Spring

How to preserve herbs

Culinary herbs are a key ingredient in many foods, but with fall rapidly approaching, it's time to start thinking about preserving your fresh garden herbs. The best way to save the taste of herbs from your garden is to preserve them before winter. While some herbal plants, such as parsley, will survive many months indoors in pots if brought in before a frost, most herbs are better frozen or dried to use in the months ahead. Dried and frozen herbs are easy to store and take up less room than a fresh herb plant. In fact, 10 pounds of fresh herbs equals about 1 pound of dried herbs. You can also process your herbs by making pesto or herb vinegars, to preserve their flavors.

Here are some tips on the best ways to preserve your herbs.

Harvest your summer herbs to savor their flavor all winter.

Harvest your summer herbs to savor their flavor all winter.

Harvesting herbs

Herbs are best harvested before flower buds form and in the morning before the sun has evaporated the essential oils in the leaves. This late in the year many herb plants may have started to flower. To create higher quality leaves for storing, snip the flower buds to encourage new side shoots to grow. A few weeks later these leafy side shoots will be good candidates for harvesting and preserving. When harvesting branches of herbs, snip just above a leaf to encourage more growth during the waning days of fall. Always select stems that have little damage from disease and insects.

Quick drying herbs

Herbs for drying can be grouped into two categories; quick drying herbs and slow drying herbs. Quick drying herbs include lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, and sage. These herbs are best bundled together in bunches of 10 to 12 stems, tied with rubber bands and hung upside down in an airy, cool room out of direct sunlight to keep the essential oils in the leaves from volatilizing. The bundles of herbs will dry in about 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the weather. Humid weather slows the drying process. Once dry, strip the leaves off the stems and store. Dried herbs are best stored in a dark place and used within three months of storage for best flavor.

For the best results, know the difference between slow and quick drying herbs.

For the best results, know the difference between slow and quick drying herbs.

Slow drying herbs

These herbs don't dry well in bunches and are best if separated from their stalks and dried on screens. Herbs such as basil, dill leaves, lovage, parsley, and thyme fall into this category. Remove the leaves, cut them into small pieces, and lay them on screens for air drying or place on a cookie sheet to dry in the oven or a dehydrator. Set the oven or dehydrator to a low temperature (below 150°F), and stir often until the leaves are dry. Store in glass jars.

Freezing herbs

Herbs with high water content, such as basil, lovage, mint, lemon balm, and tarragon can also be frozen. Freezing preserves herbs in a bright green state and makes them available for adding to soups and stews in winter. Wash herb stems and remove the leaves. Pat the leaves dry and place on a cookie sheet or tray, separating them so they don't freeze together in a solid mass. Cover and place in the freezer until frozen. Store in an airtight container or freezer bags for up to one year.

Another handy way to freeze herbs is in ice cube trays. This is a great way to preserve combinations of herbs you use in special soups and stews in winter. Stuff three or four individual leaves or chopped herbs in a ice cube tray and fill with broth or water. Freeze, then remove the blocks and store in freezer bags. 

Pestos & vinegars

I love eating pesto in summer and preserving pesto for winter, too. I use the ice cube tray method making batches of pesto by filling the trays and storing the cubes in freezer bags. Don't feel limited to basil pesto either. The word pesto, in Italian, means to pound or crush, so try out different leaf combinations like spinach and parsleyarugula and parsley or kale and sun-dried tomatoes. Vinegars are a great way to preserve herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Use three to four sprigs of herbs per one cup of vinegar. Experiment with white vinegar, cider vinegar and wine vinegar, using different herbal combinations and amounts.

Collecting herb seeds

Some herb plants are best preserved by collecting the seeds. Dill, fennel, and coriander are some of the most popular herbs whose seeds are used in cooking. To collect herb seeds, let the plants flower and form seed heads. When the seed head begins to yellow and dry, but before the seeds start dropping, harvest the head and cover it with a brown paper bag, securing the bottom with an elastic band. Hang it upside down indoors. Wait a week or so to let the herb seeds mature and dry. Periodically shake the bag to dislodge the seeds into the bag. Store seeds in a glass jar in a dark location. Use within six months for best flavor.

Kale-Walnut Pesto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

No need to wait until summer's basil bounty to make pesto—you can enjoy a flavorful kale pesto any time of the year. Valued as much for its taste and texture as its nutrients, this kale pesto is simple and robust and is delicious tossed with pasta or as a sauce for pizza or a crostini. This is also an excellent use for extra kale from the garden or CSA share—and it freezes well to boot.

Kale Pesto Bow Tie Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch kale (about 6 cups of leaves)
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Preparation

  1. Place sun-dried tomatoes in a small dish and add boiling water, just to cover. Set aside while they soften.
  2. Strip the kale greens from the thicker ribs. Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil. Add the kale to the water and blanch for 30 seconds or less. Remove the greens immediately and place in an ice bath.
  3. Remove kale from the ice bath, squeeze to remove the water then place it in a food processor. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add those, along with the garlic, Parmesan, walnuts, lemon juice and a pinch of salt, to the food processor.
  4. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, scraping down the sides as needed. Adjust the salt to taste.

Serving Suggestion

Toss with pasta and top with additional Parmesan and toasted walnuts, if desired, or use as a sauce for pizza or crostini.

 

Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.

DIY Quick Pickles

Pickling can be just that—a pickle. True pickling is an ancient miracle for food preservation, but involves a drawn-out fermentation process requiring canning equipment, sterilization procedures and a whole lotta waiting around.

But, did you know that there’s a fast and easy way to preserve and chill your fresh garden veggies? Follow these quick pickling steps for those of you not ready to go all in. 

DIY Quick Pickle

1. Pick your pickle

Although cucumbers are the most common for pickling, you can pickle almost any vegetable such as baby carrots (not the bitty mature carrots which you find in packages, but miniature immature ones with the skin still on), shallots, onion, asparagus, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, okra, and beyond. The fresher and crispier the produce, the better the final product.

2. Prep the potion

The main ingredient in pickle brine is vinegar. White vinegar is most common, but you can also use cider vinegar or wine vinegar. Balsamic is not recommended as it’s too syrupy. Combine 1 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Instead of diluting the vinegar with water, try including a 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar with a dash of cinnamon.

Add a few pinches of salt. Salt draws moisture out of the vegetables and encourages the growth of useful bacteria. 

5. Spice it up 

This is where it gets fun. Many "pickling spice" blends are available and work beautifully, but consider a visit to the bulk aisle at your local food co-op to customize your blend. Mustard seed, dill seed, dry coriander seed, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, black peppercorns and garlic are all great places to start.

Combine all the ingredients in the saucepan, stir to dissolve, and bring to a boil.

3. Prep your veggies

Trim off any inedible pieces of your vegetable (e.g., the ends of green beans or root ends of onions). If you're cutting your vegetables into pieces, make sure they're all about the same size for pickling consistency.

Leeks and carrots make great pickled veggies.

Leeks and carrots make great pickled veggies.

4. Submerge and chill

Place your vegetables in a clean, dry container. Glass jars are the best because they won’t absorb any odors from the pickles.

Pour the boiling brine into the jar and submerge the veggies completely (you can add water to bring up the level if needed). Refrigerate for at least one hour and let the brine work its charms. The longer you brine, the tastier the pickle.

Depending on your veggie, quick pickles will keep in the fridge for weeks to a few months. 

 

Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop.
 

Mixed Berry Crumble

This crumble is very versatile. Choose your filling based on the current season's fresh fruits.  

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, stems removed
  • 2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation

Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, salt and zest. Add the melted butter and stir to mix. Reserve. Place the berries in a 2-quart baking dish, and sprinkle with sugar, arrowroot or cornstarch, and vanilla. Toss gently to coat, until well combined. Crumble the oat mixture over the berries in the dish. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the juices are thick and bubbly all the way around the dish. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestion

Vary the flavors by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the topping, or change the balance of berries in the mix. Substitute a gluten-free flour blend if you prefer. Serve this warm with a scoop of ice cream and you can't miss.

 

Authored by Robin Asbell. Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop

Goddess Chickpea Salad with Kale

Creamy and crunchy this salad is packed with protein. Enjoy by itself or stuffed in a whole wheat pita. If you don’t have green goddess dressing on hand, substitute your favorite dressing. 

Meal prep trick: place the dressing at the bottom of the mason jar, top with salad to avoid soggy greens.   Photo Credit:  Food, Pleasure & Health

Meal prep trick: place the dressing at the bottom of the mason jar, top with salad to avoid soggy greens.

Photo Credit: Food, Pleasure & Health

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup packed thinly shredded kale
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup slivered red onions
  • 1/4 cup green goddess salad dressing
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, kale, cherry tomatoes and red onions. Pour the green goddess dressing over the mixture and toss to coat.
  2. Grind fresh black pepper over it all and mix, then taste and add salt if desired. Serve immediately, or store, tightly covered for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Serving Suggestion

This salad is also delicious wrapped in a tortilla or stuffed in a whole wheat pita. If you don’t have green goddess dressing on hand, substitute your favorite dressing.

Moroccan Carrot Radish Salad

Shredded salads are incredibly quick and easy, when you use the food processor. In this one, the peppery kick of radishes and sweet crunch of carrots are enhanced with the tangy lemon dressing. Sort through the radish leaves, discarding any wilted ones, and chop the good ones to toss with the salad.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large carrots
  • 4 large red radishes
  • Radish leaves, chopped, or spinach
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkinseeds
  • 1/4 cup toasted, unsalted peanuts (optional)
  • 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

Grate the carrots and radishes coarsely. Wash and sort the radish leaves, and chop or julienne. Put them in a bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and cumin, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk in the olive oil gradually. Pour the dressing over the carrots and toss to mix. Just before serving, add the pumpkinseeds, peanuts, and feta cheese and toss.

 

Authored by Robin Asbell. Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop

Local Foraging in the Kitchen: Morels, Ramps, Nettles and Dandelion Greens

The sun is out and the temperatures are high! Let’s get wild. Try this morel dish recipe or read on for more tips about cooking these foraged plants.

Mette Nielsen

Mette Nielsen

Sauteed Morel Mushrooms

Morels are distinctly delicious and super easy to prepare, be sure to cook them long enough. The season is very short and they can be pricy so I often add a few cultivated mushrooms into the mix – crimini, oyster, shiitake.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces mixed mushrooms, cleaned and dried
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

To prepare morels, trim, split in half and dip quickly in salted water and then pat thoroughly dry with clean dish cloth or paper towels. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add the mushrooms and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until well-browned, about 4 to 6 minutes. Then stir in the wine and the herbs. Continue cooking until the liquid becomes a glaze.

Ramps

These wild leeks are fragrant members of the lily family. Foragers swear you can smell leeks when you step on them, so that they announce themselves, and easy to find. Use ramps as you would leeks and shallots. They’re great in sautés, soups, stir-fries, scrambled eggs.

Nettles

My grandmother would laugh at the very idea I might actually pay money for stinging nettles. They grew wild on the border of the field near her house and she needed gloves to harvest them. But once they were blanched in salted water, she used them just like spinach. Her favorite technique was to simply sauté them in lots of butter and season with salt and pepper and served as a side dish. Try them in a quiche or sautéed in with the morel mushrooms (above).

Dandelion Greens

Yes, these are the same greens I don’t want in my backyard. But they’re delicious, slightly bitter, and loaded with vitamin A and calcium. They pair nicely with lush eggs, bacon, potatoes. Try tossing them onto a simple pizza with mild cheeses and sautéed mushrooms; chop and add them to creamy soups right before serving for zest; chop and add them to scrambled eggs. Toss them with roast new potatoes as they come from the oven.

 

Authored by Beth Dooley. Reprinted with permission from Lakewinds Food Co-op

Lemon Bars

The bright lemon flavor of these bars makes a great finish to a dinner of hearty Mediterranean dishes like pasta or ratatouille. Of course, they’re a delicious midday snack as well.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Filling

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour and confectioner’s sugar together. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Press the dough into the pan evenly.Bake for 15-17 minutes.
  2. While the crust is baking, whisk the filling ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Pour the filling onto the hot crust. Place the dish back into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Stir together the sour cream and sugar for the topping. Gently spread the sour cream mix evenly over the bars. Bake another 5-7 minutes. Let the bars cool completely before cutting or topping with powdered sugar.

 

Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop

Asparagus and Bell Pepper Quiche

The fresh taste of local asparagus shines in this irresistible quiche.

Asparagus Pepper Quiche

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pre-made 9-inch pie crust

Quiche

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil, and gently steam or blanch the peppers and asparagus until al dente, roughly 3 minutes. Drain and cool.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cooked vegetables and cheese. Mix well and scoop the filling into the pie shell.
  4. Crack the eggs and add them to the bowl. Beat them slightly, then whisk in the half and half and spices. Pour the mixture into the pie shell, over the vegetable filling.
  5. Bake on a center rack in the preheated oven until completely set.

 

Authored by Renee Russel. Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop

French Leek Pie with Gruyere Cheese

This savory tart is perfect for lunch or brunch. It's simple to make and is easily varied with a few ingredient swaps.

Leek Pie Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch prepared pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and sliced in 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 1/2 to 4 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prick the pie crust several times with a fork and pre-bake the pie crust for 12-15 minutes. Let the crust cool before filling.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the leeks for 5-6 minutes. Add the tarragon, water and a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté another 5 minutes until the leeks are tender. Remove from heat and stir in the half and half and shredded cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then pour the mixture into the pre-baked pie shell. Bake the pie for 40-50 minutes. Let the pie sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

Tips & Notes

For an easy variation, try adding crumbled cooked bacon, layer in some tomatoes and use shredded Mozzarella in place of the Gruyere.

 

Reprinted by permission from StrongerTogether.coop. Find articles about your food and where it comes from, recipes and a whole lot more at www.strongertogether.coop