Saturday, September 12, 2009

Locavore Herb Harvest

With the threat of frost in the next couple of weeks, and still perky and healthy looking herb plants in the garden -- basil, parsley, sage, mint and chives -- I decided to start the fall harvest today and made a garlic puree, froze the chives and cooked up a parsley infused olive oil using extra virgin olive oil.

Freezing chives
Wash chives. To dry, place on paper towels and roll-up towels. It's best to do this in the morning and let dry all day before freezing. Remove any dead blades of chives or lanky looking pieces. Trim brown ends. Cut chives in half and place handfuls of chives in zip lock sandwich bags being sure to remove air before sealing. Single portions of chives allow you to use one zip lock per recipe rather being faced with large clumps of chives frozen together. When ready to use, cut with a scissor or chop with a knife into soups, stews, eggs, rice, cream cheese or whatever you are cooking.

Parsley Oil
Ratio of parsley to olive oil is 2 cups parsley for every 1 cup of olive oil.
Wash the parsley and cut off the stems. Coursly chop parsley and combine with extra virgin olive oil in a heavy, cold skillet. Turn flame to medium-high heat and saute the parsley until it begins to soften. The oil will pop. and the oil starts to pop. Remove the parsley and olive oil mixture and set aside to cool. Put the mixture in a food processor or blender and puree quickly using the pulse feature so as not to over process. Set mixture aside for an hour or two at room temperature. Strain the oil through a fine mesh strainer lined with paper towel. Let the oil strain gradually, and for clear oil don't squeeze the paper towel. Pour the parsley oil into a jar or bottle and seal tightly. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Basil, Garlic an Olive Oil Puree
One of my favorite ways to preserve a bunch of basil (I had about 5 bunches) is to puree it with 2-3 cloves of garlic and just enough olive oil to it blends into a nice paste. Do not over process so as to preserve the bright green color -- basil bruises easily. Put the puree into ice cube trays in the freezer. Then, during the winter, when you have a craving for pesto or are cooking a soup or stew just pop out a frozen cube of basil, garlic and olive oil into your recipe. NOTE: recipe can be made without the garlic using just basil and olive oil. Use the best olive oil that you can afford if you plan to use the frozen cubes for homemade pesto (just thaw 1/2 cup or 5-6 cubes of the puree, add a few tablespoons of toasted pine nuts and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese for each 1 lb box of pasta).

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