It’s the end of the summer. What are you going to do with all of those fresh herbs growing in your garden? Don’t just sit back and watch them wither on the vine. Now’s the perfect time to put them to good use and preserve them for later!
This a great use for that late-season basil plant that’s still growing out of control. Don’t wait for the leaves to start to yellow and turn bitter, pick them at the peak of perfection and preserve them. You can always dry basil, but it never retains the same pungent flavor as fresh. Basil oil, on the other hand, preserves the natural flavor, and it’s an incredibly versatile condiment. I freeze it in small cubes and use it throughout the year in a variety of dishes. Whenever you need fresh basil, it’s in your freezer waiting for you!
Making basil oil (or any other herb oil) is about as simple as it gets. I doesn’t even require a proper recipe. First, wash and dry basil, being careful not to bruise the tender leaves.
Place a big bunch of basil leaves (stems removed) in a blender or food processor with a pinch of kosher salt, a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Pop the lid on and puree, adding more olive oil in a slow stream through the opening in the lid, until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Voila – basil oil! You can also add a small garlic clove and/or red chile flakes if you want to pep it up a bit. Easy, peasy lemon squeezy!
I found this awesome mini-ice cube tray at Bed, Bath & Beyond, and it’s absolutely perfect for storing herb oils. There are two stacking trays, and a lid to keep the contents from being directly exposed to the cold. And the trays are rubber to allow you to easily pop out one tiny cube at a time. Brilliant!! I couldn’t have designed it better myself. OXO Covered Mini Ice Cube Trays
Also, on a side note, these OXO Good Grips nesting mixing bowls are my faves! I love that the rubber bottoms grip to the countertop, especially helpful when both my hands are occupied while I emulsify dressing or some other two-handed task. OXO Good Grips Nesting Mixing Bowls
Simple Fragrant Chimichurri
Another great way to use up excess herbs is to make pesto, salsa verde or chimichurri. All three sauces have similarities – they all contain a mixture of fresh herbs – yet they all have their own unique qualities. Pesto always contains some variety of ground nuts or seeds; salsa verde typically incorporates some type of salty/briny ingredient, such as capers, anchovies and/or vinegar; and chimichurri purely accentuates the headiness of the herbs without all the other distractions. I enjoy them all, but I really love the versatility of chimichurri. The addition of lemon juice keeps the herbs bright and adds an unmistakable punch. I wish this was smell-0-vision, so you could catch a whiff of these amazingly fragrant herbs!
I make mine in my favorite kitchen gadget – the Cuisinart Mini-Chopper – which is basically a small-scale food processor (Cuisinart Mini-Prep). It’s the perfect size for making dishes for just two people. Why dirty the big food processor, when you can get the same effect from the mini-chopper, and it takes up less room in the dishwasher! I throw all the ingredients in, whir it around for a bit, and it’s done — delicious chimichurri to use a dozen different ways. Traditionally served with grilled lamb, beef or fish, chimichurri is just as delicious tossed with roasted or sautéed vegetables or transformed into a flavourful marinade or salad dressing with the addition of a bit more EVOO. We love it as a dipping sauce for all types of kebabs, too.
Simple, Fragrant Chimichurri
A simple herbacious accompaniment to meats, fish and vegetables
- Large handful of basil leaves
- Small handful of flat leaf parsley leaves, stems removed
- Small handful of cilantro leaves, stems removed
- Small handful of mint leaves, stems removed
- 1 small garlic clove, peeled
- I Tbl lemon juice
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbl EVOO
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp grated lemon rind
- Pinch of red chile flakes (optional)
Pack all the herbs into the vessel of your blender or food processor (if using a mini-chopper, you will need to add the herbs in stages). Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the lemon juice, the red wine vinegar and the garlic clove. Pulse to puree the herbs and blend the flavors. With the motor running, add the additional tablespoon of olive oil in a slow stream through the opening in the lid. Stop the motor and add the salt and chile flakes (if desired) to taste. Whir to blend. It should generally be the consistency of pesto. If it’s too thick, add a bit more olive oil. If it’s too thin, add some more herbs.
Use your tastebuds to determine if it needs any more attention. You may prefer more basil, or mint, or lemon juice. You may want to adjust the seasonings. Add what you like little-by-little, whirring to blend, and tasting as you go. Throw in a couple of chives, if you like, or a dash of green tobasco. This is your sauce, so make it your own!
Chimichurri can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or poured into ice cube trays and frozen for a later date. Frozen cubes can be thawed and used in soups, stews or simply as an accent to grilled beef, lamb, pork or vegetables.
Recipe by 2peasinapod.online