Friday, October 17, 2008

Greens, Greens, and More Greens!

I'm not sure how this happened, but this week we ended up with an abundance of greens. You would think that odd for this late in the growing season, but some of the greens are quite hardy and thrive in cold weather. There was so much between what I picked up at the Farmer's Market on Wednesday and what we received in the CSA that I knew we couldn't possibly digest that many greens before they wilted. So I went to work blanching for freezing. From what appeared to be a humongous mountain of greens I stored a one gallon bag of mixed blanched greens for use over the winter. Normally I prefer to sauté them and eat them fresh, but I also like having them on hand during the winter for making soups, stews, pasta etc. I freeze some of the darndest things, that you would never think could be frozen. Tomatoes don't even have to be blanched-just wash, dry and freeze on a tray until solid, then pop them in a bag. Parsley, cilantro and basil can be washed, dried and frozen in bags for use over the winter as well. No, they don't taste as good as fresh, but at least they are local and I know where they came from. Too much arugula? Try making pesto with it. Pesto freezes beautifully and is great to have on hand for a quick pasta, pizza, foccacia or crostini. And be creative with your pesto--it doesn't have to be pine nuts--you can use any nuts you have on hand. Just toast them and add them to the mixture. I've used almonds, pecans, walnuts and pistachios in the past. You can also use a variety of different cheeses, or even leave out the cheese until you're ready to use the pesto and mix it in after thawing and just before using. Pesto goes a long way, so I've found it is helpful to freeze it in ice cube trays and then once frozen transfer the cubes into a plastic bag or container. That way you don't have to thaw out a huge container and feel like you need to use it all at once. Half pint dairy containers also work nicely, but often that's too much for just one dish as well. Be sure to have plenty of garlic on hand when making's just not the same without all the garlic, and a bit of salt too. Here's my basic recipe:
1 bunch basil washed, dried and leaves removed; 1 head of garlic; a handful of toasted nuts; a couple of pinches of salt; a small mound of grated hard cheese, like parmesan or asiago...the better the quality, the better the pesto; and of course extra virgin olive oil, again, the better the quality, the better the pesto. Throw everything except the oil into the food processor and chop until it's well processed, then gradually add olive oil to taste. YUM!

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