As any of you who have a garden know, keeping up with herbs can be a bit of a challenge. Every summer I try to grow enough herbs and vegetables for me and my husband to eat through the entire season. I still haven’t quite gotten the formula right and usually end up with way too much of one thing or another, so I revel in Summer’s overabundance, tossing herbs in with my lettuces for salad, roughly chopped and mixed into eggs for my omelets and muddled into water and tea and cocktails.
Here are 10 ways I plan to use my herbs now and preserve them for later.
1. Freeze Them
Freezing is the best way to store the more delicate (and, in my case, most overabundant) herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley and mint. The classic method of chopping and freezing herbs in ice cube trays covered in water works well, but I prefer to freeze them flat in a Ziploc bag with olive oil. The oil prevents freezer burn and adds flavor to your cooking and the flat bags take up much less freezer space.
2. Chop Them
Into Pestos, Pistous, Chimichurris or Cilantro Chutneys. All of these lovely sauces are variations on the theme of herbs chopped into oils and drizzled over meats, veggies or breads. I love them all and would encourage you to make them all then freeze them flat in a Ziploc bag for later!
3. Dry Them (in the Microwave!)
Although bunches of herbs hanging from your kitchen rafters makes for an inviting mise en scene, employing your microwave to dry herbs makes for a much faster and better result. Herbs that dry well in the microwave include hearty herbs like rosemary, thyme, lavender, savory, marjoram and oregano. Other herbs like cilantro and parsley can be dried as well. Simply wash and dry, place on two layers of paper towel and cover with an additional two layers of paper towel. Microwave on high in 20 second bursts until completely dry. Store whole or ground in an airtight container.
4. Drink Them
I’m always trying to get more water into this poor, thirsty body of mine. Adding fruit and herbs helps! Mint, strawberry and blueberry is one of my favorite combos.
5. Drink Them
I’m always trying to get more liquor into this poor, thirsty body of mine. Try herbal cocktails for their “health” benefits. Make some of my colleague Ida’s delicious Herb Simple Syrups to add to cocktails or sparkling water.
6. Make Scrubs
I use a simple scrub of plain sugar mixed with coconut oil on my face and body all year round. This easy mix of kitchen items keeps my skin moisturized through cold Chicago winters and glowing through hot and sweaty summers. I swap out herbs to add to the mix for energizing (mint), clarifying (cilantro) or relaxing (lavender).
7. Make Oils
Herb-infused oils make a delicious addition to salads, seafood and grilled veggies and are so easy to make. Combine washed and dried herbs of your choice into a mason jar. Heat 2 cups of olive oil to 200 degrees. Pour hot oil into jar, cover with a towel and let sit overnight. Strain oil and store in an airtight jar or stoppered bottle in the the fridge for up to 1 month.
8. Make Butters
Maitre d’Hotel Butter is another fantastic way to use up and preserve herbs. This compound butter, traditionally prepared with parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper, can play host to a wide assortment of alternative herbs and spices. Try Thyme and Paprika; Cilantro, Jalapeno and Lime; Blue Cheese and Chive, or my favorite All the Herbs in Your Garden Butter. Just mix 1 stick unsalted butters with a little bit of every herb in your garden (washed and rough chopped). Add a little lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and roll into a saran-wrap or parchment log. Store in fridge or freezer.
9. Make Purees
Pureeing and freezing herbs optimizes their color and flavor and can really come in handy when you need a flavor boost. Chef Ben Williams shows you how in his blog post Hooray for Puree.
10. Make Bouquets
When in doubt, or out of ideas, just stick your fresh mint, basil, cilantro and everything else into a small vase on your counter. Refresh the water often and the herbs will keep for a week, making your kitchen smell great and keeping them close at hand when you need them!
Come enjoy all the summer garden has to offer with The Chopping Block's Farmer’s Market Tour and Cooking Class on:
Or, learn to make Cilantro Chutney at our Indian Vegetarian Class on:
- Saturday, July 21 10am Lincoln Square
- Saturday, August 18 10am Merchandise Mart
- Monday, August 27 6:30pm Lincoln Square