March 12, 2015 § 1 Comment
Today’s Birthday Week indulgence is homemade comfort food that brings together two recent Waste-Less Wednesday ingredients: lemons and herbs. Remember those 7-Day Preserved Lemons? After a week of climbing the kitchen stepladder to shake those babies up, it’s time to crack them open and take them for a taste test!
Opening the mason jar of marinated lemons after it spent a week in the surprisingly warm upper-reaches of my kitchen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would they actually taste ok, or would the flavors be off? Would this be another kitchen experiment to hit the compost bin?
The first bite was soft, tart, and salty. The rinds and flesh had softened, but weren’t mooshy, with the lemon flesh coming away from the soft rinds easily. The flavor was definitely Meyer — lemon with a hint of tangerine — and tart, but not puckeringly so. Ooooh, this was gonna be good! (And a little weird when I realized that I was eating wedges of lemon!) I almost forgot the final step of the process, which was to cover the lemons in olive oil to help preserve them in the fridge. So, now I have these salty, somewhat-tart, soft lemons dipped in olive oil. Nothin’ bad about that!
In general, I wouldn’t eat these preserved lemons out of the jar, but I could think of all the ways that they would be a flavorful accent to pasta, fish, or a composed salad. What to make first? I love the idea of gremolata — a classic Italian condiment of fresh lemon zest, parsley, and garlic — but with a twist. When making the classic version, you’ll get the best results when all ingredients are freshest. But what if your ingredients aren’t super-fresh? How about a variation that brings together roasted garlic, preserved lemons, and minced parsley?
Using preserved lemons means that you can use the whole lemon, not just the zest. Roasting garlic cloves lets you extend the life of your garlic, giving it a sweet but complex flavor and soft texture that makes it more versatile. And even less-than-fresh parsley has something to add to this combo! (I’ll confess that I keep my parsley in a ziplock bag for two weeks or more, weeding out the <ahem> discolored or floppy branches. It’s not always pretty, but I’m doing what I can to get the most out of a bunch of parsley.) And the best part is that you can prepare all the components in advance and store them in your refrigerator until you’re ready to put them together!
So, inspired by the classic gremolata, here’s my recipe for a homemade mid-week meal that is flavorful, comforting, and indulgent.
Recipe: Soba Noodles with 650 Gremolata
Yield: 1 serving
This pasta is on the lighter side and perfect for a weeknight spring meal or weekend lunch. The recipe makes enough for one person. Double up if you’re cooking for two (or just want some leftovers). Scale up if you’re cooking for a crowd. Feel free to make adjustments to the parsley, garlic, or lemon or amount of pasta based on your taste and preferences. Add a seasonal green salad with grated carrots or tomato wedges to round out the meal.
Ingredients (per serving):
1 wedge preserved lemon, chopped finely
4 large roasted garlic cloves*, peeled or removed from their papery casings
2 tablespoons parsley leaves, chopped finely
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauté pan
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 – 3 tablespoons shredded cheese (Asiago, Parmesan, or a blend)
2 – 2¼ ounces soba noodles
Salt and black pepper to taste
Optional: 1 – 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
* To roast garlic: You can roast garlic in a toaster oven or toss it into the baking dish when making roasted vegetables in a full-sized oven. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut the top off a head of garlic and peel away a couple of the head’s outer paper-like layers. Place the garlic head in the center of a 5″ square piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil (don’t douse it) and then fold the foil around the garlic head, enclosing it. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cloves are soft enough to pierce with a sharp knife or skewer.
What you need:
Small sauté pan
4-quart pot for the noodles
- Start heating the water for the noodles while you make the gremolata.
Review the package directions for the amount of water to boil. By the time you’ve made the gremolata, the pasta should be ready to go into the pot.
- Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the chopped preserved lemon and sauté for 2-3 minutes until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove from heat.
- Place the garlic cloves in the medium bowl and crush them with the back of a spoon until you have a garlic paste.
- Add the olive oil to the garlic paste and mix together using a spoon or fork.
- Add the parsley, sautéed lemon, and roasted red pepper, mixing to combine. Set aside while you make the noodles.
- Follow the package directions for making soba noodles.
Make sure that you drain the noodles well, removing as much water as possible after cooking.
- Add the noodles to the gremolata mixture, tossing to coat the pasta thoroughly.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn out into a serving bowl or dish and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
- Want to add to the indulgence? Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.
March 4, 2015 § 3 Comments
Earlier this year, a reader posted a great question to 650Food’s Facebook page:
I have a “minimizing food waste” question. I bought loads of fresh herbs for holiday cooking. Some I have in a cup of water in the fridge, but others are in their mini plastic clamshell awaiting turning into mush before being dumped unceremoniously into the compost bin. What’s the best way to preserve these herbs? Thanks!
Great question (thank you Amy)! Sound familiar? How often do you buy a bunch of herbs, but only need, oh, a tablespoon or a few sprigs for a specific recipe and are then left wondering what to do with the rest? Herbs are mostly delicate little things and have a short lifespan, even if you store them properly.
So, how to get the most out of your herbs without wasting them? You have options! If you want to save herbs for a later use or have a garden surplus, then consider preserving by drying or freezing. Whether you choose to freeze or dry your herbs, make sure you wash and pat them dry first. Here are two simple options for freezing herbs:
- Herb cubes. Chop herbs finely, place into ice cube trays, and gently top off each ice cube mold with water before freezing. After ice cubes have hardened, you can remove them from the tray and store them in freezer bags. Need a visual? Check out Organic Gardening’s slide show.
- Keep herbs whole and store in freezer bags. If you want to skip the chopping and just get to preserving, package your whole herbs into freezer bags. Make sure to press as much air as possible from the bags before sealing. Better Homes & Gardens recommends freezing for these more commonly used herbs: basil, chives, dill, lemongrass, mint, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme.
While I’ll always take fresh herbs over dried, having a stash of dried herbs on standby is a great option when you don’t have access to fresh or frozen herbs. There are a variety of methods for drying herbs, including air drying, low oven (180° F for 2-4 hours), dehydrator, and microwave. I’m old school and go for the air-drying method (least amount of work, too!): I tie a bunch together with a pretty ribbon, then hang them upside from a hook in my kitchen. After the herbs are dried, I remove the leaves/buds from the stems and store them in a glass jar or plastic container.
So that covers preserving, but what about ways to use up fresh herbs before they start to turn brown or drying becomes your only option?
Honestly, once herbs go into my refrigerator, I forget about them. When I had herbs growing in my garden last summer, it became an evening routine to grab a pair of scissors, head out to the yard, and just snip as much as I needed for the evening meal. But somehow when I buy herbs from the market, I don’t feel as inspired to use them on a daily basis and factoring them into daily cooking takes a bit of effort. Here are some of the ways in which I’ve been using — and using up — herbs.
Herb-infused simple syrups can be used for flavoring cocktails, making non-alcoholic spritzers, dressing up a fruit salad, sweetening lemonade… just to give you a few ideas. Best herbs for simple syrup infusions include lavender, rosemary, and sage.
Herb butter is so easy to make it’s ridiculous! And it’s sooo good on bread, crackers, fish, potatoes… pretty much anything that can serve as a butter-delivery device. Want to make it right now? Put 1 stick of butter into a microwave-safe bowl (remove the wrapper first), heat in the micowave until soft, then mix with a spatula until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped herbs (try parsley, chives, oregano, or thyme) and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix again until smooth. Level up? Add two roasted garlic cloves (smoosh and mix into the butter).
Herbed Roasted Vegetables
Herbs and vegetables are a natural combo: parsley and potatoes; oregano, tomatoes, and eggplant; thyme and radicchio just to name a few. My new fav? Roasted sweet potatoes, finished with a drizzle of local orange blossom honey, crushed red pepper, and finely chopped rosemary.
When I’m absolutely too tired to cook and too hungry to wait for delivery, I’ll make soba noodles and top them with whatever I can assemble in the four minutes it takes the noodles to cook. If there are no leftover roasted vegetables ready to go, then finely chopped herbs, olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a handful of shredded Asiago cheese will do the trick.
How do you preserve or use up fresh herbs? Share your ideas in the comments below!