As interesting and fulfilling it has been to have finally gotten around to starting the blog I’ve been threatening to write for well over a year, I am realizing that it needs some organization to it. Something of a routine. So, coincidentally, do I.
I’m going to spend some admin time this weekend working through how to better organize and make available (and printable) recipes already posted. I also need to investigate how to include links. Some shouting, gnashing of teeth, and pulling of hair may be involved. Okay, let’s get real; strike shouting. Insert screaming.
As well, I have all sorts of notes for general information-type information that I’d like to post. To that end, each Friday will feature a post of just that: some hopefully useful tips to make life in the kitchen a bit easier, and perhaps more productive for us all.
For today’s Information Friday I want to talk about extending the life of fresh herbs and how to freeze foods (liquid-y ones especially) so that you can make the best use of your freezer space.
First, fresh herbs. During the summer, I suspect many of us can either step outside to a garden (even a small one), or approach a pot and snip enough fresh Italian parsley, basil, cilantro, you name it, for whatever your need at the moment is. Winter presents a different story in many parts of the country. I keep pots of herbs in my kitchen bay window year-round; nonetheless, the holy 3 (parsley, basil, cilantro) slow down so much beginning around December that I’m forced to pick them up at the grocery store.
Raise your hand if you have you come home with any or all of them, used what you needed, stashed the bag in the fridge, then found a bag of slime just a few days later. I certainly have. Here’s a trick, and a very decorative one too, to extend their useful life. It will also remind you that you have them, so you’ll tend to use them up faster (smile).
Let me introduce you to our lovely model, cilantro. First, rinse the leaves under cold, running water. Next, use scissors or a knife and trim the ends about 1″ to create a fresh stem. Fill a jar, or even a water glass, 3/4 full with cold water, set the herbs in it as though they were a bouquet of flowers, and set on your kitchen counter. Snip off what you need when you need it. Change the water once a day, and compost whatever is left at the end. I haven’t yet encountered an herb with which this does not work. And in the winter, any greenery is welcome!
Moving on. I often suggest freezing just about anything in Ziplock bags. Soups and sauces, leftover pastas, beans, rice, there isn’t much I don’t freeze this way. But like many good tricks, there is a trick to it.
First of all, label the bag with its contents BEFORE you fill it. Otherwise, it’s sort of like trying to write on a water balloon filled with marbles. I called the leftovers of my Leftover Soup SW, for southwestern, Chicken Soup. It was much shorter than Spicy Black Bean Soup with Cilantro-Lime Rice, Green Chiles, and Roasted Chicken. I have a one-breath rule for most recipe names; if I breathe more than twice while reading it, it’s too long. We’ve all eaten in restaurants that would have chosen the Spicy Black Bean blah-blah-blah option, something that just annoys the daylights out of me. But I’ll rant about that later. The bottom line: if you invented it, you get to name it. And it’s always a good idea to date the bag.
The easiest way to make this a one-person operation is to first turn the collar of the bag down. The zipper portion is stiff, and will hold the bag open. That way you’re not trying to hold it open with one hand and ladle or spoon something in with the other, all while hollering, “Who thought THIS was a good idea?!” Next, set the bag in a bowl that will hold it upright. For quart bags use a small one, for gallon bags, use a large bowl. This makes it really easy to fill a bag with just about anything. If any food drips onto the zipper, wipe it clean or your bag won’t seal properly. That means it may leak . . . .
Last, press as much air out of the bag as you can, then zip it shut. Lay flat, redistribute the contents, then set in your freezer in a flat place, say on top of other flat, filled bags.