On the Menu: Using and preserving herbs

On the Menu-Herbs

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Liz Weber is a Registered Dietitian at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Today’s “On the Menu” segment features nutrition tips on how to best use and preserve summer herbs.

Michigan summer is here, and with that comes abundant fresh produce. By this time of the summer, many of you may start to have more fresh produce from your gardens than you know what to do with, especially fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs are a great way to add new dimensions of flavor and color to a dish, but unfortunately they do not grow fresh year-round, especially in cold winter months.

Fortunately, there are a few quick ways to preserve your extra garden herbs so that you can use them year-round. 

Freezing: Freezing herbs is a great way to preserve the flavor and essential oils of the herbs. If you would like to preserve the beautiful green color of the herbs, consider blanching (pouring boiling water on the herbs for 1 second) before drying and freezing. Here are some great methods for freezing:

  • Plastic bag: rinse, remove the leaves from the stems, and then lay flat on a baking sheet to dry. Once fully dry, place in a plastic bag and freeze. Freeze in a clump or freeze the leaves separately before adding to the plastic bag.
  • Ice tray: Chop herbs into bits, drop about 1 Tbsp per cube tray, fill ¾ full with water, and freeze. The next day, fill the cube trays to the top with water to prevent freezer burn. This can also be done with your choice of oil or broth depending on how you anticipate yourself using it.

Drying: Using string, tie herbs in small bunches, allowing room for ventilation, and hang in a well-ventilated room away from light. After 1-4 days, place dried herbs in an airtight container. Use a dehydrator for bigger-leaved herbs, such as basil, parsley, and cilantro.

Oven drying: Oven-drying is a good idea if you live in a humid climate where it may be difficult to air-dry successfully. Heat the oven to 150°F, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the herbs in one layer on the tray. Keep the oven door slightly ajar, check frequently, and remove when leaves get crumbly. This may take 1-4 hours. Store in an airtight container for 6 months to a year.

Uses: Pesto, herb-infused butter, oil, or vinegar, hummus, soups, stews, pasta dishes

Basil Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • Directions:
  • Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Roasted Beet Hummus

Prep time: 5 mins, Cook time: 1 hour, Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized beet, skin on
  • 1 can (14 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2½ tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • water to thin

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).
  2. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and roast them for 1 to 2 hours (it depends on the size of your beets) or until soft and tender.
  3. Once the beets are roasted, remove them from the oven and let them cool
  4. Peel the skin and chop them into chunks.
  5. Place the beets, chickpeas and garlic into a food processor and blend for 1 minute.
  6. Add tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin, 1 teaspoon of water and blend until the hummus becomes smooth and creamy.
  7. If it's too thick add more water until the your desired consistency.
  8. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt or lemon if needed
  9. Refrigerate or use immediately. Roasted beet hummus will last in the fridge for approximately 1 week.

Resources:

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