Foodbuzz 24 x 24: Overthyme with Herbs!

how to freeze herbs from
If your herb garden is anything like mine, you're drowning. For some reason I decided to plant everything from seed. I did this also last year with startlingly different results. Last year, only my basil and chives came up. So, this year, I figured it would be more of the same and I planted far more seeds than I needed, hoping that just a few would come up. Jokes on me! Just about every seed I planted came up. When I went to thin my plants I gave away at least thirty basil and sage plants alone! I still kept 15 basil plants and 9 sage, not to mention a thicket of oregano, thyme, and a few lowly rosemary plants. Yesterday I gave away two cups of basil, and just today I picked two more, and I have hardly made a dent!  

Lately I've been adding herbs to just about everything I can. Ev.Er.Y. Thing. and I still can't keep up with the growth rate. So, I've started putting away herbs for the winter. Yes, it's a wee bit early, but if you had as much basil growing as I did you'd understand the need to get ahead of the game! I've been trying every means of storage under the sun, and I've learned a lot. There is so much advice out there on how to store herbs! In all this I've learned one thing: I hate dried herbs. 

Why I dislike drying herbs:
  1. It’s a LONG process. Ovens will destroy the oils, so you have to be old school.
  2. It takes up a lot of space.
  3. The worry of air born toxins (gas fumes, hair spray, cigarette smoke)
  4. HIGH risk of mold
  5. Not ideal for humid locations
  6. Dried herbs just don't taste like fresh herbs...but frozen do!

Since I live in the grand old HUMID city of Washington, D. C. drying herbs is one thing I don't get to I've learned just THAT much more about freezing herbs, and I have say I'm a huge fan. You can freeze store bought herbs, or fresh from the garden. Now, if you're using store bought, clearly you don't have much say in the matter, but for those of us with the overflowing herb garden, I've read up on a few tips there as well.

Tips for picking herbs:
  1. Gather herbs in the early/mid morning after the dew has dried but before the sun has had a chance to draw and disperse their oils. 
  2. Don’t pick herbs after rain or when they are damp. 
  3. Handle as little as possible. 
  4. Keep different herbs separate from each other. 
  5. ONLY pick as much as you can deal with.
That last one I have learned is pretty darn important. I can't imagine trying to store all my sage in one day at the end of the summer. Today, those two cups of basil I picked were made into pesto and then frozen into ice cubes! Each week I'll just keep freezing a few herbs at a time and it's going to be so much better than trying to pick that whole mini farm of basil at once! 

How to freeze herbs:
herbs for flash freezing on a tray, thyme and rosemary to be frozen in a bag, ice cubes of basil and tarragon 
You get two options: flash or ice cube freezing. Now, there is a third option of freezing with oil, but I don't understand that one. (Also, you can freeze cubes of pesto, which I did today!), but otherwise I'd prefer to store with water than oil, because when I want to throw an ice cube into a soup or a stew I don't want to add oil at the end, and since the ice cube herbs are best suited for soups and stews, I stick with water.

Flash freezing herb leafs: 
  1. Pick the best freshest herbs you can find 
  2. Wash and pat herbs dry 
  3. Lay on layer of parchment paper on cookie sheet 
  4. Freeze overnight
  5. Place leaves in freezer bags, using a straw to suck out excess air
Flash Freezing Rosemary or Thyme: 
  1. Pick the best freshest herbs you can find 
  2. Wash and pat herbs dry 
  3. Place in freezer zip lock bags. Allow to freeze fore a few days
  4. Roll a rolling pin over, or simply "crunch" the bag. The leaves will fall right off. 
  5. Remove stems from bag. 
  6. Place leaves in freezer bags, using a straw to suck out excess air
Ice cube tray method
  1. Pick the best freshest herbs you can find 
  2. Wash and pat herbs dry 
  3. Hand chop (or use food processor) leaves (I've left them whole before, it's not much of a difference)
  4. Put chopped pieces into ice cube trays and fill with water of stock 
  5. Freeze overnight 
  6. Place cubes in freezer bags, using a straw to suck out excess air. 
So now that I've shared those little tid bits, let's talk food! Yesterday I had a wee bit of a dinner party to use up all these lovely herbs! An actual garden party with foods served IN the garden! I made some individual sized "tables" to serve my appetizers on!
roasted tomato soup, mini tables, homemade ciabatta and homemade rosemary flavored olive oil
 If you're thinking YES I'd like to make some of those little tables it's EASY. Go to a craft store and you can easily find half inch dowels, and three to four inch wooden disk, and some nails....I think you can see where this is going. Add in some spray paint and they turn out adorably cute and ready for a personal table to stack foods upon like my homemade roasted tomato soup, and ciabatta!
apricot honey thyme soda, homemade basil pasta with brown butter, sage, and parmesan
 But not everything stacks so easily on small tables. My attempts at stacking homemade apricot honey thyme soda on them....were comical. I have a lovely bruise on my foot from falling soda. Which was fine because it scared my friend when they opened it. Never shake soda bottles! ..........or drop them on your foot.....or try to put them on itty bitty personal sized tables. The freshly made basil pasta, with brown butter, sage, and parmesan were fine on the little tables, but silverware was not, so I invited everyone back inside for the main course!

Was that a lot of "well i never"s??? Never made ciabatta? Homemade pasta? Thyme in a soda? Flavored an olive oil? or eaten off a small little table? AWESOME! let's add one more:

Lemon Basil Curd Tarts!

Yes. You've had lemon tarts, I've had lemon tarts, I've posted two lemon tarts in the last year alone, but these are lemon BASIL tarts. Yep. Basil. I told you I was putting herbs in Ev.Er.Y.Thing. I wasn't kidding around. Just look at all the posts I've used herbs for already:
Lavender Honey Caramel "Twix"
Swiss Onion Sage Tart
Brown Butter Sage Quiche
Rosemary Parmesan Crostini
Parmesan Thyme Shortbread
Lemon Basil Flower Shortbread
Lemon Basil Soda
Honey, Lavender & Ricotta
Peach Lemon Thyme Ice Cream
Strawberry Basil Ice Cream
Yep. Everything.

So now that food envy has FULLY set in it's time to wrap this up...and by wrap up I mean put in all the recipes from my dinner yesterday. If you've made it this far in the post you're a trooper! A trooper who deserves wonderful recipes with herbs!

So HERE they are!

Roasted Tomato Soup

3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 bulb garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme 
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano
1/4 teaspoon (or more) dried crushed red pepper
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Slice the tops off of the garlic bulbs so that the tip of each clove is exposed. Place the bulbs on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until garlic is soft. Continue to roast the tomatoes until brown and tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. 

Transfer tomatoes and cloves of garlic along with any accumulated juices to processor. Process until slightly chunky.

Put all ingredients save basil into a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until soup thickens slightly, about 25 minutes. (I sometimes leave it just below simmering for a few hours). Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. 

as found on Epicurious

For biga
1 cup plus 1 tablespoonroom-temperature water (75°F to 80°F)
1 1/4-ounce package dry yeast
3 1/3 cups bread flour

For dough
Biga (starter dough; see above)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature water (75°F to 80°F)
Pinch of dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons semolina flour*
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Additional semolina flour

Make biga:
Place water in processor. Sprinkle yeast over. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 8 minutes. Add 1 cup flour; process until blended. Scrape down sides of work bowl. Add 1 cup flour; repeat processing and scraping. Add remaining 1 1/3 cups flour. Process until small moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball (dough will be firm); place in large bowl. Cover; chill overnight (biga will soften, resembling thick oatmeal in texture).

Make dough:
Pull biga into walnut-size pieces; place in a clean large bowl. Add water, yeast and 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons semolina. Using 1 hand, squeeze ingredients together 2 minutes. Work dough 4 minutes by scooping sections from sides of bowl and pressing into center, blending into very soft, shaggy mass. Using spatula, scrape dough from sides of bowl into center. Let dough rest in bowl, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Sprinkle salt over dough. Using 1 hand, knead dough by rotating bowl 1/4 turn at a time, scooping dough from sides and folding down into center until dough starts to come away from sides of bowl, about 5 minutes. Scrape dough from hand and sides of bowl. Cover bowl with towel; let dough rest 20 minutes.

Rotating bowl 1/4 turn at a time, fold dough over onto itself 6 times; turn dough over in bowl. Cover with towel and let dough rest in bowl 20 minutes.

Bake bread:
Preheat oven to 425°F. Sprinkle work surface with additional semolina. Turn dough out onto semolina. Using pastry scraper or large knife, cut dough in half; keep halves separated. Let stand, uncovered, 20 minutes.

Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with additional semolina. Transfer each dough half, semolina side up, to 1 sheet. Stretch each dough half to 16x4-inch rectangle. Press fingertips into dough in several places to dimple surface (characteristic of this bread). Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool. (Can be prepared 2 weeks ahead. Double-wrap in aluminum foil to freeze.)

Lemon Rosemary Olive Oil

2 cups olive oil
2 large lemons
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Put two half pint mason jars, lids and rings in the oven to sterilize for twenty minutes.

Pour olive oil into a small pan. Grate the zest from the lemons and add it to the oil. Add the rosemary and bay leaf. Heat the oil over medium low heat until it reached 200 degrees. Cook at that temperature for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

Divide sprigs of rosemary between the jars. Using a funnel, pour the oil into the bottles. Cover tightly and invert (lid side down), to cool. Store at room temperature.

Basil Pasta with Brown Butter Sage Sauce
the amounts in blue serve 2, the amounts in black serve 8

1 lb. bread flour (3 1/4 ounces)
5 eggs (1 egg)
1 handful of basil, finely chopped (8 basil leaves)
semolina flour for dusting

8 tablespoons butter, divided
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh sage

parmesan cheese

In an electric mixer, using the dough hook, mix flour and eggs on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until a firm dough forms. Take the dough out of the mixer and knead by hand until the dough is smooth (about a minute or more). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for on hour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide into four balls (or one) and flatten the ball into a disk. Run through your pasta machine on the thickest setting a few times. Lightly dust with semolina and run the sheet through the machine on a thinner setting. Repeating this process until the the dough is a millimeter or so thick. Cut the dough into desired shape either by hand or machine.

Cook immediately in boiling water until al dente. 

Meanwhile prepare the brown butter and sage sauce. Cook butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat until butter begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Add sage. Season with salt and pepper. 

When ready poor sauce over pasta and garnish with grated parmesan

Apricot Honey Thyme Soda

1 cup honey
1 cup water
apricot juice
soda water

To make apricot honey thyme simple syrup, boil together honey and water until fully combined. Remove from heat. Seep one handful of thyme in the mixture for twenty minutes. Strain and reserve the syrup. Allow to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator.

Mix one part apricot juice with one part honey thyme syrup with four parts soda water. For a single serving a part is equal to 1/4 cup.

Lemon Basil Curd Tart
makes 4 four inch tarts or one 9 inch tart

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in flour, kosher salt, cream and vanilla, until mixture is moist and crumbly.

Press dough into four 4-inch tart pans (or one 9 or 10 inch tart pan) and press it up the sides, making sure the layer on the bottom is even.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is set and firm at the edges. Cool, then fill with desired filling and bake as that recipe directs.

Lemon Basil Curd Filling

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed and strained
1 handful basil chopped
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into half inch pieces

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, basil and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.

In a large bowl, whisk together zest, eggs and egg yolks. When sugar mixture comes to a boil, strain out basil and pour very small amounts down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture while whisking continuously to temper the mixture. Continue to add only a few tablespoons at a time until all has been incorporated.

Transfer egg mixture back to sauce pan and return to stove. Cook on medium heat until thickened, about 8 minutes, whisking frequently.

Remove custard from stove and whisk in butter, adding in one piece at a time.

When all butter has been added, cool curd for 15 minutes before pouring into prepared tart crusts.

Refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours before serving.