Posted March 29, 2006 by John in Reviews

Review: Green Bandit Basil, Oregano Culinary Herb Sauces

Green Bandit Culinary Herb sauces aren’t, well, hot. But they are an interesting possibility for chefs looking to cut a few corners without sacrificing taste.

As most chefs know, dried herbs simply aren’t very good. They lack the complexity and aromatics essential for the best tasting food. But, as those who don’t cook for a living also know, buying those herbs fresh and cutting them up is often the most time consuming part of prep work. In steps Green Bandit, offering a product that retains most of the essence of a fresh herb, in a container you can store in the fridge for a long time.

Oregano: Filtered water, oregano, apple cider vinegar, basil, salt, sage, mango puree, lemon juice concentrate, fresh garlic, olive oil, xantham gum

Basil: Filtered water, basil, apple cider vinegar, salt, ginger, olive oil, lemon juice concentrate, garlic powder, xantham gum

On First Taste:
The basil sauce tastes mostly of – you guessed it – basil. The other ingredients are primarily in the background, and as such this would be a suitable substitute anywhere basil is needed. You could even use this directly to make a pesto sauce.

The oregano is a bit of a different animal. It tastes of oregano, to be sure, but the mango is perceptible and the vinegar seemed more pronounced to me. This is probably not something to be used as a one for one substitute for the fresh stuff, but would be a good option to add additional flavors to a dish, or to be used on its own as a marinade or topping.

On Food
On my honeymoon I had the great fortune of spending a week traveling the French and Italian Riviera, and immensely enjoyed the blending of French and Italian culture in a beautiful beach setting. There I discovered a new twist on an old favorite of mine – bruschetta. As opposed to the Tuscan method of only using bread, oil, and garlic, or the American method of serving cold tomatoes on toast, the Mediterranean folks incorporate toppings you’d normally find on pizza such as pepperoni and light cheese. ANd, it’s served as a main course. An emulation of this wonderful dish is one of my favorite preparations, and a perfect test for the Green Bandit line.

First, start with olive oil, Roma tomatoes, sandwich sized pepperoni, fresh garlic, asiago cheese, and most importantly, good fresh Italian or french bread; either works, it just depends on your tastes. Personally, I prefer the large, flat and soft variety of Italian bread. To put the Green Bandit sauces to a tough test, I replaced all spices (except the garlic – you can never got too much garlic in my opinion) with their seasonings. To my mind, if you need to purchase additional fresh herbs anyway, why use anything jarred?

Next, I chop the tomatoes finely, skins and all. Chop the garlic, being sure to remove the germ and it’s inherent bitterness. Mix those in a bowl and add the Green Bandit. The best herb advice I’ve ever gotten was from the head chef at a great Italian restaurant I waited tables at in college: Use as much basil as you want, but always go easy on the oregano. Heeding those words of wisdom, I mixed in 4 teaspoons of the basil sauce and 1 teaspoon of the oregano.

Now to prepare the key to bruschetta. The origin of the dish isn’t the topping at all. It is, in fact the preparation of the bread, which is quite simple. Brush the bread with oil, add some garlic to the top, broil for a couple mintes, and voila! You’ve got bruschetta.

To add the Mediterranean flair, add one slice of pepperoni to each slice. Heap on the tomato mixture. Grate cheese over the top, and over broil for another 1 – 2, until the cheese melts.

And of course, because this is the HSB and not John relives the Riviera (which was woefully lacking in spicy food, BTW) I poured a dose of Cholula on the top. If you’re in a real mood to heat it up, feel free to add Blair’s Jersey Death to the tomato mixture before piling it on the bread.

The result of all that hard work? A very close approximation of the bruchetta I get using olive oil and fresh herbs. It had a slightly different taste, to be sure – more citrus flavors than usual, and some vinegar which I usually avoid, plus a much less pronounced olive oil flavor than I usually create. But in this case, different is good. Anyone not involved with the preparation would be hard pressed to detect that fresh herbs hadn’t been used.

Overall, I was very pleased. The total preparation and cooking took me 15 minutes, a savings of perhaps 10 minutes from when I have to wash and chop up the large volumes of herbs required. The flavor was good, and the herbs had a distinctly more fresh taste than you could ever get with the dried variety. Overall, this Green Bandit culinary herb sauces are a product that can definitely improve the quality of meals for many a time restricted chef.

Overall Rating: 8.2 out of 10 (Since it’s not intended as a spicy product, I dropped heat from the criteria I usually use.)