Written By: Chef Peggy Aoki
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We’ve all had the experience of bringing home a beautiful bunch of herbs from the store or farmer’s market with good intent. We put them in the refrigerator while they are crisp and aromatic only to return a day or two later and they’ve become an expensive wilted disappointment.
Tender leafed herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill and basil are very easy to bruise and require a bit of care when you bring them home.
Chef Tip #1
Wash + Store
My favorite way to store them is to give them a quick rinse and shake off the excess water lightly. Next, dampen a paper towel and wrap it around the herb bunch like a loose burrito. Store the wrapped bundle in a zip top bag, but don’t zip the bag. The plastic helps slow the evaporation, but keeping the bag open helps prevent spoilage from too much moisture. You can keep all your herbs in the same zip top, individually wrapped in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
I cook often, and I can rarely use an entire bunch of herbs, even when they’re pampered. Here are some of my ideas for using up the remainder, and always having some delicious herbs available.
Chef Tip #2
Compound butter is a mixture of herbs minced into butter, sometimes with other flavors such as garlic, shallot or citrus. Kept in the freezer in an easy to slice roll, you’ll always have a delicious herby addition for grilled meats and vegetables, or pasta and rice. My rule of thumb is ¼ cup of herb to one stick (4 oz) of butter, plus a tablespoon of garlic, shallot or citrus zest. You can pulse this together in a food processor, or chop by hand and stir together. A classic combination is 4 ounces of butter mashed into ¼ cup parsley, 2 cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of lemon zest, but feel free to use up any combination of herbs you have.
Chef Tip #3
Herby Olive Oil
Another easy way to store herbs for the future is to puree them with a small amount of olive oil and freeze the mixture. Oil keeps the essential herb flavor from fading, and you can add other flavors just as you would for compound butter. My favorite way to store this is in a ziptop bag that I lay flat in my freezer. I can break off a section of basil-garlic olive puree and add to a tomato sauce or soup very easily for a fresh herbal flavor. For this preparation you can add roughly chopped herbs by the handful to a blender or food processor and pulse. Pour in enough oil to allow the blender to convert the herbs to the consistency of pancake batter, adding garlic or citrus if you’d like. It’s a great way to preserve a bumper crop of basil, or any other large quantity of tender leaf herb.
These two methods of using all of your herbs not only make wise use of your grocery dollars, but allow you to upgrade your cooking with ease. Use these ideas to make your daily cooking shine! For more tips on giving your cooking that chef’s kiss, check out our one-on-one cooking classes. We hope to meet you in your kitchen soon!
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