fridge of plenty

Because I want to be useful and not just entertaining, I have a short one for you today. This might be my briefest post yet, but it’s a good one, I promise. Months ago I saw this on Simply Recipes, and I want to pass it on to all of you today: a tip for storing fresh herbs.

Late summer is a time of plenty. Overstock, as it’s called in the business world, has hit the world of food too, where lanky herbs and weighted tomato plants stand like tired giants.

What to do with all of this bounty? Dill, cilantro, parsley — it’s everywhere, and crumpled up in a plastic bag in the fridge it will soon be nowhere.

That’s it. No fancy description. Nothing life changing, except maybe for your mint, parsley and cilantro. Just get yourself a glass with two inches or so of water, pop those herbs in stem down, cover with a plastic bag (it can go around the outside of the glass too, secured easily with a rubber band or just by twisting), poke a few holes in the bag, and set it in your fridge door. Change the water if it gets brown. Seriously, this is like having a pet fish.

It’s a miracle. It really is. I’ll be halfway through a recipe only to discover that pesky little “chopped fresh mint” command right at the bottom. I will NOT waste gas to go to the store for some chopped fresh mint. Ice cream, maybe, but fresh herbs? I confess, I simply will not. Anyway, back to the recipe. I open my fridge only to discover the mint a friend brought over two weeks ago. Yeah right…

Wait a minute, it’s looking as perky as ever. Ah yes, the beauty of the trick-it-into-thinking-it’s-still-growing ploy.

My dinner plans go uninterrupted, and later, I drive to the store for some ice cream.

And because I’m feeling so congenial with my fresh mint and all, I’ve decided to share with you a recipe, and another storing technique, for pesto. This popular green spread (used ’round these parts as a pizza base and a quick pasta sauce) is so easy to make yourself, and keeps well in the freezer.

Mark Bittman came through again with his Basic Pesto recipe, which I doubled and then froze into what look like ice cubes from Outer Space…

…thus constituting what should heretofore be known as the ugliest picture on my blog, are a convenient way to keep fresh pesto around without it developing that darned moldy skin across the top. I’m thinking you could throw one into a pot of hot pasta and roasted veggies, and in less than a minute you’d have a decent dinner ready to go. Or defrost two or three for a quick pizza sauce, topped with raw shrimp, red onions and feta.

You can do the same with homemade broth so that when a recipe calls for 1/2 a cup of broth, you don’t have to turn to that abomination of homecooked stews and soups, the bouillon cube. Presto, pesto!

Basic (Bittmanesque) Pesto

makes 1 cup

2 cups loosely packed, rinsed and dried fresh basil, stems removed

pinch of salt

1/2 to 2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 T pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Combine the basil, salt, garlic, pine nuts and half the oil in a food processor.
  2. Process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Gradually add the rest of the oil until mixture reaches the consistency you like.
  3. Add the cheese just before serving, or not at all.
  4. Will keep for two weeks in the fridge or for months in the freezer.

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