Leaves - Enhanced Flavors Appearnces for Meals and Presentation
Sid Wainer & Son
Various leaves are great culinary additions both for their taste and for their unique appearance. Great cooking focuses both on the subtle enhancements to taste and the presentation and beauty of the meal. These leaves are essential to achieving these items.
Epazote.This irreplaceable herb has a particular aroma and taste of pungent lemony citrus. Most commonly used in Mexican and Latin American cuisine, it pairs best with tomatillo, onions, and chile.
Shiso Leaves. Also known as perilla, la tia to, oba, gee so, jen, and zi su. The green is the most common variety and is used primarily with fresh sushi and in the pickling of vegetables. Depending upon the ethnicity of the cuisine, these leaves may be served raw, tempura-fried, and wrapped inside fresh sushi. Its flavor is a bit licorice-like, and it is a cousin of both basil and mint. Try it raw with sea beans.
Hoja Santa. These large heart shaped leaves are used to wrap fish and meats and to flavor soups and stews. They favor warm weather so late spring and summer is when they are abundant.
Cactus leaf. Also known as nopales, or cactus pads. On average, there are 6-10 cactus leaves per pound. An interesting edible to say the least, the cactus leaf combines the flavors of green beans, green bell peppers and asparagus: not a bad offering, eh? Once dethorned the leaves may be boiled, steamed, sautéed, deep-fried, then diced or sliced into omelets, salsas, or combined with tomatoes, garlic and chilies as a side dish. Also, try slitting their skins and charring on the grill, then chopping into any number of preparations. They also add a nice twist to any number of southwestern soups, stews, and sauces. Try adding to a green chile using Alpaca meat! When dethorning, we suggest using thick rubber gloves and a sharp knife to scrape the thorns off, then wash them thoroughly. One thorn in your guests' tongue would be a buzz kill.
Banana Leaves. Most often used in wrapping whole pigs for a luau-style pig roast, they may also be cut into place mats for tropical themed dinners, or used as decorations. Store unused leaves in the freezer, well wrapped until needed. Each leaf is approximately 3 feet in length and about 1foot in width.
Kaffir lime Leaves. New to Western culture, these leaves have a long history in Pacific-Rim cuisine. About 2” to 3” long, the leaves look like two separate leaves connected in the middle. Used whole or shredded, the flavor of this lime leaf is indispensable to those who are familiar with its unique flavor. When used in combination with fresh lemon grass, there is a burst of flavor that is hard, if not impossible to duplicate. Unused leaves may be placed in a sealed plastic bag and frozen for months.