Saving some summer for those dark and stormy nights
“Fresh herbs can change everything. You can have pasta every night and you change the herbs in it and you have a whole new dish.” Alice Waters
Discovering cooking with fresh herbs was definitely a culinary epiphany for me. I’ll never forget it. Angels sang, trumpets heralded on high, my hair curled and my life changed, forever.
I knew in that moment that I had to grow my own herbs. A large herb garden is now a prominent part of my life. It is situated conveniently right outside the door so I can dash out to cut herbs, come rain or shine. The garden is well stocked with thyme, oregano, mint, tarragon, sage, lavender, chives, rosemary and the ubiquitous parsley. In the summer months, I add the annual herbs; dill, cilantro and with great effort and a green house, basil. Yes, I guess you could call me an herb junkie.
If you haven’t got an herb garden yet, I highly recommend it. They are easy to grow in our climate and a large amount of them are perennials that come back every year. Most herbs don’t take up that much space either. (Except for rosemary, which should be planted as a shrub around here!) You will delight in this addition to your culinary world. It is amazing how much flavor fresh herbs add to anything.
I love and hate this time of year with my herbs. The herbs are at their peek, the dill is 3 feet high, the basil is exploding and the mint is taking over. But, the end is near! Soon most of these lovely herbs will be no more than barren sticks jutting out of my herb bed, reminding me of the summer past. I must get busy like a squirrel and store them away, but how?
I’ve tried drying the herbs and have found that the flavor is, well, like dried herbs. It just doesn’t have the impact on the senses that I desire. So after many experiments, I have discovered a wonderful way to preserve that lovely fresh herb flavor well into the dark and stormy months. Make herbal ice cubes! They are easy to make and the joy you will get out of them in the months to come is well worth the effort.
How to make herbal ice cubes
1) First off, harvest your herbs that you want to freeze and give them a cleaning. Next, pulse the herbs in a food processor or blender with enough broth, olive oil or water to get your desired consistency. Use just enough liquid to blend the herbs together well.
2) Plop spoonfuls into your cleaned ice cube trays or a mini muffin pan and freeze. I like to place little leaves or flowers from the herbs in the bottom of the ice cubes before I add the herb mix. When the herbal ice cubes come out of the tray, they are so beautiful. Have fun and experiment.
3) When they have frozen solid, about 12 hours, pop them out and store them in a zip lock bag in the freezer. I have used these little nuggets for up to two years old and they were perfectly fine. I have also pureed garlic in the food processor with a bit of water or oil and frozen the puree in ice cubes. Works great!
When you use the herbal ice cubes, just take one (or two) out and toss in whatever you are cooking. It will melt down fast and voila! You have saved some sweet summer for your winter dishes.
Herbed Roasted Roots
This dish rocks the free world. It is easy, delicious and nutritious. I do not peel any of the roots, so as to retain all those lovely minerals. Use any combination of herbs you enjoy. I usually use rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme. ♪
2 med beets
2 med potatoes
2 med turnips or parsnips
4 or 5 med carrots
1 med sweet potato
1 large onion
2 -3 cloves of garlic
2 – 3 tablespoon of fresh herbs or
2 melted herb cubes
1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get out a large baking pan. Lightly oil the bottom of the pan. Scrub all the roots real well then cut into sizes that are similar so they will cook evenly. I cut my sweet potato larger because that is one root that cooks faster. Lay them out in the baking dish. Chop up the onion, mince the garlic and herbs then sprinkle over the roots. Drizzle the olive oil over the lovely mess and toss to coat evenly. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes or until the biggest potato is easily pierced with a fork, stirring once or twice. The house will start to fill with the best aroma ever! Take out and season with the salt and pepper. Serve hot and Enjoy!