscht w/ Sour Cream & Dill
         When using dill weed/seed in cooking, fresh is preferred over dried, as the oils can dissipate weakening the potent flavor of the original fresh weed.  When purchasing dill, look for even green coloration with feathery leaves.  There should be no yellow or brown leaves, and never be slimy.  Select leaves that are soft to the touch, and are securely fastened to the plant.  Fresh dill should have the appearance as if it was just picked from the garden.  Because dill is widely available in stores, one should not settle on quality upon selection.


         Incorporating dill into a regular diet can be an essential part of healthy living.  Dill weed is high in calcium, magnesium and iron.  It is also attributed to soothing upset stomachs and helping maintain a healthy digestive track.

Keep checking Smacznego: A Blog throughout the month of April for recipes containing Dill...


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