It's getting to be that time of year when my garden is overrun with herbs and there aren't enough meals in the day for me to use them all. I'm learning how to best freeze, preserve, and use what I've got in my garden, basil, parsley, and sage, so that none of these delicious and flavorful herbs go to waste!
First of all, freezing is an incredibly easy method of preserving herbs that lots of people tend to overlook. Since you're most used to seeing herbs in fresh or dried form at the market, the whole freezing process is easy to forget. However, it is probably the easiest. Requiring minimal effort while saving the maximum herb flavor, all you need to do is chop your herbs up and freeze them in ice cube trays with a little bit of water (best for basil, parsley, and similar herbs) or pick and rinse the fresh leaves, them stick them in a freezer bag for storing (best for heartier leafy herbs like sage). The ice cube method is especially handy for using herbs in soups and stews. All you need to do is pop an herb ice cube or two out of the tray and let it melt into your soup to release all that herby-goodness. And though a thawed-out whole leaf herb won't be quite the same in texture or freshness as it's fresh from the garden counterpart, these types of herbs can be used pretty much anyway you would have used them fresh.
Another great option is making pesto, dressings, and sauces ripe with herbs. I have a delicious and slightly unusual recipe for Parsley Almond Pesto that is simple to make and more affordable than your traditional basil pesto because it calls for almonds instead of pine nuts and does not require any cheese.
And if you've got lots of basil on hand and want a somewhat more affordable pesto option, here's my take on an almond pesto made with basil.
Basil Almond Pesto
- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup almond slivers
- 1/2 shredded Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a food processor, finely chop garlic and basil. Then continue to puree while streaming in olive oil.
2. Add the lemon juice and pulse to incorporate.
3. Add the almonds and pulse to a fine chop, making sure everything is well-mixed and fully incorporated.
4. Remove the mixture from the food processor and stir in Parmesan cheese. If pesto is thicker than desired, add more olive oil or thin out with pasta water if serving over pasta.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve as a dressing for pasta, as a spread, over chicken, as a dip, or any way you can think of. Enjoy!
I covered some bowtie pasta with this delicious pesto, then added some black beans, fresh tomato, red onion, and black olives for a flavorful and colorful pesto pasta salad. Try out whatever add-ins you'd like - no combination is a bad one!
If you want to freeze this pesto, a great freezing method is, once again, the ice cube tray. Simply pour the pesto into a Ziploc bag, cut off one corner, and pipe the pesto into empty ice cube trays. Some people swear that you can't freeze pesto with the cheese, but I've never had any problems with it. But if you'd like to err on the side of caution, simple make sure you've got some cheese on hand for the big thaw and mix it in at that time.