Substituting Ingredients

January 25th, 2011 by Erin Gennow
Rosemary, Sage & Thyme - Illustrated by Erin Gennow

Rosemary, Sage & Thyme – Illustrated by Erin Gennow

Tuesday Tip

Substituting Ingredients

I found myself at a loss last weekend when I was looking for two less then common fresh herbs.  Finally, after a farmers’ market, a gourmet grocery store, and two chain grocery stores I decided to go with a substitute.

I could have called 2-3 more local stores in search of these now-rare herbs, but I called it quits.  After all, I needed to still cook dinner that evening.  Since I failed to look up substitutes prior to venturing out on my weekly food scavenger hunt, my iPhone came in handy.

Had I not been so exhausted by this point, I could have logically come to my own conclusion on a worthy substitute.  First, I typed in substitute for fresh tarragon.  Since tarragon, an herb with slender stems and long, narrow leaves coming off the stem has a light anise/licorice taste, fennel fronds, or fragrant basil (yes, basil) would offer a similar taste.

Next, I typed in substitute for fresh chervil.  I was not really expecting to find this herb.  Since I’ve never used it, I was not familiar with the taste.  Reaching the farmers’ market when it opened, as opposed to when it was closing, could have yielded a successful find.  My search results yielded substitutions such as fresh parsley, fresh tarragon (already not an option), and fennel leaves (or fronds).

I bought some basil and fennel bulb (to get the fronds) and I was off to cook.

So, keep in mind substitutions when you just cannot find an ingredient, or don’t have it on hand and don’t want to make a trip to the store.  Think about what the ingredient called for tastes like, what its texture is like, and see if you can come up with a substitute.  If you’re unsure of what the ingredient tastes like, use the Internet, such a useful tool, and look it up.


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