It’s easy to overbuy at the farmers’ market at this time of year. My nose and my eyes overrule the rational side of my brain. Fresh herbs, in particular, are my biggest weakness. Each one beckons with its intoxicating aroma, and I can’t resist buying more than I really need. What to do when I realize I’m not going to be able to use up the whole bunch before it rots? Chop it up and freeze it in ice cubes!
I got the idea from Ian Hemphill, author of The Spice and Herb Bible. I met Hemphill a decade ago in Sydney, Australia, where he has a shop called Herbie’s Spices. This is a fellow who’s more passionate about herbs and spices than anyone I’ve ever met. In his chapter on coriander (cilantro, in this case), he recommends “prolonging the enjoyment” of the fresh herb by chopping the leaves and stems, packing them in ice cube trays, then filling the trays with water and freezing them.
Cilantro loses its punch when cooked, so it’s best to add it to a dish at the end. Toss a couple of the cilantro-infused ice cubes into a soup or stew when either it’s almost finished, then watch the cube melt and reward you with that fresh-picked herbal waft of flavor. There’s no need to stop at cilantro. This nifty trick works with the leaves (not stems, too) of other tender herbs such as basil, thyme, tarragon, and chervil.
Stay tuned for this Wednesday’s issue of Gourmet Live for more ideas about freezing the bounty of the late summer harvest.