Q: Now that it is getting to be stew-and-soup season, can you explain what one bay leaf contributes to a recipe? Is it really necessary?
ó Karen Stover, Westerville, Ohio

A: When cooking dishes such as soups and stews that simmer for a long time, you should use a variety of ingredients and seasonings to create layers of flavors that give a dish depth.
All of the ingredients contribute their part to the finished mix, even though you might not taste each one at the forefront of every bite.
Such is the case with the flavoring that a bay leaf imparts. If the bay flavoring isnít showing up in your dishes, it is most likely time to buy fresher bay leaves.
When adding a bay leaf to a dish, you should break it in half to help it release its essential oils and flavors as it cooks. You can also use two if one isnít giving you enough flavoring.
Just be careful not to overdo it; fresh bay leaves (even the dried variety) can have a strong flavor.

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