It’s about that time when those of us in cooler climates have to come to terms with the fact that winter is coming. Most of the leaves are off the trees and the first snow of the year will fall any day. Ugh. Before frost destroys it, it’s time to harvest what’s left of my humble garden.
I have a pair of four by four garden boxes in our back yard. Not because I love to garden, or cultivate plants, but because I love to cook with fresh ingredients. Each year I mix it up based on what did well the year before. This year I dabbled in tomatoes for the first time, which were a disappointment due to our cool summer. Same goes for the basil, an herb I could cook with every night. My parsley, oregano and rosemary, however, blossomed this year. Even into late fall, they’re still thriving. But not for long.
After cutting all the herbs I could carry and spreading them out on my counter, I rolled up my sleeves and brainstormed about the best ways to maximize this aromatic harvest.
My go-to with excess herbs is some variety of pesto. So I began by making a version of the Italian staple sauce. As mentioned in a previous post, I usually make pesto with almonds rather than pine nuts. They’re far cheaper, and I like the idea of putting a “super food” into a dish. Pull out the food processor and combine roughly ¾ c. almonds with a couple handfuls of fresh parsley, a clove of garlic, ½ c. grated Parmesan, and some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Season it with salt and pepper and fire it up. The end game is a bright and fresh sauce that’s great on seafood like shrimp, salmon or any white fish. Also try adding a little (like a quarter cup) cream cheese or goat cheese and toss it with linguine and a touch of pasta water. Supplement with a protein like chicken or shrimp. To. Die. For.
The food processor got me thinking about another idea that could set me up for an easy work day dinner: Herbed butter. I softened some unsalted butter and blended it with a couple small cloves of garlic and parsley. My husband loves spaghetti al olio. So this will make it incredibly quick. Simply cook some long pasta, and toss it with this garlic butter w/parsley, season, and add olive oil. Top generously with grated cheese.
Then I took another stick of sliced, unsalted butter and added parsley, rosemary and oregano and garlic to make another version of herbed butter. I seasoned this with a touch of salt and pepper, then rolled it up in plastic wrap and foil and threw it in the freezer. I plan to slice it off to use as needed on things like chicken and steak. This will be versatile and very clutch when I’ve come home late from work and want to put together something great.
Fresh are too expensive to waste. How have you made good use of excess?