Preserving Herbs 3 Ways (Without Drying)
I love fresh herbs. I mean...Love.
But I have a pattern. I plant them. I tend them. I pinch off a few here and there for cooking. And before I know it, the weather is hot and the plants have bolted, seeded, or started collecting Social Security checks.
A moment of silence, please, for this cilantro.....
I promised myself when I was finally Home For Good, I would do a better job of preserving the bounty of goodness that is summer in Moses Lake. My sights are set on tomato season...I mean...Tomatoes!
But I realized I would be sorry come November that I hadn't done something about all of the fresh herbs at my finger tips right now. While the cilantro is obviously a goner, I still had purple basil, Thai basil, sweet basil, thyme, and oregano. (As well as a handful of lavender blossoms from Mom and Dad's place.)
I feel like dried herbs are pretty available--and affordable. What I really wanted to do is capture the freshness of the season.
I landed on three ways to preserve my herbs, which compliments the individual nature of each of these herbs. Freezing, making pesto sauce, and infusing simple syrups.
I started with the thyme and oregano....
Ice Cube Tray
After spending a few minutes... ok...hours ... picking thyme and oregano leaves, I measured out loose tablespoons of each into an ice cube tray.
I poured olive oil up to the level of the herbs. (Just the regular stuff...no sense in freezing and, later, cooking extra virgin.)
I froze the trays, and then popped them out into labeled Ziploc Freezer bags.
Easy peasy! These are going to be great for fall chicken dishes, pizza and pasta sauce....
Speaking of pasta....
Pesto (adapted from Pasta sfoglia, From our Table to yours, More than 100 Fresh, Seasonal Pasta Dishes, Ron and Colleen Suhanosky)
2 heaping cups of fresh basil leaves
1 large Garlic clove
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup walnuts
Pinch of salt
Yummy pasta recipe of your choice or freezer bag for storing
Add the walnuts, garlic, and olive oil to the jar of a blender and process until pureed.
Add the basil and salt. Process until coarsely or finely chopped--your preference (mine was coarse).
My friend Melissa once made me a simple, but delicious, dish of gnocchi, green beans, pesto, ricotta and cream. I remembered it was from her go-to, Real Simple magazine, but this was a gazillion years ago! A quick minute on Pinterest and haha! I found it. :) If you're interested, here it is.
For tonight's dish, I actually went a little more classic. When Jason and I got the pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer, we also picked up the book Pasta sfoglia, From Our Table to Yours, More than 100 Fresh, Seasonal Pasta Dishes, by Ron and Colleen Suhanosky. Yes, we used to be the couple making from-scratch pasta. Can we do that again, please? Anyway, this dish was simply fresh pesto, gnocchi, and green beans, finished with parmesan cheese.
As you can see, it was...ahem...a hit with the Littles.
Yes, she actually hid behind the dining room curtains crying because dinner was so..........................ugly.
Fresh Herb Infused Simple Syrup
Handful of fresh herbs
1 scant cup water
1 heaping cup sugar
Bottle or jar
Boooooooze (optional, but highly recommended after serving above pesto dish to disapproving Littles)
Bring water and sugar to a boil over medium high heat. Stir. Remove from the heat when the sugar is dissolved. Add herbs of choice.
I made 2, lavender, and Thai and purple basil.
Seep for 5-10 minutes. Strain through the sieve and store in the refrigerator in a pretty bottle or jar (pretty is optional, though it is nice when someone compliments you on how pretty the bottle is).
Serve with cold brew coffee or cocktails to impress your friends.
I am test-driving cocktail recipes for Bunco night at the Pink Door House next week. (It's a tough job...) So in addition to the herb-infused syrups, I made one with farm-fresh blueberries, too.
Bunco Night Cocktail:
Fill glass with ice
1 shot (1.5 oz) vodka
1 oz Thai basil syrup
1 oz blueberry syrup
Garnish with blueberries and basil leaves
This drink was good, but a bit sweet for me.
I prefer my drinks more tart than most, so I mixed this up for myself tonight:
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice
Add 1 shot (1.5 oz) gin (my favorite is Dry Fly, distilled in Spokane, WA)
Juice of half a lemon
1 TBS Thai basil syrup
Shake and strain into a martini glass
Add about 1 TBS of blueberry syrup
Garnish with blueberries
Isn't she purdy??
A taste of summer that, I am hoping, will truly last.