fresh herbs, dried

In an ideal world I’d grow the herbs I need and they’d be available year-round. Reality means I kill indoor plants no matter the watering tricks I utilize. I therefore buy fresh herbs at the store and always have leftover. What’s the solution? I dry them and refill my dried spice containers for a budget bonus!

how I store fresh herbs

It depends on the herb, but primarily I take them out of any plastic, wrap them in a damp paper towel, and put them in the crisper. Most last about a week. Some people say to snip the stems of and put them in a glass of water. That’s never worked for me, I’m not sure why. Perhaps I should reread On Food and Cooking, apparently McGee has information about storage that I’ve forgotten.

img of fresh tarragon on paper towel and store bought container of tarragon

how I dry herbs in the oven

I try to time the herb drying for when I’ve used the oven for dinner and then I use the residual heat to dry the herbs.

Once upon a time I used a dehydrator. I still have it, but it’s big and annoying and is gathering dust in the basement. I’ve found that the oven works very well and it’s one less appliance I need to maintain, clean, or store.

If I buy the herbs in a store, I wash and blot them dry. If they’re from my garden, that step is optional as I know where they’ve been.

I then lay them out on a baking sheet in one loose layer. It’s easier if you line it with parchment paper or foil, but sometimes I forget (like tonight).

After I take dinner out of the oven, I turn the oven off and put the herbs in while it cools off. Most tutorials I’ve read say you should prop the door open but I never have. Every 15 to 30 minutes I try to remember to stir them so they dry evenly.

Generally by the time the oven has cooled off, the herbs are dry! If they aren’t, I turn my oven to a special setting “warm” and I continue to check them until they’re dry. If your oven doesn’t have that setting, then I’d suggest setting it as low as you can.

how I store dried herbs

After they’re dry I then scrape them off the stem and into a container. Yes, you could do this step first, but I never remember to.

I often reuse the original store-bought container. It’s already labeled! Sometimes I have more than my containers can hold and I reuse whatever I can, from tupperware, to glass jars. Whatever I have available.

In my experience it makes a mess so I try to do it over a baking sheet so it’s easier to clean up.

img of reusing storebought container for tarragon with hand adding leaves. container is on a baking sheet strewn with tarragon leaves

two cookbooks to beat the January cooking blues

It happens each January, I get bored with everything in my cooking repertoire and I start looking for something new to shake things up. While there are a vast amount of recipes available at my fingertips, I enjoy flipping through cookbooks. Two that I recently found at my public library attempt to solve that common weekday cooking challenge: after a full day of work, you want a tasty, healthy, and easy-to-cook meal.

A Modern Way to Cook: 150+ vegetarian recipes for quick, flavor-packed, meals

by Anna Jones

I love the premise, in as quick as 10 minutes you can put quite an array of delicious and healthy meals on the table without sacrificing flavour. I think it must go without saying that the photographs are divine, I loved most the plates that looked partially finished (either in preparation or in enjoyment). The care taken in layout and styling comes through.

However, despite years of cooking experience, and dutifully following the reminder to mise en place, I felt that the time estimates are not accurate, or at least don’t take into account the prep work. I also wish there was some indication of the number of pots and dishes required, several dishes were definitely fussier than I expected when I first read through them.

However, the flavours! I’ve spent most of the past two weeks cooking an array of dishes from this book and definitely enjoyed the taste of every single one. I’m not sure if I can identify one great recipe though I think the flavours of the tomato, miso, and sesame soup were just right after the gazpachos of this summer and my standard tomato soup felt lacking. Even with my frustrations as to time estimates and fussiness, I could see this quickly becoming a well used book in my year-round rotation.

Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavours

Simple by Diana Henryby Diana Henry

This title follows a similar premise to Jones’, simple and flavourful dishes. Organized traditionally by dish type: eggs, salads, pulses, etc, know that this is a book for omnivores! Pork and shellfish are featured along with many other ingredients. Beware some hidden fussiness, the dishes will be worth it, but read through carefully before you make an assumption on how long it will take, there aren’t useful time estimates. The dishes are strong on sophistication, and flavour. My recipe review has focused on the pulses, while I’ve made many of these dishes in some variation before, there’s sometimes something about seeing it in a new format that makes it something different. The red lentil & pumpkin dal was easy and the house smelled amazing and definitely hit the spot. The photos are beautiful and I get hungry reading through it.

Is there a new cookbook that excites you? Please let me know!

comfort foods

For the past week I’ve been making all types of projects that bring comfort. Once we felt like eating again, I’ve cooked up a storm.

Comfort Food meals have recently included:

Root Vegetable Pie

There are Earl Grey Biscuits, vegetable bibimbap, vegetable pot pie, and baked ziti on my list for the weekend. If you’re looking, here again is the link to my vegan/parve pie crust.

What’s your goto comfort food?

recipe ideas at season change

It’s been happening lately each time the season jumps, I fall into a cooking rut. Either I make the same handful of dishes we like, or I don’t want to make anything. It’s frustrating because I’d make the week’s meal plan, then attempt to ignore it. How? I’d make rice every night, or fail to do the prep work so we’d either eat very late or I’d need to make something quick (generally pasta).

One day a friend posted a cold soup on instagram, it looked delicious and she shared her source, BBC Good Food. I was shocked, I thought I knew most things BBC.

It’s been amazing at helping me find quick and healthy meals with flavour combinations I wouldn’t otherwise. You may need to convert measurements depending on how you cook, as they are in metric. Many recipes are vegan or vegetarian. Others are healthy options for the carnivores in your life.

So far we’ve been very pleased with everything I’ve made. It’s nice to have some new dishes to add into my beloved Moosewood recipe rotation.

Quinoa, lentil & feta salad

Quinoa, lentil & feta salad

tried and true

I’ve made all of the following dishes.

I highly recommend you check out the goodfood resources and recipes.