Monday, July 28, 2008

Harvesting herbs

Few things bring out the flavor of your cooking like fresh herbs. Growing your own is so simple a toddler can do it - a pot, a plant, some dirt, water and a little attention are all that's needed.

But there comes a time mid-summer when you're faced with the choice of eating more than you can fathom or letting it char to a crisp in the hot sun. And you may wonder, What now?

It's a question I considered this weekend, when I was faced with not only my blossoming oregano and purple basil but also the bunches of basil, mint and dill that were the centerpiece of the CSA share this week. (I received a bite here, a bite there of everything else - what do you do with a golf-ball size red pepper or two bunches of broccoli that only yield 1/2 cup?)

Instead I checked out options for perserving what I had for the winter months.

Drying or freezing herbs are options, but as I don't have a dryer and, with little ones, cringe at the prospect of having a hot oven for 15 hours (not to mention what it'd do to my electric bill!) I opted for freezing.

Here is where your old ice cube trays - long abandoned for ice makers - come in handy. They're an easy repository for about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. Cover with boiling water and place in the freezer. (Be sure to label your cubes, paricularly once you've moved them to a storage container. You'd hate to have any surprises.)

As for my dill, I used it on a splurge of broiled salmon with olive oil and dill and made homemade dill butter to dress up ordinary steamed green beans.

Dill butter
recipe from Whole Foods
makes 1/2 cup

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic/1 clove, minced

Mix all ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Spoon into serving bowl, and use immediately, or place on wax paper and shape into 4-inch log. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.


Chile said...

I tried freezing excess herbs last year just by themselves. I wasn't thrilled with the results.

What did work well, though, were my basil flavoring cubes. Nope, didn't make pesto. You can't make fatfree pesto so I made an alternative with a tomato sauce base and TONS of basil. Tossing an ice cube or two of these into all sorts of dishes really worked well.

EcoBurban said...

Do you think sage butter would work out? I have sage, I have butter, I have lemon juice. I also love sage tossed in potatoes. I think I will go give it a whirl!

Robbie said...

I did a quick google search, and here's one for sage butter (just scroll down.)

EcoBurban said...

Oh, before I read this I grabbed some sage and parsely from my herb container, a couple cloves of garlic from the farmer's market, a splash of lemon juice, softened butter and voila! Easy herbed butter! I rolled it into a log, froze it and boy am I proud of myself. ;o) Of course, I tasted it and it was de-lish! Thanks for the great idea, this will be so good on potatoes all year round!

Robbie said...

Eco - that sounds wonderful! I may have to try that myself. : )