This blog post isn’t about sewing at all! But when a photo I put up on Facebook a couple of days ago of some frozen basil pesto cubes I made got just about as many “likes” as some of my prettiest sewing projects, I thought I’d write about it!
Every spring, Mark fills a big planter with basil plants so I can harvest fresh basil during the summer. When the plants are full and fragrant, I make basil pesto. I usually get half a dozen big batches a year. It’s soooo good! Basil leaves, garlic, Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts or walnuts, and olive oil – the sum is so much more than the parts!
Because I have a lot more than I can use at once, and it doesn’t keep all that long in the fridge, I freeze it. Yep, in cheapie old-fashioned plastic ice cube trays. I pop the frozen pesto cubes out of the trays and store them in zip-top freezer bags. The pesto stays fresh all year. When I want to add this culinary green gold to food, I just get out a cube (or two or three!) Sauces, chicken, fish, burgers, veggies, soups – just about everything tastes great with this stuff added. I try to get a big bag of pesto cubes to Annie each year, as well.
I like pesto, but I like lots of other delicious and interesting tastes, too. I’m not a chef. I cook things that are reasonably healthy and reasonably quick. Because I have exercised almost every day for decades, I’m always aware of the “calorie cost” of food, so I avoid frying, and I really don’t care for things with cream of mushroom soup or Velveeta. I love almost all veggies (except for fresh tomatoes – go figure…) I rarely make deserts, not because I don’t like them, but because I do (although I did make a peach crisp last week that was sooo delicious!)
Along with my pesto cubes, I like to keep my freezer stocked with some really great “flavor enhancers” that let me make some really varied and tasty meals. Here are some of them:
Chipotle cubes. Chopped chipotles in adobo are yummy in burgers, some soups, mixed with sour cream on fish tacos, or mixed with mayo as a sandwich spread. For a while, I would open a can, use what I needed, and end up throwing away the rest, because it’s not something I use every day. Then it came to me – make good use of those ice cube trays again! So I chop up the entire can (or usually two cans at a time), freeze into cubes, and store in baggies. Again, I can take out what I want anytime I need it.
I don’t have any in the freezer right now, but I also freeze chopped sage leaves in olive oil in my ice cube trays. I never liked dried sage, but then I tried fresh. Yum! Try it in turkey burgers. Ground turkey can be very dry, but a sage and olive oil cube, warmed up and mixed in, keeps the meat moist and very tasty. Or spread the sage/oil on top of pork roast. I get those huge pork loins from Sam’s, and when I get home I cut them into pork roasts and pork chops. Again, those very lean pork loin roasts can be dry, but that sage/oil on top keeps it moist. And butternut squash with sage is delicious!
Rosemary chopped and mixed with oil and frozen is good, too. Cut or slice potatoes and mix in some rosemary/oil, then roast. Or use the same way as the sage on a pork roast. Rosemary is such a strong flavor that I make smaller cubes. I’ll make thyme cubes, too, if I can find fresh thyme. These are great in soups. I’ve also had suggestions to make cilantro cubes, and I think I’ll do that, because I rarely use a whole bunch of cilantro before it goes bad.
More things in my freezer…
Fresh ginger. Such a fragrant and tasty addition! It’s not something I use every day, and the ginger would get moldy in the fridge before I used it. So, I peel it and store it in the freezer. All I have to do is grate what I need.
This Microplane grater makes easy work of it. I don’t have a lot of kitchen gadgets (just like my sewing) but these graters in several sizes are things that I use often.
Again, no picture because I don’t have any in there right now, but red curry paste is another thing I like to keep in the freezer. I only use it a few times a year, so I spoon out tablespoon-sized mounds onto waxed paper, freeze, then store in baggies.
On the last things on my “seasoning shelf” are bags of chopped Hatch green chiles. I don’t live in an area where these are available, so I preparee my own. Once a year, for about two weeks, I can buy these chiles. So I go through the process of charring, steaming, seeding and chopping the chiles. That’s more work than I like, but they are so good, and it’s so nice to have them to use. I especially like these on cheeseburgers and mixed into scrambled eggs. Yummy!
Now I’m hungry – I think it’s time for dinner! 🙂