By Dana Zia, Golightly Gourmet
“Fresh herbs can change everything. You can have pasta every night and if 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. (Well, maybe my hair was already kinda curly.)
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. My herb 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 can even grow some in your window sills or on your deck in small pots. Believe me, it’s worth it. You will delight in this addition to your culinary world. It is amazing how much flavor fresh herbs add to anything and, get this, there are minimal calories and lots of medicinal benefits to them.
There is one drawback however; most herbs go away with the sun. 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.
First off, harvest, buy or ask the neighbor for fresh herbs that you want to freeze and give them a rinse. Pluck off all the leaves and discard the stems then pulse the herbs in a food processor or blender with enough liquid like broth, olive oil or water to get your desired consistency. Use just enough liquid to blend the herbs together well.
Plop spoonfuls into some 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, it’s like a tasty art project you get to enjoy all winter!
When they have frozen solid, about 12 hours, pop them out and store them in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Then do another batch to ensure you’ll have plenty. 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, they are amazing in soups, pasta and sauces. It will melt down fast and voila! You have saved some sweet summer for your winter dishes.
This recipe that I am sharing today will get your taste buds tingling and into herb freezing. Feel free to add any root vegetables that you find in your produce drawer. It is a great way to use up the old veggies and move on to the summer produce. It is also great with any new root veggies you can pick up at the farmers market or the store.
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. ♪
3 med beets
3 med potatoes
2 med turnips or parsnips
4 or 5 med carrots
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 400 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. 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 25 – 35 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 and that’s when you know it’s getting close to done. Take out and season with the salt and pepper. Serve hot and Enjoy!